Challenges Experienced by Women High-Performance Coaches: Sustainability in the Profession

in International Sport Coaching Journal
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  • 1 The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences
  • 2 University of Ottawa
  • 3 Norwegian School of Sport Sciences
  • 4 West Virginia University
  • 5 Sheffield Hallam University
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High-performance (HP) coaching is a demanding profession. The proportion of woman HP coaches is reported to be in the range of 8.4–20%. Mental health concerns in elite sports have recently gained attention, but mainly focusing on athletes. Beyond coach burnout, limited attention has been given to coaches’ mental health. A recent coach burnout review included only one paper that focused exclusively on women. It has been argued that women HP coaches face greater challenges in a male-dominated coaching culture. The purpose of this study was to explore challenges experienced by women HP coaches and their perceived associations with sustainability and mental health. Thirty-seven female HP coaches participated by answering a semistructured, open-ended questionnaire. All responses were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis, which resulted in two general dimensions: challenges of working as women HP coaches and sustainability and well-being as women HP coaches. Overall, results indicate that challenges reported might be common not only for all HP coaches, but also highlight gender-specific elements. Consequently, coach retention and sustainability would benefit from more attention on well-being and mental health among HP coaches.

Kenttä is with The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden and the School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada. Bentzen is with the Department of Physical Education, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway. Dieffenbach is with the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, USA. Olusoga is with Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom.

Kenttä (goran.kentta@gih.se) is corresponding author.
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