Aug 29

Reasons for a Program and Coaching Philosophy – Part C

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Coaching Style, Perceived Coaching Behavior, and Gender Influence

Coaches, especially male head coaches, have a tremendous impact on the interaction and perception of gender relations, for athletes and between athletes. According to research, the role of self-efficacy toward coaching as a career path for female athletes is influenced to a great extent whether the head coach is male or female. Perceived barriers and the desire to coach at various levels depends to a large degree on the gender of the head coach and the behavior of that coach toward female athletes, according to these researchers. Whereas the study was conducted with university students one can only imagine the effect and impression gathered by younger sports participants. The participation of girls and women has grown to a great extent in all sports. However, the number of female coaches has decreased to an alarming 39% since the US Title IX became effective in 1972. There are a few studies in Canada, which point to similar trends – and Canada does not have such legislation. There are various reasons for this occurrence but the fact remains that the sporting experience of female participants are dependent to a larger degree upon the role model effect by male coaches. Overall attitude toward life, toward personal relationships, and toward gender and intra gender relations (the way boys treat girls and vice versa) are transmitted and shaped.

There are no differences in skill learning and skill mastery or the competitive attitudes. Female athletes do differ in the physiological, psychological and emotional make-up. Sociologists now propose more and more that female participants need female coaches or at least male coaches, who understand the ‘female psyche.’ The same is true for female coaches coaching male athletes – albeit there are even fewer of those in elite sports. That scenario has prolonged two other mainstream perceptions. Firstly, if female coaches are successful they are labeled as being too aggressive, lacking femininity and above all “they got to have an alternative lifestyle” (homophobia in sports is a modern issue). It is interesting to note that competitiveness and a degree of aggressiveness are accepted as “good characteristics for male coaches.”

Secondly, female coaches are said to lack competency or the ability to coach elite level sports. Typically, female coaches are part of beginner or intermediate levels of sports. From a sociological perspective, this is not surprising (elementary schools are the same). Females learn early on in life that their role and function in society is still one of ‘nurturing.’ Researchers point out that male and female elite level athletes indicate a preference for male coaches because the attitude still persists that female coaches are less competent, less knowledgeable and less successful as elite coaches. The fact that there are not enough role models in the elite level tends to substantiate such notions. When male and female athletes indeed were exposed to female coaching they found no difference in the competitive approach. Both genders, however, indicated that female coaches were more knowledgeable and attain higher educational levels. They gave more positive feedback; were more verbal when giving direction; were more accessible; easier to talk to and demonstrated overall more concern for the well being of the athletes.

Despite all the ‘Kudos’…why are there less female coaches (potential topic)? Are we to assume that ‘nurturing’ qualities have no place in elite sports? Is knowledge not “gender-less?” The point we are trying to make here is that the role model effect has an enormous impact on gender role perception and self-efficacy (feeling that one ‘can do it’, is competent and has self-confidence). Furthermore, the coach–athlete interaction will either enhance an athlete’s self-image and self-esteem, fosters personal relationships or is going to be destructive to the athlete, diminishing his/her self-worth on and off the athletic field.


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