Coach Tracker - Olympic edition

Updated: Sep 4

With the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 so recently completed we have taken a quick look at the prevalence of women head coaches of the football teams.


First and foremost the gold-medal winning coach was a woman - Canada's Bev Priestman, an Englishwomen taking on her first head coach role after an extensive grounding as an assistant. If you are interested in her journey read this article from the Guardian.


Women head coaches

You won’t be shocked to learn there were no women head coaches of any of the men’s teams competing in Japan.


Overall there was a slight improvement in the number/proportion of women head coaches of women's football teams compared with the previous Rio 2016 Olympics and the intervening FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019.


For this current Olympic Football Tournament five out of the 12 head coaches were women; that’s 42%. At the previous Rio Olympics four out of 12 head coaches were women (33%). At WWC France 2019 nine out of 24 head coaches were women (38%). So bit-by-bit it’s getting better.


New women head coaches who have been appointed since France 2019 were Bev Priestman (Canada), Pia Sundhage (Brazil) and Hege Riise (Great Britain). All of these women coaches have replaced men. Two women have retained their head coach roles - Sarina Wiegman (Netherlands) and Asako Takakura (Japan). Jill Ellis, the successful France 2019 USA head coach has been replaced by a man.


In terms of team performance, all five women head coaches made it through to the quarter finals. Two of the four semi-final coaches were women (Netherlands/Weigman, Canada/Priestman) and of course one of the final coaches, the ultimately victorious Priestman.


The Australian numbers

The technical and support staff to the Australian Olympic Football women’s team comprised 8 men and 7 women led by head coach Tony Gustavsson, assistant coach Mel Andreatta and team manager Jen Willmott.


This arrangement is certainly an advance on some previous touring party set-ups where there were few women in technical and support roles. The lack of women staff was most notoriously illustrated by the 2018 AFC Women's Asian Championships in Jordan 2018 where photographs showed seven out of eight staff on the bench were men. It's worth noting that at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics there are no women technical and support staff for the Australian men’s football team.


Looking more broadly across Australian women's team sports at Tokyo 2020, men outnumbered women in head coach roles by four to two. The hockey and basketball head coaches were women - Katrina Powell and Sandy Brondello. As well as Tony Gustavsson in football, the women's softball, water polo and rugby sevens teams were coached by men.


Tony's Matildas team, with its fourth place, was the best finishing of any of the women's teams


Future analysis

Coming up in next month’s Coach Tracker we will look at the impact of changes to head coaches in women’s pro-league football around the world (see the status as at June here). We will also look at the lack of women coaches in the NPLW pipeline.


On the brighter side, we believe Football Australia will be addressing support and development for the top levels of women coaches in new programs to be announced soon.