As coach developers we are always looking at new and creative ways we can support coaches learn and develop alongside their day to day role. Through Project 500, we have successfully introduced a variety of supportive interventions, including 1:1 coaching clinics, bespoke female only coach education workshops and sub regional networking events, making this project more than just a bank to fund qualifications.
Through our annual survey put to Project 500 coaches and by attending coach development events delivered by National Governing Bodies, it is clear coaches value the opportunity to network with others and get involved in discussions as a form of learning. This can be through sharing examples of best practice, experienced coaches providing tips and recommendations to aspiring coaches, or simply being able to relate to others and connect with your peers.
So how can we connect female coaches on a regular basis?
The virtual world of social media has opened our eyes to how easy it is now to connect with people across the world at the touch of a button. This got us thinking; why not use social media to connect female coaches and provide a platform to network on a regular basis? Why not give coaches a voice and the opportunity to network at a time that suits them at no cost?
And #WomensWednesday was born
On 1 October Project 500, in partnership with the Female Coaching network, launched #WomensWednesday to create a weekly online networking event around women in coaching. Each week we intend to propose different topics to create discussions and debates that all coaches, regardless of gender, can get involved in. Our first topic we opened up to the virtual floor was the subject of stereotypes in coaching, following an interesting article released on the BBC Sport website entitled “Why are men still suspicious of female coaches in sport?”
Coaches were encouraged to share their views on Twitter or post comments on the Project 500 Facebook page as well join in with the online forum hosted by the Female Coaching Network. Much to our delight, the comments and questions came flooding in throughout the launch day and we were delighted to see Project 500 ambassador, Natalie Curtis, and Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson get involved in the discussions.
It was great to see female coaches share their real life experiences they have faced of stereotypes in coaching. With some, having to prove themselves to their male counterparts proved an issue. For others, demonstrating they had the skills and knowledge was enough to be seen as equal.
The Female Coaching Network online forum was alive with coaches sharing their stories.
Here is a snapshot of some of the comments on the forum:
A female Track and Field Coach, UK
I have definitely suffered this! I was a football coach for a boys team many many years ago and ended up retiring as all comments made on my coaching were the appearance of my legs in shorts and that as a woman I do not understand football! I moved on to track and field which is a much more ‘equal’ sport with very little stereotype for female coaches.
It’s so great that we can all discuss the same topic from different sports! It seems already that the reoccurring theme is that the ‘ego’ takes over and hides away the professionalism of coaching. Yes, sexism and harassment needs to stop, but maybe its not that the men need to calm down…maybe its women need to step up?
A female Fencing coach, UK
Irrespective of gender, I respect and want respect for a professional approach to coaching. My priorities in coaching are: my students, CPD, respect for my colleagues (and this includes other professionals I work with such as physios, psychologists, S&C coaches, PE teachers, etc.). I just would like to see the same from my colleagues instead of having to deal with the attitude: “oh, she is a women, we can just walk over her.”
A female Tennis coach, Australia
I’m in a different boat for stereotypes – less is expected of me, but I deliver more, I deliver if not more than my male counterparts and now out skill them. So, I’m female but with a high skills set, so the stereotype for this is of a “threat” due to changing norms.
I’m not going to change, nor stop – I will continue to surpass them. And only recently I was overlooked for a less qualified male counterpart, and I can’t help but think if my skills were a threat, or also that I’m female. I like to think it was for my skills, but it’s hard to tell. That said, if we all worked on advancing our skill set and were in even playing grounds to our counterparts, I think it gives us the best chance for challenging the norms.
We are delighted with the successful launch of #WomensWednesday and cannot wait to see what future weeks will bring. We will continue to work in partnership with the Female Coaching Network and offer different topics for debate.
Please join in and get the chance to network each week with other coaches. Share your stories, learn from others and don’t forget to use the hash tag #WomensWednesday