After the news about Amelie Mauresmo leaving Andy Murray recently, I have been pondering whether the fight for equality in coaching is a lost cause. After all, she left not because of her incompetence, but because family life is her new priority and she simply couldn’t commit the time to her athlete that she needed to.
It’s the same old argument, family life v work balance…in the coaching world, both need full commitment. Your family / children need your full attention and so does your athlete…so who wins this particular battle? Quite rightly, your family does.
I listened to a recent podcast by BBC Sport which discussed the issue around the lack of women coaches. As well as the fantastic sports presenter Eleanor Oldroyd, the panelists where double Olympic Gold Medallist and now retired swimmer Becky Adlington, World Champion and reigning Olympic Gold Medal rower Helen Glover and Great Britain Hockey Player Lily Owsley. These are all women who have achieved the top in their sport, they are elites, the best in the world and fantastic role models. The exact women we need in the coaching world…and yet, when they were asked by the presenter ‘Would you become a coach when you retire?”. The resounding answer from all three was NO.
Becky Adlington: “No, for the reason of time. In swimming you are up at 5am, not back until 9am. Then you work all day and are back [at the pool] all night. plus you have all the travel, trips abroad, training camps. I would have had to have sacrificed having a child which I wasn’t willing to do. This is why I stepped into swim teaching because its only after school and a much nicer hours. I wanted to have children rather than become a coach.”
Helen Glover: “I don’t know if I would. I have thought about it, but I don’t know if I would have the patience. I would never rule it out, but I look at the time I have to put in [as an athlete] and yet when I go home I can recover. When Robin [Helen’s Coach] goes home he has to tweet the training programme and lots at video of us and there is a lot of hours spent doing it all. i you were trying to have a family as well it would be difficult. It’s also not particularly well paid and if you are thinking about child care all those things add up.”
Lily Owsley: “I think it’s a lot easier for when coming out of a sport [an athlete] to be a coach because its about the respect thing. There are women who could have the brain to coach might not gain that respect, even though they are just as good a coach as a male coach.
We do also of course have the argument of – ‘you can be a coach without having been a successful athlete yourself’, so lets target women who have not been athletes…but then we have the problem of ‘are women coaches respected enough and do they have to then jump through too many hoops just to be treated the same as male coaches?’
The more I hear these debates and the problems around the lack of female coaches, I wonder if we are all fighting a losing battle. If a woman wants to coach, great…I personally wouldn’t change my career for the World…but then again, I don’t want a family at this moment in time, so I don’t have any tough decisions to make.
Bio: Coach W is a track & field coach from Europe who has coached both male and female athletes from child to senior success. She wants to remain anonymous in order for her to express her opinions about the world of sport and coaching around the World.