Does gender balance matter?
For some people, gender balance in coaching does not matter. They believe that the ‘best person for the job’ can undertake any role, regardless of whether they are a woman or a man and whether they are coaching women or men. There have been some very successful male coaches of women’s teams at the national level, for example the Black Ferns (women’s rugby team). Male coaches are increasingly evident in traditionally female sports such as netball.
However, few women coaches have had success with men’s teams. This is not because women are not as good at coaching as men but because they rarely get the opportunity to coach at the highest levels, may not have access to the networks to be promoted up the coaching ranks and may not be taken as seriously as male coaches.
Women are under-represented in higher-level coaching roles in New Zealand and internationally. In 2007, 37% of women’s national sports team coaches were women, while only 5% of men’s team coaches were women.
At the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, New Zealand women were under-represented in coaching roles relative to the number of women athletes. Of the 48 coaches from 19 sports, only 14 (29%) were women, compared with almost half of the 253 athletes. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, only three (7%) of the 43 coaches were women, compared with 46.7% of the competing athletes.
Support for women coaches
Some sport organisations have recognised the benefits of having more women coaches at higher levels. Decision-makers in netball, for example, have provided support to keep women involved in the sport and encourage them to coach. Netball Otago funded childcare for top coaches. Previously, time away from children was a major reason for women leaving coaching. In addition, Netball New Zealand has developed mentoring systems, so coaches can support each other and get advice from more experienced coaches.
Force to be reckoned with
Netball New Zealand has a programme called CoachForce. There are five national CoachForce coaches who travel throughout the country delivering coaching workshops. There are also 16 regional coaches working within the programme. The aim is to provide support and development opportunities for budding coaches, wherever they live. Other sporting codes also have CoachForce programmes.
New Zealand Football has developed a strategic plan partly designed to improve and support the development of the women’s game. In 2012 New Zealand Football employed a women’s football development officer.
Softball New Zealand has created resources to encourage women coaches and to support their entry into the men’s game. They believed that women coaches were more likely to try new approaches and have a less aggressive style, which might appeal to a wider variety of athletes.