What are the most valuable and meaningful ways to genuinely support women coaches?
We’ve asked the question of people who know and have compiled this list which we are constantly updating with new submissions. We invite you to join us in growing this list to be a valuable resource for others, by sharing your insights and advice by filling out the form at the bottom of this page (you can choose to submit anonymously or provide as many or little details as you would like). Every contribution is useful – big or small!
Thank you in advance for your contribution, and we hope you find this list useful.
Provide her with experiences and responsibilities that help her grow into a head coach position (if that is what she wants). Women assistants are often pigeon-holed into roles that don’t help them move to the next level.
Nicole M. LaVoi, Director of the Tucker Center, University of Minnesota
Publicly credit women coaches when you learn something from them. For example, “I got this great activity/drill from her.”
Melissa Thompson, Professor, The University of Southern Mississippi
Show them that you believe in them until they believe in themselves. Keep supporting them even then. Support is being available if they need to chat or catch up for a coffee; helping them problem solve, or just listening while they problem solved themselves by thinking out loud. It’s also supportive to be a critical friend when required.
Kerryn Mitchell, Basketball Coach, Flinders College
Educate and prepare young and up-coming coaches for bigger roles.
Then, give them opportunities.
Clarisse Baca, Women’s Tennis Head Coach, Academy of Art
Women coaches just want to be treated like their male counterparts, with respect, dignity, and equal validity.
Rebecca Triffett, Elite Female Coach Advancement Program, Basketball Australia
Believe women and girls when they tell you that male coaches are displaying disrespectful behaviors and language, which is resulting in unsafe environments for them. Don’t allow the high-performance environment to be an excuse. It is possible to hold others to account in a respectful and professional way. Have a zero-tolerance policy for anything less. Then women and girls will stay and progress.
Support social media campaigns such as
Get yourself on the selection panel for coaching appointments. This provides you with the opportunity to contribute to the process and ensure that women coaches are getting opportunities, that the process has fewer biases, that the others on the panel are kept accountable, and there is a fair and credible selection.
Liz Masen, CEO, Athlete Assessments
Give them A VOICE!
Mikhaela Donnelly, Basketball Player + Skill Development Coach, Logan Basketball
Help them practice for their performance review or negotiating their salary. This may be awkward or uncomfortable, but it is extremely helpful and critical to addressing the pay gap.
Highlight and help them recognize transferable skills e.g., being a mother – organizing, encouraging, facilitating.
Sarah Leberman, Professor of Leadership, Massey University
Do small gestures of gratitude that are meaningful and relevant. If you know that a coach you are working with is juggling a lot of other aspects of their life, organize dinner for them and their family, or if you bought them a gift voucher for an event or service ensure to also include time to make the most of it, as they may not prioritize it themselves.
Tap them on the shoulder and ask them to apply for jobs.
Invite them for a coffee, beer, or friendly catch up.
It can be lonely as the head coach sometimes.
Assist with utilizing mentors. This is something that men do a much better job of navigating. Or, create small groups with men and women within coaching circles to bounce ideas off each other. Give feedback to help them grow further with their coaching.
Buy tickets and support women’s teams or teams that are coached by women, and bring friends.
Becky Ahlgren Bedics, Ed.D., VP, Mental Health & Wellness, WTA Tour
Celebrate promotions and advancements of women coaches.
Lift up other women
Megan Kahn, CEO, WeCOACH
Foremost see and value all aspects of her competence (not just the aspects related to communication, role models, coach-player liaison, recruiting). She is a role model, but don’t put all the ‘relational’ work onto her. This increases the likelihood she will burn out, and being only a role model or the relational communicator does not help her move up and get the next job.
Nicole M. LaVoi
Facilitate co-coaching options.
Recognize that giving advice or the ‘this is what I would do’ speech is not support. Support is engaging in meaningful, authentic discussions that the coach walks away from saying, ‘I can make a change, take risks, and grow as a professional, especially with them in my corner.’
Kylee Boettcher, Head Girls Basketball and Softball Coach, Panorama High School
Be conscious of different demands at different times in women coaches’ lives. For example, maybe they are a new mother or taking care of an elderly parent, and they have limited time to volunteer or be involved. Identify their best skills and experience and match that to the time they have available. They may not be able to attend every practice, but they are exceptional on game day, carve out a role to keep them in coaching and in the sport.
Listen. Genuinely listen.
Encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and take the next logical career step. Whatever the next step, encourage them to go for it and if they get it, be there to support them in the next part of their coaching journey.
Support coaches’ needs for education, childcare, and financial stability.
Support them in keeping a close circle of support (colleagues, friends, partner) who they can bounce ideas off of and call for motivation, needs, or just a general check-in!
Melissa Phillips, Head Coach, London City Lionesses
Be informed and educated about women’s coaching environments to fully understand the situation they are in.
Support them (including financially) to attend quality development programs such as the WeCOACH Women Coaches Academies and other events.
Look for and take the opportunity to actively share positive examples of when women coaches in your vicinity are doing a great job. Recently I heard a commentary team discussing one of the coaches in the basketball game and the huge contribution that she had made over the last few decades to the sport in her state, from the juniors all the way up to the elite levels, and also highlighted some of the championships.
Use your power to elevate her, connect her to your network, talk about her accomplishments.
Nicole M. LaVoi
Give her the benefit of the doubt. Coaching isn’t easy. Don’t be over critical. Walk a day in their shoes. Male coaches $%@-up too, give women the same slack that men get.
Write a letter to your favorite professional team coach (who’s a woman) and share with her what she’s doing great and that you’re cheering for her success.
If you have a quality network within the coaching profession, include the coach in ways that are appropriate to help them build their own network. Make introductions, send them to your sport or coach association conventions, encourage them to connect with others during recruitment trips, and paying for their attendance at coaches academies are all valuable. Providing time to do this is also an important aspect.
Keep a running list of women in your organization and their accomplishments so it’s readily available when it’s time to nominate for awards or recognition.
Offer women-only coaching courses, which include plenty of practical sessions.
Talk positively to your children about what a great job that the women coaches are doing at your club.
If she gets sacked, don’t avoid her, reach out, and offer support. And, help her get the next opportunity. You’re not a real coach until you’ve been sacked at least once.
When you work with a woman coach and she has done an exceptional job, write her a letter of recommendation highlighting what you valued and appreciated about what she brought to the coaching staff and the results she achieved. It will serve her well in the future and will be an opportunity to articulate her great work. (Just make sure she understands the gesture is one of support and recognition, and not that you want her to leave!).
Consider every meeting you hold or are invited to – is there another underrepresented voice that you can help include?
Becky Ahlgren Bedics, Ed.D.
Implement best practices and policies around travel and support for coaches who are moms, especially those with toddlers or infants
Ask! Ask how you can help, what they need, and support in a relevant way.
Well-meaning, but misguided support or assistance isn’t always helpful, so simply ask and ask again.
Nicole M. LaVoi
Outreach! We can say we will do all these great things like recognition, support, coaching courses, etc.. but let’s not forget to use our power of outreach. Contact your coaches and ‘check in’, give them the opportunity to feel valued by reaching out and asking them how they are doing, and what help can we as head coaches or the Federation help them with.
What do they need or need to HEAR to keep them engaged or encouraged. Outreach is underrated and should be used much more often to keep coaches, especially women, stay in the game!
Tina Boales, President & Head Coach, Artistic Swimming for Athletes with Disabilities (Artistic Swim AWD)
Follow women coaches on social media and repost or comment on impactful messages.
Becky Ahlgren Bedics, Ed.D.
Jobs with resources.
Bosses and administration that value different leadership styles.
Mentoring on how to advocate and negotiate.
Erin Lindsey, Head Volleyball Coach, Santa Clara University
Encourage, support and find solutions for women to stay involved as a coach when they have children. Consider non travelling coaching roles, co-coach roles and plan for this phase. It is a transition in life that needs support, like athlete transitions get planned for and supported. Help them to step back temporarily but not step out permanently.
Emily Handyside, Netball Coach
Allow women to take head coaching positions in women’s sport, give them experience leading from the front and not always playing second fiddle. Males be proud and happy to be an assistant to a women, provide them the support and help you would wish. I do not think time in game makes for a great coach but passion and understanding do, it is time males became a support act in women’s sport in coaching roles.
William Callum Finlay, Teacher of Sports Science, Queensland Academy for Health Sciences & Former Singapore Women’s 15’s Rugby Assistant Coach
Women who coach themselves have to create the space for a leadership position by motivating themselves in every situation. Women coaches should be aware of the situation where they are underrepresented, and taking immediate action is important.
Committee Member, Nepal Olympic Committee
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The Athlete Assessments Team