Is fighting for coaching equality a lost cause?


<> at Wimbledon on June 22, 2014 in London, England.

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.


baBecky 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.”



Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 10.52.09Helen 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 OwsleyLily 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.



  1. I just wanted to comment as a coach, mother and educator. I think that the issue is not whether or not women would be as well regarded or respected as coaches but why having a family precludes this. I have coached hockey (juniors) up to JRPC level and have also had 2 growing children at the time. I am lucky (or clever) enough to have married a successful man who does not adhere to strict expectations of traditional gender roles.
    We are in a partnership. He respects my need to go away on training courses, to go away with my teams at the weekends and the time it takes to plain training sessions. We work together and the children have grown up to expect that both parents have equally valuable roles in and out of the home.
    I have had issues with my athletes’ parents (both male and female) with regards to gaining and maintaining respect but a good coach results in happy, progressing athletes who encounter success. In our role, more than any other except business, results count. You could be any gender, have any disability or be any age but if your athletes succeed, no one can argue with your coaching. yes, they can moan, put obstacles in your way or try to undermine you but the results speak for themselves.
    As female coaches we need to redefine our roles and expectations. No one expects anything different from or questions (much) how Hollywood stars manage to travel the world and keep up a grueling performing schedule as well as having a family. Nor do we cast aspersions when entertainers take a few years out to raise their families and then restart their careers. Maybe we should allow our athletes the same rights.
    If athletes (and sports enthusiasts) themselves and their partners, recognise that taking time to raise a young family does not mean you can never go back into the competitive arena in one way or the other, then more may want to coach. It is pretty damning of the coaching industry in general that so many see that family life precludes involvement and commitment altogether.
    Danielle Sellwood @sport_beautiful summed it up when she said, ‘you can’t be what you don’t see’ (#LIKEaGIRL CONFERENCE 2015). Maybe if our current athletes were used to seeing coaches (male and female) who had a balanced family life, who shared responsibility for raising their children as well as coaching, then maybe this would be a model to which they would aspire.
    Instead of asking if its a losing battle, why don’t we choose our battlefield with greater care?

  2. I firmly believe that there are many qualified women who want to coach
    But because the salaries for head college
    Coaches are increasing men apply ( many
    Not as qualified as the women who have applied) but are hired as most college
    Athletic directors are men.
    I know of men college softball coaches
    Who have never played softball that are hired over qualified women who competed
    In softball at high levels,

    Would a college hire a woman to coach
    Baseball if she had not competed in baseball?

    Women and girls need female role models
    We need to support women and women
    Also need to hire women . Head women
    Coaches need to hire female assistant coaches.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here