This best practice paper describes a Canadian intervention to address the lack of women in sport coaching and leadership roles. While the number of female athletes has increased over the last decades, the opposite is true of female head coaches, both nationally and internationally. The issues influencing this trend are mostly institutional and societal. There is a lack of support systems in place for females attempting to become involved (recruitment) and maintain their involvement (retention) in coaching. The Alberta Women in Sport Leadership Impact Program (AWiSL) takes a community of practice approach to increase gender equity and leadership diversity in Alberta sport organizations. The AWiSL began in October 2017 and continues until early 2020. There are currently 6 mentors and 12 sport leaders from Alberta sport organizations, who engage in monthly meetings to learn and participate in the co-creation of knowledge to meet the project outcomes, which include the planning and implementation of initiatives for their individual sport organizations, all in the service of supporting gender equity. Descriptions of specific activities thus far are presented as well as information about the how to of conducting such an intervention. Various challenges and lessons are discussed. The description of the AWiSL and ongoing program evaluation aims to support other organizations seeking an example of an initiative to create equitable coaching and leadership opportunities, and to create change.
Diane M. Culver, Erin Kraft, Cari Din and Isabelle Cayer
Matea Wasend and Nicole M. LaVoi
A plethora of research on barriers facing women in the coaching profession exists, but less attention has been devoted to female student-athletes’ transition into coaching. Some research suggests that female athletes who are coached by women are more likely to become coaches. In the present study, existing research is extended by examining the relationship between collegiate female basketball players’ post-playing career behavior and the gender of their collegiate head coach. Two research questions are addressed: (1) Are female collegiate Division-I basketball players who are coached by female head coaches more likely to enter the coaching profession than athletes who are coached by men? And; (2) If female basketball players do enter coaching, are those who were coached by women more likely to persist in coaching? Collegiate head coach gender did not emerge as a significant predictor of athletes’ likelihood to enter coaching, but logistic regression indicated that athletes who did enter coaching were 4.1-times more likely to stay in coaching if they had a female head coach. This study extends the scarce and outdated body of research on the potential salience of same-sex coaching role models for female athletes and provides baseline data on collegiate athletes’ entry rate into coaching, lending support to advocacy aimed at reversing the current stagnation of women in the sport coaching profession.
Leslie K. Larsen and Christopher J. Clayton
In 2017–2018, more than 60% of NCAA Division I women’s basketball (DI WBB) players identified as women of color, while less than 17% of the head coaches of DI WBB teams identified as women of color. Larsen, Fisher, and Moret suggested differences in career pathways between black female head coaches and their white female and white and black male counterparts could be one explanation for the aforementioned discrepancy. However, there is currently limited research on the career pathways of DI WBB head coaches to support Larsen and colleagues’ hypothesis. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to analyze the career pathways of DI WBB head coaches to identify race and gender differences. To accomplish this, a content analysis was conducted on the online biographies of head coaches from all 351 DI WBB programs. Significant differences between groups were found in the number of years coaching in DI women’s basketball prior to receiving a first DI head coaching position; both white women (M = 6.97) and women of color (M = 7.94) had significantly more years in DI WBB coaching than white males (M = 4.95; F(3, 348) = 4.63, p = .003). Further, chi-square tests revealed a significant relationship between the race and gender of a coach and the highest level of playing experience and education. These results indicate that race and gender play a significant role in determining what pathway is required to obtain an DI WBB head coaching position. In addition to these research findings, practical implications are discussed.
Nicole M. LaVoi, Jennifer E. McGarry and Leslee A. Fisher
George B. Cunningham, Na Young Ahn, Arden J. Anderson and Marlene A. Dixon
Women are underrepresented in coaching positions, both at the assistant and head coach levels. The purpose of this study was to examine one reason for this occurrence: gender differences in occupational turnover. The authors provided a review of the literature related to occupational turnover, integrating coaching and organizational psychology literatures. Based on these frameworks, the authors then conducted a meta-analysis of the quantitative research in the area, statistically aggregating results from 10 samples and 2,802 coaches. Results indicated that women intend to leave coaching sooner than do men (d = .38). Drawing from the review, the authors then examined potential reasons for the differences. Contrary to expectations, women were younger (d = −.56) and had shorter occupational tenures (d = −.59) than men, suggesting that other factors, such as their aspirations for advancement or the macro-level barriers they encounter, make coaching an unattractive option. Women had lower aspirations for advancement in the profession (d = −.74) and less positive experiences in coaching (d = −.23), though organizational experiences did not vary by gender. The results collectively suggest that occupational constraints can limit women’s aspirations and intentions to remain in coaching, even beyond what would be expected based on their age and time in the profession.
Jenessa Banwell, Gretchen Kerr and Ashley Stirling
Women remain underrepresented in the coaching domain across various levels of sport both in Canada and internationally. Despite the use of mentorship as a key strategy to support female coaches, little progress has been seen in achieving parity. At the same time, greater advances in gender equity have occurred in other non-sport sectors such as business, engineering, and medicine. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to learn from non-sport domains that have seen advances in gender equity to inform mentorship for women in coaching. A mixed-methods methodology was employed and consisted of distributing mentorship surveys to female coaches (n = 310) at various competitive levels, representing current (88%), former (12%), full-time (26%), part-time (74%), paid (54%), and unpaid (46%) coaching status. In addition, eight in-depth semi-structured interviews were also conducted with women in senior-level positions across various non-sport domains, including business (n = 1), media (n = 1), engineering (n = 2), higher education (n = 1), law (n = 1), and medicine (n = 2), regarding the role of mentorship in advancing women in their field. A descriptive and thematic analysis of the survey and interview data were conducted and findings are interpreted to suggest considerable variation in the characteristics of female coaches’ mentoring relationships, as well as the need to move beyond mentorship to sponsorship for advancing women in coaching. Recommendations for future research and advancing women in coaching are provided.
Beth G. Clarkson, Elwyn Cox and Richard C. Thelwell
Historically, men have dominated the English football workplace; as a result, the number of women in coaching positions has been limited. The aim of the present study was to explore the lived experiences of women head coaches to identify the extent that gender influences the English football workplace. Semi-structured interviews (N = 12) were conducted with women head coaches operating at the (a) youth recreational, (b) talent development, and (c) elite levels of the English football pyramid. An inductive thematic analysis was performed which informed the development of composite vignettes, a form of creative nonfiction. Three vignettes were developed comprising women head coaches’ stories at each pyramid level. Findings from the thematic analysis identified themes of gender stereotyping, proving yourself, and confidence at the youth recreational level; work-life conflicts, limited career mobility, and marginalization at the talent development level; and tokenism, undercurrents of sexism, and apprehensions of future directives at the elite level. The vignette stories demonstrate that gender negatively influences coaches’ interactions and confidence early in their career in youth recreational football; gender bias is embedded within discriminatory organizational practices which limit career mobility for coaches working in talent development; and gender is used to hold elite level women coaches to higher scrutiny levels than male colleagues. Recommendations (e.g., [in]formal mentoring, male advocacy, recruitment transparency) are made to practitioners for a targeted occupational-focused approach regarding support, retention, and career progression of women head coaches in football.
Justine B. Allen and Colleen Reid
Research continues to demonstrate the underrepresentation of women coaches and that barriers outweigh support. The purpose of this practical article is to describe the process undertaken by a National Governing Body of Sport to deliver a learning and development program to support women hockey coaches in Scotland, the Women in Coaching program. Our aim is to share understanding about this example of good practice to provide insight and direction for change that can enhance the experiences and provisions of coach education and development for women coaches. First, we explain the use of scaffolding as a concept to capture the approach adopted in the program to bring together a range of learning situations (e.g., coach education, workshops, systematic observation of coaching practice, mentoring). We then describe and discuss the evidence gathered to inform program development (i.e., workforce analysis, interviews with coaches). Next the delivery of the program and assessment of its impact are discussed (i.e., pre-post self-perceptions, players’ perceptions, coaching behaviors, reflective survey). Finally we present best practices based on the lessons learned from our involvement with the program over the past six years.
Alixandra N. Krahn
The issue of too few females coaching in high-performance Canadian sport contexts is well documented. There is extensive research and programing dedicated to addressing this issue; however, the number of women in high-performance coaching positions within Canada continues to decline. Mentorship is a best practice to advance women into competitive sport coaching roles, and a more recent finding suggests that sponsorship may also be necessary. In this article Canadian national/federal sport policies were analyzed in an effort to better understand how these Canadian sport policies inform and impact the mentorship and/or sponsorship of women coaches. The analysis of four federal government sport policy documents—Actively Engaged, the Canadian Sport Policy, the Coaching Association of Canada’s and the Sport Information Resource Center’s Equity and Access Policy—revealed that none of these pertinent policy documents make explicit reference to mentorship and/or sponsorship programing with the intent to advance more women into high-performance sport coaching positions. As such, the major argument of this study is that the Canadian sport policy sector needs to create policy documents that practically inform programing geared towards nascent female sport coaches and that the voices of female coaches who have been impacted by Canadian sport policies and programing alike, need to be incorporated into these policies.