Where Are All The Women Coaches?

An interview with our participant turnt junior coach

“Women aren’t interested, women aren’t qualified”. That’s what we heard when it came to playing sports and now it’s what we hear when it comes to coaching sports.

In sports we still have men being the leaders and calling shots, even in women’s sports/teams. The higher we go the less women you see in this field.

With the idea of child care in mind, there are youth women coaches but with the stakes getting higher we see less and less women as we go further up the ladder to more professional teams.

Are young girls really not interested in a career in sports coaching? And why are women said to not be qualified enough?

Here we talk to Fallon McGroarty, who at 13 has decided she wants a career in sports, that too as a coach!

What was your role in the recent GWIM summer program and how did you get involved in this?

I was a Junior Coach in the Girls and Women In Motion: Built To Play Summer soccer program.

I’ve been involved with GWIM since 2018 when Gaby Estrada started the first program, I joined as a participant. I got involved to join this year’s Built to Play program because I really enjoy coaching; It might be a future career path. I also really enjoy playing sports and I’ve been playing them since I was 3, so to be able to involve younger girls so that they are able to experience that is amazing.

Did you always have women coaches growing up?

Yes I did, my first ever sports coach was a woman. My next head coach was another woman and my next head coach was yet again another woman. All 3 of my first major coaches were women.

Have you ever had men coaches?

Yes, I’ve had men as assistant coaches and men as head coaches that were coaching other teams where we had joint practices and my gym teacher has always been a man.

Do you feel any difference in terms of your game or about yourself when it comes to men and women coaches?

It depends on how long I know that coach, but I feel way more comfortable when I have a woman coach for the first time rather than a man coach for the first time.

When was the first time you realized you wanted a career as a coach?

I think I’ve always wanted something in my career to involve sports, but ever since I’ve gotten to know Gaby (GWIM founder) she has really inspired me to be a coach. There are also other female role models in my life who have shown me these amazing jobs like working in social media or as a coach.

My cousin is the social media manager for TFC, that’s something I can see myself doing or maybe I can coach the Canadian men’s basketball team, who knows?

Do you see a lot of women coaches coaching men’s teams? If not, does it seem harder to get to?

No and I think it would be harder in some ways, but also that pushes me more like, “I’m going to be the first woman coach of ______” and it makes me strive for it even more.

Do you see a lot of girls your age wanting to be a coach and actually being a coach too?

No I haven’t, not at 13. This is actually the first time (GWIM program) that I’ve seen other junior coaches who are my age and helping out in the community to get more girls involved in sports.

What do you think made that difference?

I think it’s because of who is running the program, Gaby Estrada. She’s doing an amazing job with building Girls and Women In Motion, to help girls be more active in their lives. She’s also helping older girls try and pursue future jobs in sports and helping them in any way possible.

Fallon 2018

Have you ever seen a boys team or a mens’ team led by a woman coach?

Not really, it’s pretty rare. Almost all boys and mens teams always have men coaches. I haven’t even seen any women assistant coaches.

Have you thought about ever coaching a boys team or maybe a mens’ team in the future?

The first thing I think of when coaching is coaching a girls team because I have really enjoyed having women coaches. But also at the same time if I was coaching a boys team or men’s team, it would also be like that’s cool, I’m able to do that and they respect me enough for me to be their coach.

A lot of what Fallon has mentioned resonates with research on this subject as well. When we see less women in a certain space we develop internalized gender stereotypes, this happens in both sports and leadership. Same gender role models positively influence women’s decisions to work in traditionally male-dominated fields.1,2  

Previous research has also indicated that female athletes who are coached by women may be more likely to enter the coaching profession3 or coach at a higher level4.

With times changing, newer research shows less affects (compared to before) on women athletes coaching career choice on the gender of their coach. However what can be seen now is how a woman athlete turned coach persists in her coaching career depending on whether she had a male or female coach.

Female athletes who are coached by a woman are more likely to persist in coaching5. Girls and women coached by women coaches are less intimidated by perceived discrimination, a barrier faced by many women in the coaching and sporting professions. This comes from them having observed their women coach role models overcome all sorts of adversity, making them more likely to feel that they can handle unequal treatment in their career.

We can definitely see that Fallon feels this way when she talks about how her women coach role models working hard and breaking barriers makes her acknowledge the struggles that exist and she would be faced with as well and yet it further pushes her to apply herself more. women coaches as role models make athletes more resilient in male dominated fields in their future.

With Fallon there were 2 other junior coaches in this summer program. Fallon believes it’s Gabriela Estrada’s work and dedication that is bringing this change that she is seeing. A strong woman role model has pushed these 3 girls who were just participants in a soccer program 4 years ago to become coaches now. These girls were given the opportunity to get professional training through our program,  which allowed them to develop the skills for coaching. They’ve had fwomen mentors and role models that help them get here.

So are girls really not interested and really not qualified? GWIN’s Built to Play soccer program provided an opportunity to these young girls to be trained as junior coaches and take leadership roles at this age. So instead of asking if young girls and women are as interested in coaching as men, we should be asking if we are helping women see themselves as coaches in our own organizations by having more women involved in marketing material, in leadership and overall representation in every sector. Instead of asking if women are even as qualified as men in this field, we should reflect on how much work we are doing to mentor, sponsor and train women and girls for coaching roles to build their skills. Once women are trained are we getting in the way of them becoming active coaches or are we helping to strive for gender equity in coaching?

1. Greene, C.K., & Stitt-Gohdes, W.L. (1997). Factors that influence women’s choices to work in the trades. Journal of Career Development, 23(4), 265–278

2. Lockwood, P. (2006). “Someone like me can be successful”: Do college students need same-gender role models? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30(1), 36–46.

3.  Everhart, C.B., & Chelladurai, P. (1998). Gender differences in preferences for coaching as an occupation: The role of self-efficacy, valence, and perceived barriers. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 69(2), 188–200

4.  Lirgg, C.D., Dibrezzo, R., & Smith, A.N. (1994). Influence of gender of coach on perceptions of basketball and coaching self-efficacy and aspirations of high school female basketball players. Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, 3(1), 1–14

5.  Walker, N., Katz, M., & LaVoi, N.M. (2019). Gendered hiring networks and access discrimination: A social network analysis of leadership positions in NCAA sports. Proceedings from North American Society for Sport Management Conference.

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