sports coach UK is the national agency for sports coaching in the UK and funded by Sport England and UK Sport to support the recruitment, retention and development of coaches at all levels. We are proud to be working in partnership with ENGSO (European Non-Governmental Sports Organisation) and other partner organisations to promote gender equality in coaching throughout Europe through the Erasmus+ funded SCORE programme. The SCORE programme has been developed to raise awareness of the lack of female coaches actively involved in sport throughout Europe and support national sports organisations (including Olympic Committees and Governing Bodies of sport) to increase the number of women coaching sport.
sports coach UK has been very active in this area over the last four years and has worked in partnership with Universities in England and the Women in Sport organisation to understand more about women’s representation in coaching and what can be done to address the current imbalance. This has resulted in the development of a series of research papers and factsheets which have been promoted widely around the UK.
Following our extensive research and partnerships with key partners in the UK and around the EU, sports coach UK recognises the main barriers facing women becoming and developing as coaches. These range from wider societal issues, negative perceptions within their own sport and lack of disposable time and income. From this research we have been able to identify solutions which sports organisations can employ to help overcome these barriers. We have worked closely with sports such as England Athletics to put some of these recommendations in place.
Currently in the UK only 30% of the coaching workforce is female. Furthermore, only 17% of qualified coaches and only 10% of coaches on national teams are women. This underrepresentation is unacceptable as a more diverse coaching workforce brings great benefits to sport and the wider society. The SCORE programme aims to raise awareness to women and sports organisations and advocate system change which will look to welcome and support more women into coaching networks in their respective countries.
Through the SCORE programme, sports coach UK is in charge of developing a toolkit which will focus in two areas – sports organisations and individual females in sport. The organisational toolkit will look to promote and support gender equality through recruitment, development and retention of female coaches within their existing coaching systems. The toolkit for women in sport will provide information around becoming and developing as a coach, and also supply guidance about advocating gender equality in their coached sessions, to further aid the retention of women and girls in sport.
The toolkit comes in response to the ‘Gender Equality in Sport – proposals for strategic actions’ paper of Group of Experts including sports coach UK, and published by the EU Directorate-General for Education and Culture, in 2014. The paper calls for specific actions to be taken if the EU is to reach a target of 40% of the coaching workforce being made up by women.
Alongside the toolkit, sports coach UK will lead in the development and delivery of a series of training events which will be rolled out to all eight participating EU countries in the SCORE programme. The training event will be attended by national sports organisations from these countries with the aim of raising awareness and providing concrete actions that they can take to evolve their coaching systems to be more aware of the needs of their female coaches. The aim will be to provide solutions which will welcome more women into coaching at all levels of all participating sports. Steps to make these changes need only be small in some cases but will have a sustainable, long term effect on the demographic of our coaching workforce.
We recognise that the SCORE programme is only a starting point. We understand that sustainable change requires time to embed to an extent where we can truly recognise the impact but the learning that sports coach UK will be providing, with the support of all participating partners is an exciting step forward. We are excited to be working on this programme and are very much looking forward to seeing the benefits of this programme in the years to come.
This article is written by Sarah Milner sports coach UK - in charge of the toolkit implementation of SCORE project