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Fix the System

...or, If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.

By Sarah Milner, Diversity and Inclusion Lead

At the recent sports coach UK Coaching Summit in Cardiff the Chair of Sport Wales Professor Laura McAllister stated: ‘By simply doing more of the same, coaching and participation will fall behind in the modern age.’

As we probably all know by now, sport and coaching is dominated by men. Before you switch off and declare this ‘another feminist rant’ please read on. There are so many benefits to making our coaching system more gender equal. Men are very much part of this diverse world, but we also have to recognise the value that women, and people from other under-represented groups, bring.

  • More Choice: More coaches = more choice = greater participant satisfaction.
  • Additional Skills: Participants and coaches have access to a wider skill set.
  • Untapped Resources: More inclusive recruitment practice will reduce shortages in club coaching.
  • Economic Benefit: Additional coaches introduced through gender equality practice would bring the equivalent of £188m coaching value each year.
  • Cultural Change: Equality within the coaching environment making a better world.

To create gender equality in coaching, it is not purely about increasing the number of women coaches. It needs every organisation involved in sport to look at how many women are involved in coaching, coach education and sports development as a whole and recognise that their numbers don’t quite stack up against the general population.

Changes need to happen. They need to happen at policy and system level, and they needn’t require a massive budget. Making small changes to approaches in recruitment, marketing of your sport, the way your sport is delivered to participants and how the people in your coaching family are supported and developed will start to create long term, sustainable change.

It won’t all be fixed in a year or even four years. This is a generational, cultural change so we will have to be patient and in our day to day work continue to think “how can we change things to create diversity in our sport?”

As a coach, your support is invaluable. If you need more coaches at your club don’t just go to the men and the dads. Speak with the girls, the women, the mums, the grandmas. Explain what help you need. Make them aware that their involvement is invaluable. Support them to get as excited and committed to coaching as you are. #HeforSheCoaching.

There are two great pieces of research that have currently been developed by Sport England and Women in Sport. They will help you understand what women want from sport. Use this insight provide more engaging sessions for women and girls and understand how women can get into coaching.

Talking of which, more details to follow soon from sports coach UK. Watch this space…..!


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