Advancing Women in Coaching

The lunch provided the perfect chance for administrators from elite through to grassroots sports to network, share knowledge and discuss improving coaching and leadership opportunities for women within the Victorian sport and recreation industry.

Headlined by high profile guest speakers including Bec Goddard (inaugural AFLW premiership coach), Emma Highwood (Head of Women’s Football at Football Federation Australia) and Donna Rae Szalinski (Head Coach of the Australian Women’s Road Cycling team, former pro team Director Sportif), the event had a specific focus on coaching.

This included a panel discussion covering a range of strategies to ensure club environments are best suited to attract, retain and advance women and girls who are looking to take on coaching roles.

“We know that there are many women and girls involved in sport, but we know there are nowhere near enough women in visible leadership roles – particularly coaches, but also umpires, referees, administrators, executives, CEOs or presidents,” said Dr Bridie O’Donnell, Head of the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation.

“Today we had three amazing speakers share their knowledge around community clubs, high performance, how do we get more women into coaching and how do we retain them.” It’s no secret that women are under-represented in leadership roles and the campaign is working to redress this inequality. The lunch presented an opportunity to explore various strategies to advance women in these leading roles.

Emma Highwood provided some insight as to where the problem sometimes exists. “A lot of women don’t step forward because they don’t feel comfortable because they feel like they have to have a lot of knowledge or played the game to coach. But if I talk to our coaching team they will say ‘females, particularly at the entry level, make the best coaches,” Highwood said during the panel discussion.

Bec Goddard highlighted the ongoing learning curve of any successful coach from her time coaching in the male-dominated AFL industry saying,

“If you think you know it all you will fail... even if you do know it all!” “You need to be open to learning from others and being open to varying opinions,” said Goddard.

Other topics of discussion included the changing role of the coach, ensuring the environment and culture is welcoming for female coaches, and the opportunity for women to help shape and redefine what a coach looks like.

The event is the latest initiative from the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation, encouraging the industry to come together to celebrate women in sport and hear from those who are leading from the front, to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

“Coaching is a passion, it’s a privilege. I am very fortunate. I have never worked a day in my life,” said Donna Rae Szalinski.

Minister for Sport John Eren MP said it’s vital that the government continues to work to improve opportunities in the area of gender equality.

“Initiatives like Change Our Game are important because traditionally 51% of the population have missed out on opportunities,” Minister Eren said. “It’s not fair and governments need to make sure that we level the playing field.”

“We’ve got so many people wanting to play sport, and we need the coaches to accommodate that. In every single measure we need to increase capacity and make sure that we can keep up with the pace of growth.”

The Office for Women in Sport and Recreation was created in 2017 by the Victorian Government in response to the Inquiry into Women and Girls in Sport and Recreation. It is the first Office of it’s kind in Australia and is supported by the biggest investment by any state government into facilities, participation and leadership opportunities across all levels of sport and recreation for women and girls.

The event also provided a springboard into the highly anticipated Festival of Sport that will be taking place in the region over the weekend. The festival will promote physical activity, health and wellbeing and showcase the diversity of sport in the Geelong region with over 30 sports clinics, tours and come and try events on offer.

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