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Over half the NZ Olympic team are women – but where are the female coaches? (New Zealand)

new zealand rugbyFor the first time the New Zealand Olympic team has more female than male athletes – yet less than 10 per cent of the coaches in Rio are women.

Massey University’s Professor Sarah Leberman, who researches ways to get more women into leadership roles in sport, including through coaching, says the number of New Zealand female Olympic coaches has not changed over the past decade.

“High Performance Sport NZ has a performance-driven, athlete-focused but coach-led system. The system is obviously working well for female athletes but, in terms of providing leadership opportunities through coaching, it’s not working for women.”

Professor Leberman says New Zealand is competing in 20 sports in Rio, and while exact figures are difficult to find, it appears only two of the 20 sports have female coaches – judo and gymnastics, and one of the gymnastics coaches is based in the United States.

“Everyone knows the Olympics is the pinnacle of sporting achievement for many athletes, but we shouldn’t forget it is also the pinnacle event for those who facilitate athlete achievement. Unfortunately for women, high participation levels aren’t being translated into leadership roles in sport – and you see this same pattern reflected in other sectors, including business and the education sector.”

Professor Leberman has analysed the coaching make up of the New Zealand Olympic team and the numbers are low when it comes to female coaches. She says many of the sports that have large female participation levels – football, hockey, rowing, rugby sevens – have all-male coaching teams.

She believes part of the problem is the “gendered sport coaching environment”, which makes it difficult for women to come through.


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