Programme leaders at MIFUMI (Uganda) originally wanted to use karate as the sport focus for girls. However, they were unable to find more than one qualified karate coach who was a woman. Believing deeply in the value of women coaches, they decided to build a tae kwon do practice as they were able to recruit an experienced tae kwon do coach who was a woman from a nearby city. There was an unexpected benefit to recruiting this coach as well. When concerns were heard from caregivers, reluctant to let their girls participate in tae kwon do because the amount of kicking “would diminish their girls’ ability to have children,” this particular coach was able to effectively address these concerns. She could attest to kicking not damaging reproductive organs as she had given birth to two healthy children.
In some areas of the world, qualified women coaches are plentiful, especially in places with high-density populations or where women’s sport has a strong presence and history. However, women’s sport is still not fully and universally embraced.1 There is a scarcity of women who have the skills to play sport and the competency, confidence and knowledge to coach. By working hard as an organisation to identify and hire women coaches for your programmes or by training and providing paths to accreditation for female athletes turned coaches, your organisation will change certain attitudes that persist, among female sport teams as well, that male coaches are better since they are thought to be more technically skilled and have more expertise.
Tips for Recruiting Women Coaches:
- Advertise. Let the community know you are seeking women coaches. Post flyers in community spaces, like markets and schools. Be sure to indicate clearly your needs regarding time commitment and qualifications.
- Be willing to travel. Experienced women footballers or netballers might live in a city near where your programme is based if they do not live in the immediate area.
- Visit venues where the sport is being played. The best place to find boxers is at a boxing gym, and the best place to find tennis players is at a tennis court. Visit local sport venues and meet women who are there to recruit and get recommendations.
- Train girls within the programme. If your sport programme has been established for a few years, your most fertile ground for recruiting women coaches is likely right before your eyes. Give older girls who have a solid grasp of the skills and who have demonstrated an ability to lead a chance to become a coach. This can be a powerful tool in their empowerment, and the programme benefits from the coach already having knowledge of programme logistics and expectations.
- Consider the crossover athlete. Consider recruiting women who have experience in another sport and train them to coach the sport you’ve chosen for your programme. Sport-specific skills can be learned quickly with focus and a qualified instructor. Regardless of the sport, the female athlete will already be aware of basic needs for participants, such as training, functioning within the context of a team, and simply being an athlete.
- Recruit and train caregivers. Caregivers are already invested in the development of girls. They are often willing to volunteer their time and share in the building of a sport programme that benefits their girls. Help drive their passion by training them as coaches.
- Contact the national sport governing body. Many popular sports have national organisations that govern regulations, coaches, officials, etc. As a central headquarters for a sport, the people in this organisation often know of qualified coaches and can help you get in contact with them.
- Reconsider sport choice. If you cannot find women to teach girls how to play basketball, for example, perhaps it is worth reconsidering if that is the right sport for girls in your area.
- Give female coaches access to formal accreditation programmes. Often times, women coaches are taken advantage of and asked to volunteer their time because they don’t have the same formal coaching certificates or recognition from the government or other sporting bodies as do men who are at their same level. By helping female coaches gain access to these trainings and accreditation processes, your organisation gains accredited coaches, and these coaches can negotiate salaries and earn a living through coaching in the future.
- Share resources. Partner and work with other organisations that need or have strong female coaches and role models, and work with these women so they split their time between different programmes.
1. United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2007). Women 2000 and Beyond: Women, Gender Equality and Sport.