Women’s Role in Coaching and Leading in Sport- Where are all the Female Leaders?

By Julie M.

There are increasing amounts of female participants in sport over the years; in turn increasing the amount of female sports teams. With this increase one would think there would also be an increase in the amount of female coaches and leader as well, but sadly this is not the case. The world of sport in terms of coaching is still dominated by men.

Even though we are seeing women achieve excellence in sport on all levels, somewhere after the end of their athletic careers females seem to get lost in the shuffle of coaching. With the perception of male dominance of coaching and leading in sport, women are not seeing coaching as a worthwhile career option. It is also the view of some men that women do not fit the role of leader in sport even if they were an excellent athlete. These views do create some discrimination went it comes to female coaches.

Having females in a leadership role gives female athletes a role model and someone then can relate to. Young girls need to have more positive female influences in there life. Having a male coach of a female team may sends the message that the opportunities are limited for girl in sport and that they are restricted to athletes only.

You see this inequality at every level of sport, form high school to the Olympics. There should be more women at least coaching female teams. This is not to say man cannot coach female teams, but in terms of the sporting world being dominated by men, there needs to be a place to start. I think that a female coaching female teams is a good place to start in establishing some equality.

We also need to see a change in the way women coach, women are seen as genteel and delicate, therefore only seen coaching sports that are more artistic. For example in the 2014 Olympics figure skating had both men and women coaching, and the highly successful women’s hockey team had a man as the head coach. There is definitely a double standard when it comes to what women can coach. Men can coach both the artistic and aggressive sports, where women are limited to the artistic side of sport.

Leadership in sport is to not only teach younger generations about skills in their given sport but to also teach them about skills that will help them in life such as team work or communication skills. Would it not also be important to teach them about gender equality as well, and what better way to demonstrate that than by having gender equality when it comes to coaching and leading in sport.


Massengale, D., & Lough, N. (2010). Women leaders in sport: Where’s the gender equity? Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 81(4), 6-8. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/215758633?accountid=14611


8 responses

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post Julie. Having two daughters that I hope will play sports one day and a wife that coaches soccer, this is something I feel strong about as well.

    I believe there is a change in coaching coming regarding balancing male and female coaches. According to the Coaching Association of Canada, there are approximately 300,000 registered members. To qualify as a member, you will have taken at least one coaching course. Of those 300,000, approximately 200,000 are males and 100,000 are females. I do not have any historical data to back this up but I am sure 10 years ago the scales were tipped much more on the men’s side.

    My question is why do current female athletes with male coaching staff keep playing if this is an issue? Boycott the sport until the league can find a female coach. I realize this is initially hurting yourself but in the long run I think the results will be very rewarding.

    Thanks again Julie.

    Just my $.02


    • Hey Julie – great post!

      You know it’s funny, because before I started taking this class, I can’t say that I ever thought about the ratio of men to women in coaching positions. Growing up, the majority of my time being coached was by males, but there were some females in there, including an assistant coach on a “boys” hockey team. I probably didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, I’m pretty confident in saying that they were definitely an encouragement to me during my time as an athlete.

      It seems as of the last few years, we have been on this big “kick” about trying to increase the amount of females that participate in sport (this is all well and good). Now, although that is still a priority, it’s almost as if this coaching issue is our new hobby horse (I don’t mean that in a negative way at all). What if we reversed these in order? What if we started out with trying to get some more great female leaders in coaching positions out there in more sports than they are stereotypically limited to, and then see if that would help women’s participation in sport? Obviously it is too late for this now, but even so, I have no doubt that once some great female coaches get out there and increase in number, we will see a big increase in women athletes – probably even at the professional level. Great post!


  2. Great post Julie,

    I also share the same views as Lori and Jason. I was surprised when the Canadian women’s hockey team had a vacant head coach position they filled it with another man. I was expecting somebody like Cassie Campbell or a female coach to be named. Why Cassie Campbell you ask? Well, more recently there has been a trend for coaches to be former players with the experience and understanding of the sport being coached. This is a trend we see now in most sports, hockey, basketball, baseball etc. Cassie would have been a great coach for the team. Saying that though I have a hopeful thought; with women’s participation increasing, there will be more alumni of specific sports and their hopes the stay involved may lead them to seeking coaching positions. Hopefully because of increased #s there will be more qualified, experienced female coaches for female sports.

    Andrew Connors

  3. Great post, Julie.

    It’s so unfortunate that despite the rising success in female sports, there are still little to no female coaches, officials or authoritative figures. Having women in these leadership roles would not only benefit young female athletes, but also set an example to young males that gender equality is important and women should be just as celebrated/respected as men are. Hopefully the tables are turning and there can be more opportunity for female authority to come about in the near future. As you said, there is no better way to demonstrate the importance of gender equality then through valuable leadership practices. Maybe as coverage and praise begins to grow for female sports, doors can also open for coaching positions or other leadership related roles as well.

    – Meagan F.

  4. Julie, you brought to attention an issue that appears to have stayed under the radar. I have attended many sports events, watched games on TV, and watched intervarsity sports at school. Maybe, if all the teams were lined up with their coaches heading the line-up, it would be so obvious. Why is this happening? If women can play the game, they can coach the team. It appears that women accept that coaching positions are dominated by men and don’t consider it a career option. There are some obstacles – the locker room for male players, inappropriate language, bullying – issues to be resolved.
    You have a strong argument for giving young girls more female coaches and leadership roles. They are more likely to see possibilities for their involvement in roles formerly dominated by males. Ladies, drop the genteel persona and become aggressive leaders in sports. Change doesn’t happen quickly but if we females decide that change is necessary, we can begin that change today. Let’s turn the wheel!

    – Ashley O.

  5. Great post Julie,

    I agree there is a great lack in female coaching. Being in an all female sport, I have always had a female coach. I go to my coach for everything not just sport related issues, she is basically my person psychologist. I don’t believe I would have been comfortable going to a male coach for some of my issues. I am very grateful to have had such a great relationship with my coach. I feel like females who have never had a female coach are missing out.
    Coaches need to be able to deal with their athletes at all times, I think a woman would be able to relate with a young females issues better then a man could. Young girls do not always perform well when they are constantly being yelled at, some girls perform better when they are cared for and soothed. I believe a female coach would be able to deal with the different needs of the athletes better.
    Females have come along way in the sporting world. There are many very accomplished female athletes in Canada and around the world. But you wouldn’t be able to tell by the representation of females in coaching positions. Retired female athletes should be fighting for coaching positions. Not only to stay part of their sport but also to give young female athletes role models to look up to. I agree that when young girls are constantly having male coaches that send a message to them saying women cannot coach. Women are to loving or women are to gentile. Women can be great coaches, just as good if not better at training young female athletes.

    Emily McKim

  6. Great post Julie!
    From playing on 6 different teams throughout school, they were all male coaches; even the assistant coaches were male. I didn’t have any problems with my coaches being male, but now that I think about it, it could help on female teams to give the girls a role model. I plan on being a coach for teams when I am finished school, lets just hope some of the stereotypes are changed and they will see females as “fit” to coach a sport. Although I didn’t have a female coach, a lot of the other teams that we played against had female coaches who were aggressive and did a great job. I know just from working at the soccer fields at home, the ratio of female to male coaches favors to the females, but it is not a competitive league. I am just hoping as we get older these gender issues start to change!
    Sarah Holt

  7. Great post Julie!
    I agree with this completely. From all of the teams I have played on in my youth career and through university the majority of my coaches have all been male. There was one provincial team that was a significant year and I had a female coach. That was one of my favorite years playing for Nova Scotia because it was great having a role model for a coach, like you mentioned in your blog. She did not have a lack of respect like it seemed most of our women coaches who were assistants that we had in the past. She did her job well, and made the girls want to compete and perform well. It was also great to know that we have a chance at becoming high level coaches as well in our sporting career. However, this was only when I was fifteen. I hope to be a high level coach when I retire from my playing career, and I hope to see many others that were in my age category become coaches as well.
    Great post again!
    Meggie Spicer

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