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Promoting the diversity of the coaching workforce

The Challenge

The Coaching Plan for England 2017-2021, states a key aspiration to increase the diversity of the coaching workforce to ensure that participants are coached by those, “who are immediately empathetic to their needs and are reflective of their social environment” (Sport England, 2016: 18). Currently, sport coaching in the UK is male dominated - women only make up 28% of the profession and very few women reach senior coaching levels.

When put alongside data that illustrates that 97% of our UK coaching workforce are white and 92% are able-bodied (Sports Coach UK, 2011), our profile of coaching remains exclusive. In essence, who our coaches are does not reflect the increasing diversity of the participants they serve. This situation and the broader lack of diversity in the coaching workforce is problematic for national sporting organisations in meeting the increasing and varied needs of participants.

The Research

This programme of research works with sport organisations to improve the professional experiences and representation of women sport coaches in the UK. It uses a multi-disciplinary perspective to address the impact of being in the minority to examine the professional pathways for women as coaches within a number of sports, and to examine sporting organisational contexts and cultures towards gender equality in coaching.

The Impact

This work has been led in partnership with a number of external partners to impact on coach recruitment, education and development; and provide the evidence for a number of strategies and initiatives to recruit more women and progress them through coaching. Partners include national and international organisations including the European Coaching Council, UK Coaching, Women in Sport and Sport Wales as well as other national sporting bodies including British Cycling and The Football Association. The impact of our research has been evidenced in the programmes and agendas implemented by these organisations. For example, British Cycling are now implementing a leadership programme for women coaches as a direct result of our research recommendations. Leeds Beckett University, in collaboration with ORDS consultants, have also run a number of interventions to support the professional development of women coaches, as well as raise awareness and educate UK national governing bodies towards on organisational cultures to improve gender equality.