Coaching in a Men’s World

Day 1 Maties vs Madibaz (26)Transitioning from a player to a coach was not an easy move. I struggled being out the water and often wanted to jump in and just do the job myself. I had to learn a new way of communicating what I wanted done in the pool and the studying of the game became more intense as I was now needing to watch game film from a coach’s perspective instead of a player’s. To make matters even tougher, I was one of the very few females in a male dominated coaching world.

I recently had a job interview where one of the questions was ‘How do you think the male coaches or players would respond to having a female telling them what to do?’. I had expected a question of this nature and answered confidently, but on reflection it made me wonder if the males applying for the same job were asked ‘How do you think the female coaches or players would respond to having a male coach telling them what to do?’. I doubt that the question above was asked of my male counter parts.

This made me question… if jobs in the coaching world were to be decided on experience, resume’s and ability alone, would we see far more females in positions? The answer I come up with is, absolutely!

As a female in the coaching world, I sometimes feel like I have to prove myself more just because of my gender. A perfect example is interactions with referees. As a water polo coach, a part of your job is to shout orders across the pool and sometimes question a referee’s call. Most referees are male (an observation for another post) and in my experience, they are often harsher on me than the male coach on the other side of the pool. At a major tournament this year, a referee targeted me and my female assistant coach before the game had even begun, yet the male coach on the other side had no yellow or red cards or pre-game warnings… despite very little difference in our behaviour. A coincidence perhaps…

I have been inspired by Becky Hammon who is a basketball assistant coach in the NBA – one of the first ever females to be in this role. In the video below, it is being discussed whether she should get the job based on her being a woman. No female has ever had a head coaching position of an NBA team and watching the video will further hammer home the point of how much harder it is for unbelievably talented women to get top class coaching positions.

Are young female coaches or professionals being treated differently? Are female coaches being developed and invested in? In 2018, are people ready for female coaches to be given a leading role in both men’s and women’s sports?

I am learning some tough lessons in the coaching world and hope that stigmas around female coaches start changing, that more development starts happening and that equal representation, based on merit, are one day given.


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