A stark reminder of how far we are still yet to go for the fight for true equality and attitudes towards women who coach…


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During the excitement of the Olympics and whilst we were all celebrating the achievements of some incredible female coaches, we received this email.  A stark reminder of how far we are still yet to go for the fight for true equality and attitudes towards women who coach…


“A few months ago, I tweeted Female Coaching Network about a grievance I had regarding one of my male athletes. One of your Twitter representatives responded with an email address and asked if I was interested in writing about my experience. I never responded because I could only think, “I don’t want to make a big deal of it. It doesn’t matter anyways.” After becoming increasingly confident in who I am as a female coach, I cannot justify that kind of thinking anymore. I have to care enough about myself to advocate for myself, and it does matter.

I am a volunteer weightlifting coach at a small, private college in the southeast U.S. for a club team. Training, competing, and coaching weightlifting are what I do in my free time for enjoyment. I am also a graduate student in training to be a mental health counselor. Most of the athletes I coach in this setting are college-aged males.

The grievance that I initially tweeted about was something to the effect of this: It is angering when a male athlete argues with me about a coaching critique, but when a male coach tells him the same thing, he listens without question. This has happened to me multiple times in multiple locations. There has been another instance where a male coach (with much less experience than me) walked behind me to athletes after I gave them a critique and told them something different thereby completely undermining my coaching. I am pretty certain that I am not toting a “hey please come trample on my expertise with your misogyny” sign on my back, so I am going to take a gander at this assumption: I don’t think it’s me; I think it is the culture of (some) males having a sense of superiority in athletics–especially in a sport like weightlifting.

I do my best to not get into a power struggle with these athletes and coaches. Power struggles don’t sound like an effective method for coaching. Instead, I aim to respect the athletes I coach and coaches I work with, but I also expect respect in return. This reciprocity is very hit or miss, unfortunately. Even when I am coaching and telling athletes something that is a normal coaching cue or critique, sometimes (depending on the athlete) it is perceived as me just trying to tell them what to do. I continue to find myself in these situations, and it is extremely frustrating. However, I will continue my course and do my best. After all, it is their loss for not being receptive of help in the first place.”



We have since got in touch with this coach and hoping to bring you more blogs and developments about her story.  If you have any words of advice for her, please feel free to comment below, or email us at info@femalecoachingnetwork.com



  1. The comments ‘I expect respect in return’ and ‘I continue to find myself in these situations’ are informative. Respect always has to be earned. Sounds like this coach would benefit from a mentor who can boost her confidence and show her a different, more subtle way to influence athletes and fellow coaches. ?

  2. I agree with T Martin about adjusting approach to facilitate growth.
    I would also not be threatened by an athlete double checking. If the other coach is on the same page with technique and training, it actually endorses your methodology. Part of the behaviour change process is creating awareness. Sometimes we all need reinforcement for change to happen. Keep on!

  3. What?? Yes respect has to be earned by why does a woman in a situation such as the above have to do more to earn it? I am saddened to hear the comments above which yet further demean this coach. I’m curious about whether they are male or female and if they are coaches, in what sport. I am a hockey coach. In sports that are largely male dominated, there are definite barriers for females – even when equally qualified, we are not seen as ‘good enough’ by some. Sad.

  4. I have coached men for over 10 years and the last 3 years at a professional level. Indeed that behavior happens occasionally, were the exact same message is heeded by the male athlete when delivered by a male vs a female coach. In those cases I soldier on, eventually, the moment does arrive when the light goes on that there is value in what ever it is I am trying to convey. I have a very good relationship with the athletes I work with directly, it is one of mutual respect.


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