Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Women and High Performance Coaching

I was purusing the Sports Coach UK site, and came upon an interesting (though not necessarily easy to read) article about an initiative in the UK called the Women into High Performance Coaching (WHPC) programme.

Basically its a program which, over three years, strove to prepare women coaches for high performance coaching positions. In the UK (as in the US), there are mechanisms in place to provide gender equity in sport for players (ie Title IX), but there remains a shortage of women in high performance coaching Positions. They mention that despite gender equity among players at the Olympic level, only 1 out of 10 Olympic level coaches is a woman.

The document in it's entirely is here.

The study was conducted in co-operation with the Women's Sports Foundation and the governing bodies of Rugby Union, Rugby League, Cricket, and Football (Soccer).

The 20 coaches who participated all had received some sort of certification, with 13 at Level III or IV (probably the equivalent of being a Level III Coach or Coach Instructor here in the US).

After the program was over, follow up was done to see if this "high performance training" opened any doors or created any opportunities for women to enter High Performance Coaching. Most of the coaches responded that they were continuing to coach at the same level than they were prior to the three year program.

The document in itself is 57 pages, but there's lots of very interesting statistical info.

It seems to me, as a casual observer, that the real issue of gender equity in coaching is related to the idea that men can coach men or women, and women generally just coach women. Now, I realize I might be opening up a can of worms, but I don't mind :) . There are a couple of male coaches out there that I know advocate and welcome qualified female coaches into their mens programs, but for the most part they stand alone. I've personally been at co-ed camps and participated in the coaching of men and boys, but it's always been something that had to be elevated.

I know that some of the top women's coaches (USA level) have been invited to coach high level men as guest coaches, but really that's where it stops. So I'm curious .... are there any women out there who are in HEAD COACH positions at clubs, universities, high schools? What will happen first ... a female president, or a female Head Coach of a Men's National Rugby Team? When all things (coaching skills etc) are considered, is there an inherent difference between women coaching men, men coaching men, women coaching women, and men coaching women?

Don't be shy ...


AOF said...

Currently women are more likely to be a university president than a Division I athletic director. While Title IX was a boom for female athletes, it had the opposite impact for female coaches.

It's going to be a LONG TIME before women begin coaching men in contact sports. Women do coach boys/men in high school and even college, but they are concentrated in tennis, swimming and gymnastics and their numbers aren't large.

Blondie said...

You know what I find interesting? I know of three minority men's rugby teams (i.e. what most would deem gay men's teams) that have female head coaches.

Further, I think this may be a timing thing. Only recently are we seeing women who learned to play rugby post-title IX now aging out of playing and becoming coaches. And the amount of players is growing. It's not like women have been playing rugby for decades upon decades. Maybe what, 20-25 years at very most? And really the large numbers have just been in the past 10-15 years ... I don't know if we'll ever see a female top men's coach, but I definitely think we'll start to see more and more women's coaches overall.

K-Train said...

I think the real issue is coaching first time contact athletes vs folks who already have experence tackling and being tackled. It just happens to be that most female rugby players don't come into rugby having played contact sports before. So I think that takes a special consideration.

Another coach, who I won't name, believed that there was social/communication element that differed greatly in coaching female vs male rugby players. Sometimes I kind of feel like there might be some truth in this, I am loath to use it as generalization.

The parents of the team I coach all were happy that the team had a female coach but I personally think that is because the previous coaches had some of the worst sterotypically male coaching habits.

Apparently they also thought I was a good role model or something weird like that...

AOF said...

Time may certainly be a factor, but women have been playing sports for generations and currently in our society NCAA women's teams with a female head coach are at their lowest levels in 20 years (1972 - 90%, 2006 - 42.4%). Women have been playing basketball, volleyball and tennis for generations, yet the number of female head coaches has drastically declined in the past 20 years.

Alternatively, since the introduction of Title IX there has been no increase in female head coaches in men's sport (2%).

And all these experiences with varsity sports (NCAA) makes me wonder what the impact will be on female rugby coaches as collegiate women's rugby moves closer toward varsity (NCAA) status? If the past is any indication, it doesn't look good.

-Annemarie, who just finished a study on female sport spectator motives and maybe is feeling a bit pessimistic.