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It's time to show sport coaches the love...

woman coaches wheelchair basketball

I just read this great piece by Donna Spencer from the Canadian Press called "Coaching, motherhood - the new frontier in Canada's high performance coaching ranks". This quote stood out to me:

"The combination of sport organizations not knowing how to accommodate coaches who are mothers, and mothers not asking for help because they're afraid of damaging their careers, is "a horrible cycle"" - Shannon Winzer, Head Coach for Canada's women's national team.

There are clearly some Canadian sport organizations (Kudos to Volleyball Canada) that have figured out the immense value of having women coaches on the field of play, and are willing to make the accommodations necessary to make it possible for them to juggle their "day jobs" and their home life. But sadly, that isn't the case across the board. Female coaches are hugely underrepresented in sport, and even more so in the higher echelons where accommodations needed due to travel and time away are even more pressing.

I remember volunteering to coach my son's soccer and T-ball teams back in the day and being the only mum that stepped up to help. I think many mums either didn't think they COULD coach, or didn't think they had the skills to coach, or, more likely than not, being a coach wasn't something that had probably ever entered the minds. Not hard to believe when seeing a woman coaching is sometimes as unique as seeing a sasquatch! This is where representation matters and why it's so vital that Canadian sport figures out how to make coaching be viewed as a viable profession for women - and honestly even for men.

I really feel for coaches in the sport system right now - they are under intense scrutiny due to so much focus on providing safe sport environments for our athletes. Safe sport is hugely important, and there is a ton of education that needs to happen in the sport system right now so that all participants actually understand what it means, and what it looks like (if you're curious, I highly recommend the Safe Sport Training from the Coaching Association of Canada - it's applicable to everyone involved in sport - including parents).

At the same time however, sport needs to do a better job of showing coaches how they are truly valued, and supported. I fully believe that there are FAR more coaches that are providing amazing, enriching experiences for our kids, than the few bad eggs that let power go to their heads. Conversely, many coaches were trained by "old school" coaches where what the coach says goes, or just by badly educated coaches and may not realize that their coaching style isn't appropriate anymore. Rather than casting them aside, sport needs to educate these coaches and support them in learning how to be the kind of coaches that we need them to be.

Coaching isn't seen as enough of a well-paying, rewarding career in Canada - that goes for both men and women, and if we don't figure out how to support our existing coaches, and promote the values of BECOMING a coach - to both women AND men, I really fear that our kids won't be able to have the sport experiences that could so enrich their lives - as without coaches, there is no sport.

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