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Women Rugby Union Coaches’ Experiences of Formal Coach Education in Ireland and the United Kingdom: A Qualitative Study

Gareth M. Barrett, I. Sherwin, and Alexander D. Blackett

Although the sport of rugby union has expanded globally in both the men’s and women’s formats recently, there remains an under-representation of women coaches across all contexts. Research has focused its analysis on the under-representation of women coaches in a select few sports such as soccer. No extant research has empirically analyzed this under-representation within rugby union. This study addressed this research lacuna on why this under-representation exists from the perspective of 21 women rugby union coaches based within the United Kingdom and Ireland. The specific research objective was to analyze the coaches’ lived experiences of attending formal coach education courses in rugby union. Data were collected through individual semi-structured interviews. Data were analyzed thematically and conceptualized via an abductive logic against LaVoi’s Ecological-Intersectional Model and Pierre Bourdieu’s species of capital. Supportive and positive themes reported how the coach education courses had been delivered in a collegiate and lateral manner. Courses thus acted as settings where greater amounts of cultural and social capital could be acquired from both course tutors and peers. This enabled social networks to be made that were used for continual professional development beyond the courses. Barriers and negative experiences orientated upon the lack of empathy imparted by course tutors on account of men having fulfilled these roles on most occasions. Recommendations on how national governing bodies can improve the experiences of women coaches attending future coach education courses are discussed.

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Double Punch to the Glass Ceiling: Career Experiences and Challenges of Ethnic Minority Female Athletic Directors

Natalie M. Welch, Jessica L. Siegele, and Robin Hardin

Women continue to struggle to reach senior-level leadership positions in collegiate sports, and ethnic minorities face the challenges due to their ethnicity as well. This research examined the experiences and challenges of ethnic minority women who are collegiate athletic directors at predominantly White institutions (PWIs). Semistructured interviews were conducted with eight participants using intersectionality as a theoretical framework. Three themes emerged from the data analysis: (a) intersectional challenges, (b) questions of competence, and (c) professional support. The women were continually battling the idea of having to prove themselves and negotiating the challenges of being an ethnic minority woman working in collegiate athletics. They credit their professional networks as a valuable resource during their career progression. The women noted that sexism was more prevalent in their experiences than issues related to their ethnicity. The masculine athletic director stereotype persists in collegiate sports, but the findings of this study can contest the notion of a standard leadership identity that has long been perceived as a White man.

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Reading Between the Lines: Gender Stereotypes in Children’s Sport-Based Books

Jennifer T. Coletti, Veronica Allan, and Luc J. Martin

A child’s first contact with media and culture typically comes from books they are exposed to in the home and at school. The narratives presented contribute to the early reinforcement of gender roles and norms and can greatly influence the way that young girls perceive and experience sport. The purpose of this study was to explore the narratives within sport-based books geared toward a young female audience to determine the extent to which they promote the engagement of girls in sport. A pragmatic literature search was conducted to obtain books that met our inclusion criteria. Books (n = 28) were analyzed based on the age of their intended audience (aged 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12 years) using thematic narrative analysis. Although the authors promoted the engagement of girls in sport, underlying gender stereotypes were nevertheless salient. Across the books, themes involved the emphasis of “feminine” sports as a context for diversity and learning, the need to understand development as a process, the importance of relationships, and implications pertaining to perceptions of capability as female athletes. Most importantly, the application of a critical feminist lens enabled us to identify an underlying theme—the reinforcement of gender stereotypes—that permeated the storylines and served to undermine the potential adaptive messaging intended by authors. These findings suggest the need for greater attention toward the complexity of female sport and a cultural shift in thinking toward gender equity rather than simply increasing sport access for female participants.

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Representation of Athletic Girls on Young Adult Sport Fiction Cover Art

Emily A. Roper and José A. Santiago

The purpose of this study was to examine how and how often athletic girls were represented on the cover art of young adult (YA) sport fiction. In this research, 154 YA sport fiction books were analyzed using quantitative content analysis. Using existing sport research and theory focused on women’s representation in sport media, the researchers developed a coding scheme to assess cover art for each of the following categories: (a) presence and racial representation of female character/s on cover; (b) portrayal of female body on cover (whole body, partial body/with head, or partial body/without head); (c) portrayal of female character as active or passive; (d) portrayal of female character in or out of athletic uniform; (e) portrayal of female character in or out of the sport setting; (f) presence of sport equipment; and (g) type of cover. Findings revealed that 81% of the book covers had a female character in which 29% of the covers displayed the whole body, 47% displayed partial body/with head, and 23% displayed partial body/with no head of the female character. Only 0.06% of the book covers had a female character of color. Approximately 31% of the female characters were displayed in active positioning, 58% in athletic attire, and 44% in the sport setting. Of the books reviewed, 55% displayed equipment on the cover. The findings indicate that athletic girls have few images on YA sport fiction cover art that accurately represent their athleticism, and there is a clear absence of diverse representation. It is critical that those responsible for the design and layout of book covers clearly represent active females in action, in uniform, and in the sport context.

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Volume 28 (2020): Issue 2 (Oct 2020)

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“Make a Home Run for Suffrage”: Promoting Women’s Emancipation Through Baseball

Lindsay Parks Pieper

At specific moments in history, women publicly entered the masculine realm of baseball to advance female suffrage in the United States. Girls and women took to the field in the nineteenth century, enjoying newfound bodily freedoms and disrupting Victorian constraints. While their performances may not have always translated into explicit suffrage activism, their athleticism demonstrated strength at a time when many people used women’s supposed weakness as an argument against their political enfranchisement. However, as the popularity of baseball increased at the turn of the century, the number of female ballplayers decreased. Activism in the sport therefore changed. In the mid-1910s, suffragists advertised at men’s baseball games. The women recognized the value of promoting suffrage through sport; yet, they also acknowledged that by entering ballparks, they entered a male space. Suffragists therefore exhibited conventional White gender norms to avoid aggrieving male voters. Women’s different engagements with baseball, as either players or spectators, had varying consequences for women’s political and sporting emancipation. Women’s physical activism in baseball demonstrated female prowess and strength in sport, but only abstractly advanced women’s political rights; suffragists’ promotional efforts through men’s baseball more directly influenced the eventual passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, but their actions supported women’s position on the sidelines.

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Physical Activity Experiences of Adolescent Girls Living in a Rural Community

Luciana Zuest

This study explored the daily life physical activity (PA) experiences of 11 adolescent girls living in a rural community in the Northwest of the United States. This qualitative study employed visual methods to explore adolescent girls’ PA experiences in their daily lives. Specifically, this study used visual diaries and photo-elicitation interviews to capture girls’ PA experiences. Data from this study revealed two distinct PA patterns among the 11 participants: casual movers and sporty girls. Casual movers have a much less structured approach to PA. They engage in a wide variety of PA types—mostly individual forms of PA and PA geared towards recreation. They describe fun, enjoyment, and task mastery as their main motivations to be physically active. Casual movers often engage in PA with family members and are compelled to be active outdoors and in their homes or neighborhoods. In contrast, all five sporty girls belong to competitive sports teams and have a more structured PA routine. They seek performance improvement and have high perceptions of physical competence. Sporty girls value being active with their teammates and receive strong support from their families in the form of encouragement, role modeling, and financial/structural assistance. Sporty girls feel confident being active in their schools’ fields, courts, and gymnasiums, but also appreciate the outdoors environment. Findings from this study support the need for schools to increase access to PA opportunities that are not focused on skill or fitness performance, thus appealing to casual movers’ approach to physical movement.

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Learn to Run for Anxiety Sensitivity: A Short-Term, Community-Based, Accessible Physical Activity Intervention for Women

Janine V. Olthuis, Margo C. Watt, Christopher E. J. DeWolfe, Emma Connell, Emily N. Wright, and Laura Sevigny

Women, relative to men, are at particularly high risk for anxiety and depression, perhaps in part due to their heightened levels of anxiety sensitivity (AS). Physical activity (PA) is an accessible mental health intervention that may be particularly beneficial for women. Using a within-subjects pre-post mixed methods design, this study tested the acceptability, appropriateness, feasibility, and evidence-base of a community-based PA intervention for AS among women at high risk for anxiety and depression. Participants were 45 women with high AS who completed an 8-week group PA intervention. Data were collected via self-report questionnaires, interviews, and recruitment, participation, and retention rates. Results suggest the intervention is acceptable, appropriate, and feasible. Interviews reveal high intervention satisfaction and perceived benefits beyond AS reduction. There was a relatively high attrition rate that suggests room for improvement. The intervention significantly reduced AS, as well as panic, social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and depression symptoms. In the context of the preliminary nature of this study, results suggest the use of community-delivered, group-based PA as a mental health intervention strategy for women is worth further exploration. There is potential for collaboration between the health system, PA delivery professionals, and community organizations to improve access to care.

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Exploring a Women-Only Training Program for Coach Developers

Erin Kraft, Diane M. Culver, and Cari Din

The following practice paper introduces an innovative women-only training program for coach developers in a Canadian provincial sport organization. The dearth of women in coaching and sport leadership positions informs the program as a whole and the participant perspectives on what is working, in practice, for them specifically in a way that could support future sport leaders interested in increasing gender equity in their sport organizations and leadership skills in their female leaders. The aims of the coach developer program are two-fold: to promote women in leadership and to create a social learning space for women to connect and support each other in their leadership development. The purpose of this practice paper is to discuss the supports that have enabled the facilitation of this program and to explore the value of a women-only training program. Two women (out of a total of 10) participating in the program and two leads facilitating the program were interviewed for their perspectives. The lessons learned touch on the types of value that were created (immediate, potential, and applied) and the specific supports (micro, meso, and macro) that enabled the facilitation of the program. Finally, the authors discuss additional considerations (e.g., consistent buy-in from the organization is needed) with practical insights in the hopes of inspiring other sport organizations to implement similar initiatives for promoting women in leadership and coaching in sport.

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Liars, Cheaters, and Short-Haired Girls: Gender Identity Denial of Young Athletes

Julie Minikel-Lacocque

Gender-based discrimination in sport is omnipresent and manifests in various forms, including unequal pay, disparate access to facilities, and imbalanced media exposure. This discrimination also extends to those female athletes who do not meet stereotypical notions of how females should look and how they should move on the sporting field. Four gender nonconforming youth athletes who have faced gender and gender-identity discrimination in sport were recruited for this study, as well as their families and two of their coaches. A qualitative case study was conducted and data from in-depth interviews with each participant, one focus group with the young athletes, and observational field notes are analyzed. Through the lens of Critical Feminist Theory, this study examines the gender and gender-identity discrimination these young athletes have endured, the perpetrators of which are adults charged with organizing and regulating youth sport. The study finds that these athletes are repeatedly accused of lying about their identities, that they are often subjected to gender identity denial, and that their bodies are routinely policed and objectified. Implications for institutions of higher education, sport management, coaches, referees, and fans are discussed and include targeted education on nuanced understandings of gender, sex, misgendering, and gender identity denial. This study also calls for sport to believe youth athletes regarding their identities as well as for a re-examination of the gendered structure of youth sport.