What is it about?

Globally the coaching profession is dominated by men which means statistically women athletes are more likely to be coached by a man than a woman. We know that coaches often draw on their personal athletic experience as an important source of knowledge. Therefore, male coaches may be reproducing the discourses about gender and other social power relations they experienced during their athletic careers, reinforcing the perception that the male athlete is the ideal athlete, positioning women athletes as 'other'.

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Why is it important?

The aim of the study was not to imply that the coaching needs are entirely different for women than they are for men. Rather, we wish to highlight the need for coaches to be ‘gender-responsive’ practitioners and to understand that the gender of their athletes will have implications for their relationships. Females dropping out of sport is a growing problem across all levels of participation. Research shows that a breakdown in the coach-athlete relationship is one of the most prevalent reasons for females dropping out of sport. We conclude therefore that the gendered nature of coaching does matter as it perpetuates the ‘othering’ of females in sport.


What struck me most in this study was the unconscious comparisons that coaches made between men and women athletes, which always resulted in the men athlete being positioned as the ideal. The coaches in this study are educated, successful coaches at the top of their sport, but they are unaware of their own gender bias. This sport is striving for gender equality but women are still less than... I really hope you find this article thought-provoking, I hope it helps us to understand the ways in which differences are constructed and how these may lead to unequal experiences within sport, because more than anything I hope we can make sport a equal playing field for everyone involved.

Donna de Haan
Universiteit Utrecht

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Gendered discourses in coaching high-performance sport, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, February 2019, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/1012690219829692.
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