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UK Coaching Team

Coaching Female Athletes to Benefit Female Athletes

The first of five resources to support coaches and strength and conditioning practitioners to optimise female participants' health and well-being and athletic performance, developed with Lizzy Butler-Clack

Female participation in sport and physical activity has grown significantly, and this growth has facilitated a rapid rise in the professionalism and profile of female sports. 

This in turn has allowed female participants better access to wider interdisciplinary teams beyond coaches, including strength and conditioning practitioners, Performance Analysts and medical staff to help achieve maximum performance potential.

Specifically, the role of a strength and conditioning coach has been identified as having an integral role in the holistic improvement of athletic performance through:

  • maximising physiological potential
  • minimising injury risk.

This is achieved through the application of evidence-informed approaches to the coaching practice and environment.

There is still a significant underrepresentation of female-focused research in sport science and sport medicine research, with only 35% of studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine including female participants.

This in turn limits strength and conditioning coaches’ access and ultimately their ability to apply evidence-informed approaches to their practice when coaching female participants.

The series aims to highlight and explore four of these challenges, providing practical solutions to support strength and conditioning coaches to optimise both physiological and psychological health, well-being, and athletic performance of female participants.

The challenges highlighted are:

1) Programming

The underrepresentation of women in sport science and sport medicine research is an undeniable barrier to strength and conditioning coaches when it comes to programming for female participants. Often, this leads to coaches adopting the 'best fit approach,’ which does not account for the specific needs of female participants.


Reflect on your practice and programmes: are they evidence-informed and insight-based?

Have you considered gender within your practice design?

When was the last time you considered female research within your coaching practice?


2) Coaching style

Negative coaching behaviours have been identified as a significant barrier to female participation (and to other populations) in sport. As a coach, you should consider the ‘why’ when it comes to coaching female participants, taking time to connect, explain the ‘why’ including the reason for the activity, the effect that it will have and the benefits. This will massively enhance engagement.


What is your current coaching style? Reflect on your ‘go to’ behaviours. Would you (and your participants) benefit from adapting your coaching style and approaches?


3) Injury occurrence and prevention

Although the risk of injury in sport cannot be eliminated completely, the role of a strength and conditioning coach is to minimise the potential of injuries occurring. Despite this, female participants are still at a much higher risk of sustaining a sports-related injury in comparison to males.


How aware are you of the most frequent female participant injuries?

Were you aware that women are more likely to report injuries?

Does your coaching programme include an injury prevention strategy to reduce these?


4) Menstrual Cycle

Despite the increased popularity of discussing the menstrual cycle and the effects and symptoms being well-known, the insight and development opportunities available to coaches into how to adapt training is limited. It is crucial that coaches understand how to support participants to minimise the effects on performance and to maximise physiological adaptation. The first steps are increased awareness and understanding, followed by openness of conversations with participants.


Reflect on your own level of knowledge in this area. Is there room for development?

Or could you start incorporating the menstrual cycle into programs?

And if so, how do you go about this?


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Related Resources

  • Coaching Female Participants

  • Behaviour Change: Connecting with Others

  • Menstrual Health: Understanding Menstrual Dysfunctions


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UK Coaching Team