A report to the European Commission by Professor Gertrud Ursula Pfister and Dr Leanne Norman
Professor Gertrud Ursula Pfister and Dr Leanne Norman were commissioned by the European Commission to undertake a mapping and analysis study focusing on sports coaching education schemes from a gender perspective.
ITTF Education & training brings you the highlights of this study which aims at:
- Evaluate existing (formal and non-formal) training and education schemes for coaches in view of their accessibility for women and identify situations that promote equality and equal treatment in coach education, including gender specific requirements, conditions for women and men as professional and voluntary coaches.
- Evaluate their training elements/educational modules on gender equality (if they exist and indicate where they don’t).
– Through the mapping review, identify good practices with regards to accessibility for women and gender equality modules.
There is a wide acceptance of the notion that women coaches (as visible role models) can provide inspiration and encouragement to girls and women to take part in sport and sustain their participation. While there is a need to develop understanding on how gender imbalance in coaching should be assessed with regard to different sports and the gender of the athletes, and levels of coaching, it is clear from available statistics that women are generally underrepresented in the coaching profession.
This study has focused on the role of coaching education programmes in helping to address gender issues in coaching. It is important to acknowledge however that the development of gender perspectives in coaching education addresses only one aspect of coaching development for women. Further consideration also needs to be given to issues such as transparency of recruitment and gender issues in the working conditions of coaches, which is outside of the focus of this research.
The mapping review indicates that the most prevalent type of education approach with a gender element is women-only courses. This type of approach, where only women are able to attend the programmes, appears to have worked well in increasing levels of attendance amongst women and allowing them to overcome initial self-confidence issues with regard to entering the coaching profession. An increase in women-only courses at the entry level (or foundation level) of coaching education can also give women more opportunities to make more informed decisions about their preferred coaching pathway and prepare them for some of the challenges they might face.
There are conflicting messages, however, both in the research literature and from stakeholders on the relative merits of women-only programmes and quota-based approaches (where a certain proportion of places on mixed courses are allocated to women). The case studies suggest that women-only courses have worked well where the numbers of women coaches are starting from a low base and particularly in sports where the confidence of women to take up coaching has been influenced by the perception that coaching is a male–dominated profession. However some federations prefer a quota- based approach as regard it as more beneficial for women to take part in mixed programmes as they progress.
The mapping review has revealed very few examples of programmes which explicitly seek to provide more accessible education activities for women through more flexible timetabling or childcare facilities. One possible explanation might be that public websites do not include explicit information on aspects such as timetables which are designed to meet the needs of those with children or availability of childcare facilities (for example). A more common approach in improving accessibility is through the involvement of women tutors and coach developers.
It has also been difficult to identify coaching education programmes with training elements and educational modules on gender equality. Again this level of detail might be lacking on public websites. It may also reflect the limitations of the research approach which necessarily has had to rely on a ‘top down’ process by focusing on the programmes of national federations rather than systematically reviewing all programmes taken forward by sport agencies and education and training providers at the regional and local level. A more resource intensive research exercise would be required to probe more deeply on the accessibility and gender equality elements of modules within all coaching education programmes.
Nevertheless, research has shown that the content of the course may be more important than the gender distribution of the participants. Even at female only courses men’s privileges and central position in sport can be normalised, and research has shown that women can feel discriminated against even when all the participants are women. The mapping review has identified two examples of educational modules on gender equality which have been developed by national sport bodies. In France, the Ministry of sports and its agency Sport éducation mixités citoyenneté (SEMC) developed general guidelines to prevent sexist behaviours for coaches and training schemes for coaches. The Academy in the Framework of Sports (Academie voor Sportkader), which is part of the sports development unit of the Dutch Olympic Committee (NOC*NSF) developed a training module for coaches on the Recognition and Prevention of Sexual Intimidation. The research suggests that the development of such modules has the potential to support female coaches in their experiences of coaching as they are better prepared to deal with issues of discrimination in the workplace. They can allow for men to have a better understanding of what the key issues surrounding discrimination are, allowing them to adjust their behaviour accordingly. Both the French and Dutch case studies indicated however that participation in the gender equality training module is not very widespread suggesting that further development work is needed to embed such approaches in mainstream coaching education.
The more detailed case study research has also highlighted a number of common lessons in the implementation of coaching education programmes for women:
-The benefits of having strong involvement and commitment of high profile coaches (men and women)
-The benefits of linking coaching education actions and related empowerment and mentoring activities
-The importance of neutral sport coaching bodies having a lead role in engaging a wide range of sport federations in innovative and gender-related coaching education programmes.
-The possibilities for European federations to work in partnership with national federations to develop coaching education opportunities for women (for example through funding provision but also by ensuring the commitment of national federations to support women with coaching opportunities post-training).
-The role of National sport agencies in the development and tracking of gender education modules which are relevant to education and training in all sports.
The typology developed for this study, which encompasses a range of approaches designed to engage women in coaching education and improve their experience at the education stage, could be useful in developing a framework for gender mainstreaming in coach education.