How to bridge the gender gap in coaching

There are so many high-profile women in sports – you only have to look at the Golden Girls of track cycling. Yet they and many other successful women athletes are coached by men. In fact, only 30% of coaches are women according to a study by UK Coaching, and only 17% are qualified.

So why are so many women reluctant to get into sports coaching? Is it the enduring male culture that surrounds many team sports? Or is it the diminishing number of routes for women into participating in sport and then transitioning into coaching?

Do it yourself

Of course, participation in sport doesn’t have to be as a professional. Do it yourself training programs like the NHS Couch to 5K is simple and straightforward and have encouraged thousands to get involved in their local Park Run or even take it further and tackle a marathon.

The next step could be to take a coaching qualification like Leader in Running Fitness (LiRF) and start your own running group to encourage other women to get running. One of the benefits is that it’s great motivation to stay involved yourself.

Breaking down the barriers

Participation for girls in traditionally male sports may be on the rise but it can still be hard to break down perceptions and barriers surrounding these sports. Having female role models like the World Champion women’s rugby team inspires other women to perhaps look for a rugby drill online and use that as a coaching tool. And one rugby drill can lead to another until you’re creating coaching success and providing successful role models for the generations to follow.

Empowering women

A great coach can both empower their athletes and boost their self-esteem, and women are particularly good at exhibiting these so-called ‘soft skills’. The rapport between coach and athlete is crucial for building confidence and winning ability.

And the relationship works both ways. Being praised by the athletes you coach or getting positive feedback from your team can positively impact on a coach’s confidence and improve their coaching. It’s a virtuous circle that can be particularly valuable for women who’ve taken a career break or who are coming into coaching for the first time.