In what comes as a major step towards the growth of female representation, Football Australia have launched a new initiative aimed at addressing the recruitment, development, and retention of women in coaching.
The push for women in the role has received little attention over the past decades and has subsequently left the space stagnant and disproportionately low in representative numbers.
While Australian women across the sporting landscape have continued to achieve sustained success on the field – as witnessed at the recent Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – the representation of female coaches at all levels of the game is minimal.
The High Performance Coaching Initiative looks to move beyond the well documented barriers, by taking on an evidence-based approach to how women coaches in football will be supported, engaged with, developed, and retained to increase the numbers in high performance.
The initiative directly reflects the Leadership and Development Pillar of the Legacy ’23 plan in that it encourages a greater number of women to participate in the game at all levels.
Football Australia will work via a three-phase approach with coaches currently in high performance football, particularly those who have demonstrated potential to work in high performance football and elite players looking to transition to coaching roles.
Rae Dower, one of the initiative’s architects, is the Women’s Technical Advisor for Football Australia and the Head Coach for the Women’s U17s. She expressed her delight at seeing the initiative come to fruition at such a pivotal time in women’s football.
“This is an exciting period for women coaching in Australian football,” she said.
“We have a real opportunity to spark change in how we consult and deliver programs and address the barriers that have long been identified.
“It is essential that we finally allow women coaches to articulate what their reality is and express what they require to acquire skills, obtain knowledge and experience to work in high performance football.
“We want to move beyond the barriers and enable women coaches to have the necessary development opportunities to reach their own potential.”
In an Australian football first, over 150 women coaches at various levels will partake in a comprehensive study to better understand their coaching landscape in the first phase of the Initiative.
Phase 2 and Phase 3 will see findings of the study underpin the design of a pilot program tailored to facilitate the development and progression of the participants.
Heather Garriock, Vice President of Football Coaches Australia, acknowledged the importance of the initiative’s arrival.
“Since our inception, FCA has worked hard to gather extensive knowledge of the barriers and challenges experienced by women in coaching,” she said.
“We regularly hear commentary from women who coach that they aspire to work in environments where ‘coaches are coaches’ and ‘football is football’, with equal opportunities to coach all genders, at all levels. This won’t be achieved until there are women coaching in the high performance and professional landscapes of men’s football.
“This will require the development of integrated culture and leadership education programs, designed to teach coaches, technical directors and those in football management and administrative roles about how best to engage, develop, support, and retain women in coaching roles.
“Football Australia’s Coach Education Strategic Plan for FIFA Legacy ’23 presents an outstanding opportunity to make this a reality in Australian football, and FCA offers its full support to the initiative.”