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Research Case studies

Coaching and Compulsory Heterosexuality: The Experiences of Lesbian Coaches


Leanne Norman

This research study was a qualitative exploration of women’s experiences of professional coaching, specifically focusing upon how their lives were individually organised along the power relations of sexual orientation and gender. The work also intended to shift the theoretical focus of women’s underrepresentation within and experiences of coaching to an alternative perspective, in order to understand how the structure of sport connects to the micro ‘everyday injustices’ within the participants’ lives. Assuming that coaching is a male-centric and heteronormative culture, the study endeavoured to champion counter-narratives of the profession and to this end, utilised one-to-one in-depth semi-structured interviews with 10 professional, full-time women coaches, based in the UK, who identified themselves as gay or lesbian, from both individual and team sports. The findings from the study related to child protection issues; how race, gender and sexual identities intersected within the participants lives; relations with other coaches and governing bodies; and how the varying degrees of being ‘out’ was a continual management process.

Research outputs

  • Norman, L. (in press). Connecting the Personal to the Structural: The Experiences of Lesbian Coaches. Sport in Society.
  • Norman, L. (2012). Gendered Homophobia in Sport and Coaching: Understanding the Everyday Experiences of Lesbian Coaches. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 47(6), 705 – 723.
  • Norman, L. (2012, spring). How Equality in Sport is undermined by Compulsory Heterosexuality. On the Issues Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com
  • Norman, L. (2011). The Issue of Equality Affects Us All: Compulsory Heterosexuality and Hyperfemininity in Sport. LGBT Sports Observatory, 2, 3-5.
  • Norman, L. (2011). Understanding LGBT sport: Unveiling the experiences of UK lesbian coaches. LGBT Sports Observatory, 1, 2-3.
  • Norman, L. (2012). Connecting the everyday lives and experiences of lesbian coaches to the structure and culture of their profession: A UK perspective. Paper presented at International Convention on Science, Education and Medicine in Sport in Glasgow, UK.
  • Norman, L. (2011). Everyday gendered homophobia in sport and coaching: The experiences of lesbian coaches. Paper presented at The Women's Health Conference: Science, Technology and Society. St. Francis College, New York, USA
  • Norman, L. (2010). The process of representing the experiences of lesbian coaches: Developing a theory of everyday gendered homophobia. Paper presented at The 6th Meeting of the Transnational Working Group for the Study of Gender and Sport. University of Bath, UK.

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