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Females Organising and Planning

Coaching Female Athletes to Benefit Female Athletes: Programming

The second 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

The role of a strength and conditioning coach is to support participants to reach their maximal performance potential by efficiently and effectively developing a training programme using applied evidence and informed approaches.

Due to the significant underrepresentation of females in sport science and sport medicine research, developing an evidence-based approach to coaching can be difficult. This often leads to coaches developing training programmes from research conducted with male participants instead (“the best available approach”).

This could have a negative effect, as it fails to account for the biological differences between females and males.

How can I develop an approach that benefits women?

Stacey Emmonds recommends evaluating and considering the existing evidence base against the female participant and the female sporting environment to determine what is fit for purpose.

Current evidence base

Make sure you’re aware of the current evidence available. If you’re unable to access research that directly relates to your female participants, look for existing male-based evidence.

Once you’re aware of the evidence, evaluate its validity and reliability before considering if it applies to your participants and what you can learn from it.

Remember to always check the cohort on any research before applying to your programming and practice.

Female participants

It’s important to understand the different needs of the women you coach.

This includes developing an understanding of the female physiology and how this affects athletic performance.

Make sure to consider:

  • recovery strategies
  • bone structure/density
  • muscle mass
  • the menstrual cycle
  • biomechanical alignment.

You then need to adapt the evidence to these biological differences, ensuring that you’re meeting the individual’s needs.

Remember: you’re coaching people with insight to offer! Make sure to include the people you coach in the process of designing the programme. This will ensure that you’re meeting their needs and empower them to take an active role in their own learning and development.

Female sporting environment

Take the time to understand the female sporting environment and the potential barriers that may exist to females participating in sport.

Does this have an impact on the effectiveness of the research and insight that you have found?

Examples of this may include:

  • less contact/training time available
  • limited or reduced access to facilities and equipment
  • reduced wider provision (including personal support, recovery advice and nutrition)
  • reduced staffing support available.  

Always take this back to your context and circumstances by thinking about the individuals at your sessions.

Have a go

Using the template, have a go at incorporating this approach in your coaching.

An evidence-based approach can help you improve the experience for the individuals that you coach, as you’ll be learning from other people’s experiences.

This will help you make sure that your programming supports physiological and psychological health, well-being and athletic performance.


Click into the tab below to consider how the current evidence base, the female athlete, and the female sporting environment can inform your approach.

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Related Resources

  • Sport, Physical Activity and the Menstrual Cycle

  • Coaching Female Participants

  • Understanding Balyi’s Long-Term Athlete Development Model


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