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New research to tackle the future of English football coach education


Researchers at Leeds Beckett University have been commissioned by the English Football Association (FA) to lead a groundbreaking new three-year, £30,000, study into the experiences of women coaches, investigating how they can inform strategies to boost the numbers of coaches from under-represented groups.

Dr Leanne Norman

The study, which will inform coach education and practice within English football, will be one of the FA’s flagship research programmes as part of a new Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic project team aiming to improve the numbers, and quality, of under-represented football coaches.

The Leeds Beckett study, led by Dr Leanne Norman in the University’s Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure, is the first of its kind and will see the research team track the experiences of women coaches, and how these change and impact their sense of wellbeing, over a period of three years. Alongside this will be an analysis of the FA’s organisational culture: including how its individual departments, mentoring schemes, professional football clubs and connected organisations (such as the League Managers’ Association) frame gender, race and ethnicity issues.

The team will also compare this analysis with other sports, other football associations across Europe, and other fields, such as business.

Dr Norman explained: “This study represents the commitment of the FA and Leeds Beckett to understanding what needs to be done to attract and nurture more coaches from social minority groups. The three year study offers novel opportunities for us to follow the careers of UEFA B level women coaches and female mentees, understanding not only how they experience qualifying as coaches, but how it impacts their career thereafter.

“Research that explicitly considers performance level and organisational cultures and that evaluates existing schemes to nurture more women coaches is non-existent within this subject area. What is also absent is an understanding of how a marginalised status and associated career experiences impact the wellbeing of women coaches. This is an important line of enquiry within the study because occupational wellbeing is a critical factor in determining an individual’s commitment to, and continued participation in, a coaching career.”

The study represents a novel and groundbreaking endeavour in a number of ways: the team’s methods; partnerships; the diverse specialisms of the researchers working on the project; the multiple areas that will be focused upon - including personal experiences, wellbeing, organisational cultures, and mentoring; the study of not only gender but also race and ethnicity; and having the rare opportunity to study participants longer-term, over the course of three years.

Dr Leanne Norman will be joined by Leeds Beckett colleagues, Dr Faye Didymus, Dr Nicola Clarke, Dr Mariana Kaiseler, Professor Anne Flintoff, Dr Aart Ratna, Dr AJ Rankin-Wright, Emma Boocock and Krissi Paterson, alongside Ms Marina McGoldrick from ORD Consultants, who will be contributing her expertise in addressing organisational culture and change.

The team will be split into three themes which support the FA’s goal of recruiting and progressing more coaches from under-represented social groups. Theme one will address women's experiences and wellbeing; theme two will address organisational approaches of professional football clubs towards coach recruitment and retention, and theme three will evaluate the FA's mentoring scheme in partnership with the League Managers’ Association and Players’ Football Association.

On Thursday 28 April, from 6 to 7pm at the Lewis Jones Suite at Headingley Carnegie Stadium in Leeds, Dr Norman will introduce a panel of high-performance female coaches from a variety of sports and backgrounds as part of Leeds Beckett’s Carnegie Conversations guest speaker series.

The panel, hosted by Shelley Alexander, BBC Editor for Women's Sport, will discuss their career pathways and personal journeys, and their suggestions for improving the diversity of the UK coaching profession. Panellists include: Marieanne Spacey, Assistant Manager of the England's Women's Football Team and one of the most capped England players; Paula Dunn, Head Coach of the Great Britain Paralympic Team; and Salma Bi, the first British Asian woman to play for Worcestershire County cricket and founder of a coaching organisation that promotes the women's game.

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