Friday, 14 August 2015

Female Coaches & Project 500

Back in May, Andy Murray voiced his support for equality in sport, with particular reference to wanting to see more women not only getting into sport but coaching it too. Murray hired Amelie Mauresmo in June 2014 and credits her with helping him to get back on track to win the Madrid Open. His choice to hire a female coach was met with raised eyebrows but the article rightly points out that coaching an individual is a very personal thing; there has to be a rapport as well as the skill set.

It needs to be recognised that women have the ability to be great coaches, just as men do, and that each coach should be judged on their own merit. It's not right to say that women are more "softly softly" or should only coach other women, although undoubtedly there will be a lot of women who are more comfortable with that arrangement. But Murray points out that the gender difference can be a huge benefit to the athlete/coach dynamic.

"When you get five or six men sitting at a table in a competitive environment, it's not pleasant. I've found it difficult to open up sometimes as you feel judged or that it's seen as a sign of weakness. Sometimes, when we're competing and working out, trying to be macho, it can get a bit testosterone-fuelled."

Another article about the subject points out that intentionally narrowing the pool of people considered to be hired as coaches is just bad business. Why would you narrow the pool of talent in that way? It also tackles the argument that women wouldn't be able to coach sports such as American Football because they don't have experience in playing them, but points out that this doesn't seem to stop men from coaching sports that are traditionally female-oriented such as softball (it's an American article).

Indeed this line of thinking is one that I hold myself, both in and out of a sporting environment. Do you think Usain Bolt's coach can run like he can? No. You don't need to be able to have the athletic ability in order to coach, but an understanding of the skills involved in achieving that ability and the motivational know-how. It's similar to being a project manager in that sense. You don't necessarily need to fully understand the technology involved in the project in order to deliver it.

Reports from Sports Coach UK show that only 30% of coaches in the UK are female, which is better than our friends in the USA but with ample room for improvement. Project 500 was launched back in 2013 with the aim of helping to developing, recruiting and retaining 500 female coaches across a variety of sports in the South and South East of England. It's success lead to the introduction of Project 3000, a similar scheme but nationwide.

I personally know some women who have taken advantage of this scheme, being successful in their applications and are putting their skills to good use, following a dream or an ambition. It's a great opportunity to for women to get a helping hand in becoming a coach but also for sport to benefit from a wider pool of talented coaches.

Would you prefer a female coach? Have you perhaps experienced coaching from both genders. What differences did you find?

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