Kids training at Arncliffe Youth Centre (file)
Fewer Australian kids participating in community sport are exposed to coaching by women. Image by Flavio Brancaleone/AAP PHOTOS
  • education

Women’s leadership in sports sends positive message

Nyibol Gatluak April 7, 2024

More women undertaking roles in coaching and officiating in community sport can positively influence childhood gender perceptions.

A Victoria University study involving a survey of 75 children and their parents, has found kids are overwhelmingly coached by men. The four to 17-year-olds played sports including Australian rules, basketball and swimming.

Ninety six per cent of them said they were exposed to men as coaches, compared to 65 per cent who where mentored by women.

Gender biases and stereotypes are formed through social environments and seeing more women in leadership can challenge those views, according to lead researcher Dr Kara Dadswell.

”These ingrained gender roles can be shifted for both girls and boys by providing them with an opportunity to experience women as coaches and officials at an early age,” she told AAP.

The report recommends community sports clubs hire more women coaches and officials, encourage parents to support more women in sports leadership and urge those from diverse backgrounds to apply.

The research was funded through the Victorian Office for Women in Sport and Recreation.

Office director Sarah Styles said unconscious gender biases can form when there’s a lack of representation.

“Understanding unconscious bias is being ingrained from a young age and heavily shaped by parents, emphasises the importance of action to ensure women are involved in coaching and officiating at all levels,” Ms Styles said.

The Victorian government has spent $225 million upgrading Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium, including improvements to women’s facilities. 

While fixtures for the AFLW 2024 season have not been released, the Age newspaper reports that the stadium will not be used for games. The AFL-owned facility wasn’t used utilised by the women’s league in 2023 either.

”They’re putting so much money into upgrading facilities and trying to make them more accessible for women; I think that’s a great thing,” Ms Dadswell told AAP.

”However, I really hope that’s not a closed decision and there’s options for them to play in the future.”