It has often been said but rarely delivered on that women coaches in sport can provide a different, positive dynamic. Yesterday Liberty Insurance brought together living examples of just how different the supporting landscape could be with a greater diversity of leadership.
Emma Hayes led Chelsea’s Women’s team to the double last year, while pregnant, and did not miss a beat yesterday when telling her story as part of the launch of new research from Liberty who are right up there as among the longest term backers of Women’s Sport.
“I used to resist the idea of being a role model because I thought it was too based on gender,” she said. “I go to work to win, not to inspire others to follow me.”
“But when I look at the different impacts that I have had, I’ve softened a little on that.”
“Sometimes it’s the things around the edges that can create the biggest change. At Chelsea, we have three buildings on our training grounds. One was always for the first team, one was for the Ladies team and one was for the Academy.”
“The last of those is still called the same but now we have changed to the Men’s team building and the Women’s team building.”
“We are both the first team, though to be honest one of us is doing a little better at the moment.”
Hayes could have been shouting outside the building for a long time only for having a champion in Chelsea club Chairman Bruce Buck who supported the changes in culture that have accelerated as the game has grown.
“We have moved from the bottom of the website and an afterthought on social media to being an integral part of how the club sees itself and promotes itself.”
That in itself is role model behaviour at an organisational level and while it does need to have medals heaped on it, it does deserve to be observed and followed.
Tracey Neville is another Manager operating at the top of her sport, as boss of English netball, but it has taken time, and recognition at the BBC Sports Star of the Year to be seen as an individual and not as a sister of her famous brothers Phil and Gary.
She will lead England into a home World Cup in netball this year, the same summer as her brother leads the England Women’s football team into action in France for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“I had champions along the way that helped me learn to win and to lose away from the spotlight,” she told us. Having to come off a court and face the CEO, the Performance Director, the fans, the sponsors, the players and the media is not comfortable if you’ve come off the back of a loss but you have to step through the fear.”
Lisa Fallon at Cork City, Tania Rosser at Clontarf Rugby and Mags D’Arcy with Wexford Hurling are doing their coaching jobs in a men’s environment and all are succeeding because they are good at their job.
They still face being confused by the opposition as being the physio or in one instance for Fallon as the travel agent but they take it in their stride.
“If you don’t know me or respect me as an opponent, that gives me an advantage,” said Fallon. “And I will use it.”
The research produced by Red C for Liberty backed up the common sense observation that picking the best person for the job is better than picking the best man.
64 per cent of respondents in Ireland agreed that Women are visible as coaches and administrators in their club in Ireland, twice as many as is the case in the UK.
It is not yet coming through in participation though with a significant gap between the number of young adult women carrying on into sport. That number is a surprisingly low 11 per cent in Ireland versus 23 per cent in the UK.
68 per cent of those who completed the survey said that more women in coaching roles would encourage more women to participate so that is the major challenge that needs to be driven.
“We’re delighted to be shining a light today on the important area of coaching and female
coaches,” said Siobahn Fay from Liberty Insurance.
“Significant progress relating to the promotion of women in sport in recent years as
evidenced by these findings; however, we can do a lot better.”
“Coaching remains a problem area. Progress will slow and perhaps even halt if we can’t
encourage more women to take on training and leadership roles at clubs. Coaches and
managers inspire and teach, they drive players to perform and encourage spectators and casual observers to take an active role in sport.”
“As sport is still viewed as a disproportionately male domain – something that’s off-putting for a lot of women – this is an area that we need to focus on changing. We need more female coaches to send a positive message to women that sport is for them, too, and not just for men.”
“The majority of Irish people understand that more female coaches will encourage more women to participate in sport. More needs to be done to remove existing barriers for females and to develop a sporting climate conducive to female coaches succeeding at every level of sport, from grassroots to elite level.”
“We hope to utilise today’s event to shine a light on the opportunities for policy makers, coaches, sports administrators and other stakeholders to move this conversation from one of challenges to solutions, and help play a small role in delivering real change.”
“Liberty Insurance will continue to invest in women and sport, highlight their achievements, and support the Government in their own efforts to increase participation in and viewership of female sporting events in Ireland.”
Over the coming days we will publish more detail from the rearch and the Top ten moments on Social Media for Women in Sport over the past twelve months.
Take a look at the 50 Women of Influence which we published for the fifth year in 2018 in partnership with Liberty Insurance.