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Is There a Need for Coaches to Be More Gender Responsive? A Review of the Evidence

in International Sport Coaching Journal
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  • 1 Leeds Beckett University, UK
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The purpose of this paper is to explore current research evidence to understand whether and how gender influences the coach-athlete relationship. Considering the importance of coach-athlete relationships, the field still remains under researched and the influences on this relationship require greater examination. Coach-athlete exchanges are shaped by assumptions and ideas about coaching and teaching relationships. Interactions are complex because sport makes a number of (at times competing) demands on participants. Varying individual characteristics increase this complexity. Yet within this multifaceted context, gender relations appear constant and problematic, particularly with respect to coaching. Evidence suggests that while male and female athletes share many similarities in what they want and prefer in terms of their coaching needs and expectations, there are specific nuances and differences that must be understood to facilitate an effective relationship. Furthermore, the evidence also suggests that male coaches, unwittingly, play a role in the perpetuation of the stereotype of women as the less able, less competitive and frailer athlete. These findings evidence the need to include a greater focus on gender-responsive coaching. The paper also highlights different coaching styles that may facilitate working with male and female athletes and emphasises the need for coaches to become relational experts to empower their athletes.

Leanne Norman is a senior research fellow in the School of Sport, Leeds Beckett University, UK. Her research utilises critical feminist sociology to address gendered inequality within the profession. She has published widely in academic journals and written for a number of academic textbooks. She has also worked as a consultant for a variety of sporting organisations to improve gender and racial equality within their coaching and athletic workforce.

Address author correspondence to Leanne Norman at L.J.Norman@leedsbeckett.ac.uk.
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