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Empowering Female Coaches in Australian High-Performance Sports: A Leap Towards Excellence

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) has unveiled an ambitious action plan to tackle the underrepresentation of women in coaching positions within the Australian high-performance sports system. The High-Performance 2032+ Sports Strategy is a roadmap to leverage the opportunity presented by the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In parallel, the Women in High-Performance Coaching Project has emerged as a critical initiative, paving the way for greater gender equality in high-performance coaching roles.


Women Onside is delighted to shed light on some significant aspects of this report that highlight the importance of investing in opportunities for women in football.


The foreword elegantly captures the essence of this initiative:

"We cannot exclude roughly half of the population from high-performance coaching opportunities. We must be more inclusive and take action to remove the complexity and challenges facing women coaches."

These words, spoken by Matti Clements, underscore the urgency of creating a level playing field for women in coaching roles.


The report identifies a persistent "leaky pipeline" that is siphoning away talented coaches from high-performance roles. It explores why hidden talent pools of women coaches exist and how we can re-engage them to unlock the full potential of Australia's high-performance coaching system. The project is a testament to the Australian Sports Commission's commitment to gender equality throughout the sports system.


One of the project's key objectives is to foster diversity and inclusion within high-performance coaching. Women coaches bring unique perspectives to the table, including a deep understanding of female-specific health and performance issues. This diversity enhances our ability to support athletes effectively and elevate performance outcomes on the global stage. The report states, "Incorporating women coaches diversifies our training approach, fostering creativity and adaptability among athletes."


The project is aligned with the High-Performance Coach Development Strategy, the National Generation 2032 Coach Program, and the AIS Gender Diversity Project, creating a comprehensive approach to promoting gender equality in coaching. It focuses on four strategic areas: behaviours, culture, and environment; systems supporting diversity; strategies for development; and visibility and storytelling. These areas are designed to amplify the role of women coaches and create an inclusive environment in high-performance sports.


The report highlights the need for a gender equity audit, gender equity targets, and strategies to strengthen the women's coach workforce in all sporting organisations. Furthermore, it calls for comprehensive data capture and reporting systems to monitor progress and drive accountability for women coaches. These recommendations underline the project's dedication to ensuring a positive impact on women coaches and making the high-performance coaching landscape more welcoming.


To achieve success, the project emphasises a complexity-based approach, gathering narratives and insights from women coaches, identifying systemic constraints, and identifying "bright spots" within the system. It also recognises the importance of equity over equality, ensuring that resources and opportunities are allocated based on individual needs, thereby acknowledging and addressing the unique challenges women coaches face.


The report acknowledges the underrepresentation of women in high-performance coaching roles in Australia, with less than 10% of top-funded high-performance sports led by women head coaches. It calls for strategic and immediate action to create a more diverse and thriving coaching ecosystem by 2032.


The Women in High-Performance Coaching Project is a significant step toward building an inclusive and sustainable sporting system in Australia. By investing in opportunities for women in high-performance coaching, Australia not only promotes gender equality but also strengthens its high-performance sports system, ensuring its continued success on the world stage. The project underscores the importance of fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment within high-performance sports. It affirms the critical role of women coaches in the success of Australia's sporting system.


With the Matildas Effect in full force across Australia, our women's sport is making remarkable strides in many ways. With the unveiling of the Australian Institute of Sport's ambitious action plan, we are excited about its possibilities for attracting and retaining female coaches in football. This plan provides a structured framework to not only address the underrepresentation but also empower women coaches to thrive. By offering support, mentorship, and tailored opportunities, it ensures that the future of coaching in football remains vibrant, diverse, and inclusive, fostering a positive environment for all aspiring coaches.


To read the full report, visit the AIS site here.

Opals basketballer turned coach Jenni Screen with her baby Edith. Photo: Basketball Without Borders, NBA

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