As a coach it’s important that you can make your sessions fun and include everyone. We want to encourage you to plan for progression, adaptation, or modification of practice within your practical session so that you can deliver meaningful, challenging and fun sessions to whoever might come through the door.
Training and tips to help you further can be found in the Introduction to Inclusive Practice E-Module.
WOMEN AND GIRLS
Stereotypes are socially-constructed rules that helps us to navigate our world. They give us help to generalise and be able to make quicker decisions on appropriate behaviours in different contexts. Although they can be useful, they can also become damaging when they are no longer accurate. This is the case with gender stereotypes in sport. Many of these stereotype’s stem from out-dated thinking about the capabilities of women, often from hundreds of years ago. For example, in 1980 the International Olympic Committee released a statement to say that long-distance running would not harm female athletes. Until then it was often believed to be dangerous for women to run a marathon!
Although this module will focus on gender stereotypes, many of the same harmful effects are seen with racial stereotypes so you should be aware of all types that may be present in your coaching environment or your own thinking.
Activity 1: Watch this short video to get an overview of how gender stereotypes influence sport.
WHAT CAN COACHES DO?
There are three main actions that coaches can do to reduce the impact of gender stereotypes for your players:
- Audit your own language, behaviour, and coaching environment.
- This means you become more aware of what gender stereotypes you might introduce by accident. If you don’t know where the stereotypes exist, you won’t be able to change them.
- Depending on your coaching environment, you may want to include other people in the audit process. This might be other coaches, your players, or other club personnel. You can do the audit with them or share it with them afterwards to agree actions.
- Challenge stereotypes where you see them
- This might be challenging yourself or asking questions of others.
- Often people may introduce a stereotype by accident so start by asking if they know why they said/did the problematic thing. Simply by asking the question, you will encourage them to reflect on their own behaviour.
- Protect your players against stereotypes
- Even with actions 1 and 2, your players are likely to still be exposed to stereotypes. Researchers have found evidence that athletes can be protected against the negative performance effect of stereotypes if they have higher perceived ability. This is how highly an athlete perceives their own ability to be (‘I am good at this sport’).
- As coaches you can improve the perceived ability of your players. Plan your coaching sessions to include plenty of opportunity for individual success and provide positive feedback to players. These simple changes can boost perceived ability and protect your players.
GENDER STEREOTYPES AUDIT
An audit of your coaching and your coaching environment will allow you to identify any unintentional stereotypes. This awareness is the first step to making changes.
Activity 2: Work through the audit template to record any stereotypes (or possible stereotypes) that you find. Then try to identify solutions to remove them. You may find this helpful to do along with another coach. In either case, share your findings with others at your club.
Download Gender Stereotypes Audit here
Some examples actions are included to guide you to start the audit. These aspects are not exhaustive so feel free to add anything else that is important in your coaching environment.
Activity 3: Take some time to consider the following three scenarios and how you would respond to them.
You coach at an u12 mixed session. The boys have had more basketball in the past and are mostly better players so you usually use them to demonstrate at sessions.
What message might you be putting out by doing this?
What effect could this be having on players’ performance?
What alternative approach could you take?
Although this may not be a deliberate message, by consistently using the boys as the demonstrators you are telling the group that the girls are not as good and you expect less of them.
This stereotype can lead to the girls lowering their expectations of their own performance and as a result, performing below their potential. Therefore, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Over time, this can lead to the girls enjoying their basketball less and being more likely to drop out.
It can be helpful for players to see demonstrations of skills from peers of all abilities so asking a mix of players to demonstrate is not actually a problem. An alternative approach therefore would be to ask lots of different players to demonstrate and talk about how the skill should look to reinforce the key points.
The men’s games at your club always take place in the best timing slot. You notice that the crowds are bigger for the men’s games.
What might you consider about this?
There may be a good reason for this timing, but the key issue to consider is why it is the case. By showcasing only the men’s games, the club are reinforcing a stereotype that women’s basketball is of less value or less entertaining. This message will filter throughout the club and could impact the perception of female players at all levels, leading to them thinking their sport is less worthy than their male counterparts. Although this may not be your decision to change, you might be able to help others to understand the impact of the timing. Perhaps the games could alternate or the women’s games be given equal promotion.
You hear another coach saying to a boy in a mixed group of players that “he throws like a girl”.
How would you approach the subject with the coach?
The first thing to remember is that the coach is likely unaware of the impact of their words. This simple statement is sometimes said without real thought, but it conveys a lot of message. The coach is essentially telling the boy (and anyone else listening) that girls don’t throw the ball well and that the male player should be ashamed of playing like a girl. Both are unhelpful messages for the girls and the boys.
If you are comfortable to do so, start by drawing the coach’s attention to the statement. Perhaps asking if they realise the impact of it or if they really believe the messages. You are not aiming to ‘tell them off’, but to draw their attention to a development area.
If you do not feel comfortable having the conversation yourself, speak to your coach mentor about it. They should be able to have a chat to the coach about it for you (or with you). Although sometimes these discussions can feel awkward, they are essential to create the best possible environment for your players.
Activity 4: Check your knowledge.
Now that you have worked through this module, take some time to complete this short quiz to check your knowledge of gender stereotypes in coaching. If you struggle with any of the questions, go back and revisit that section of the module again.