Equality and diversity have been issues readily taken up by sport and physical activity organisations and inequality is recognised as a barrier to participation. However, new research shows that when it comes to female coaches in the elite field there is evidence of dismissive cultures and gender bias. “There remains an acute imbalance of men and women in most positions of authority within sport, including high performance (elite) coaching. For the previous five Olympic cycles…only 11% of accredited Olympic coaches are women.” A recent report published by the Female Coaching Network in conjunction with Leeds Beckett University explores the barriers to women in organisational cultures in National Governing Bodies- with a focus on athletics. It argues that for culture to change, EDI strategy and policy must be a central part of organisational strategy and not an add on or side issue or one that only prioritises care and safety.
Promoting equality and inclusion is the responsibility of all coaches and the report argues that whilst there has been a transformation in awareness the time is now for action. Not to do so, the authors argue, is detrimental to sport as it weakens the attractiveness of the coaching role. Moreover, the report highlights that current coaches and athletes are suffering in sport as a consequence of the inaction.
We’d be interested in the views of coaches in County Durham on this matter as coaches and volunteers are a central pillar of our sporting landscape. To have cultures that do not welcome, celebrate and promote opportunities for all is to ensure we do not realise the full potential of the coaching talent in the UK. As the report says: “Coaches are instrumental…to athlete development. By taking care of our coaches, we are also putting our athletes first.” For us here at County Durham Sport, this is important across the whole sport and physical activity offer.