Project breaks down barriers for women in coaching

La Trobe University has partnered with Football Victoria, Northern Football Netball League, and Basketball Victoria to consider ways to increase and retain women and girls in coaching.

Despite the significant growth in women and girls playing these sports, their representation in coaching roles remains low relative to men and boys, resulting in lower visibility.

The study, funded by the Victorian Government’s Office for Women in Sport and Recreation through its Change Our Game Research Grants Program, found actions that can be taken to improve the environment for women coaches in community sport. These are:

  • ensuring women coaches have a voice in state sporting organisations,
  • implementation of policies and practices to support women in active coaching roles, and
  • improving the culture of sports clubs to be more supportive of women and girls to take on coaching roles.

Minister for Community Sport Ros Spence said: “This new research will give us tangible actions for community clubs to create inclusive environments and improve the experience of women and girls as coaches. It addresses the under-representation of women in coaching in community sport and is another example of how the Allan Labor Government is levelling the playing field for women and girls.”

La Trobe Pro Vice-Chancellor for Health Innovation, Professor Russ Hoye, said it was important for women to take up and continue coaching roles because it helped retain women and girls in sport and encouraged others to become coaches.

“Our research identified that women coaches experience a range of challenges and barriers that impact their opportunities to take on coaching roles and to continue as a sports coach,” Professor Hoye said.

“Some of these challenges include women and girls not being well represented in the governance networks that oversee community sport coaching; the presence of male-dominated leadership culture; and the informal selection processes for coaches, which do not provide a transparent process for women to show their interest or apply for such roles.

“Actions that will be vital to improving equity in sports coaching include the introduction of gender equity policies for coaching with clear goals on how such equity will be achieved; ensuring women and girls are represented in the governance networks that oversee community sport coaching; and encouraging men to be allies in supporting women and girls in coaching roles.”

The research outlines eight steps that sports organisations and clubs can adopt immediately to increase and retain women and girls as coaches. These include the introduction of clear, targeted and transparent recruitment and selection processes for potential coaches; developing women-specific mentoring and support opportunities; their own uniforms and change rooms; and creating peer networks of women coaches.

For more information, visit the Change our Game website.

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Elaine Cooney -, 0487 448 734