Why are there no women coaches in top-level sport?

Could you imagine Hope Powell pacing up and down the touchline at Old Trafford?  Watching on and directing the likes of Rooney, Giggs and Evra.  No of course not, this could never happen you say.  She doesn’t know enough about the game, she doesn’t have any respect from the players, it just wouldn’t work.  But why not?  The question of why there are not as many black coaches in sport is often pondered upon throughout the sporting world.  Many argue that they are not given a fair opportunity, others that it is not a case of their colour but their ability.  But nobody ever seems to question why there are no women at the top of the sporting pyramid and even coaching women’s sport had become a male dominated domain.

Coaching at the top level is one of the most prestigious areas of sport and women are grossly under-represented as coaches.  Hope Powell, the coach of the England Women’s National side for those of you who didn’t know, is the most widely respected coach in the women’s game.  Powell took England to the final of the 2009 European Championships and oversees all youth development in England for women’s football.  She was linked with the Grimsby Town job in October 2009 but the role eventually went to Neil Woods instead.  Was she under qualified? Certainly not.  She has a UEFA Pro Licence; the top qualification available in the game, making her better qualified then Steve Keen, Avram Grant and Tony Pulis.  Yet nobody would consider her name when a managerial vacancy becomes available.

Many argue that women have not played football at the top-level and therefore do not have the ability or footballing knowledge to succeed or demand respect.  Yet this argument doesn’t really stand up when we consider that the best managers in the game often never played the game at the top-level.  In fact some of the most respected writers argue that those who didn’t play at the top level are able to make the best coaches owing to the ability to see their own faults and how to improve them.  Glenn Hoddle found himself frustrated as England manager owing to the lack of talent that he had to work with compared to his own ability and as a result had little success.

In other sports as well the top-level coaches don’t always have a distinguished career behind them.  The English cricket team, ranked number one in the world, has a number of coaches who never played international cricket.  Widely respected as the best bowling attack in the world at the moment, the England bowlers are coached by David Saker who played just 72 first class games in Australia.  Richard Halsall, the fielding coach, made just 8 appearances in professional cricket.  Despite their lack of experience at the highest level, nobody questions their coaching ability and credentials.  Why can the same not be said for a woman who has played internationally?

Mo Marley is the latest woman to achieve the Pro Licence from UEFA having completed the course alongside Roy Keane in 2008 and she is now the Everton Ladies coach.  Perhaps they don’t hold the desire to enter into the men’s game, this would be understandable owing to the undoubted level of abuse they would receive, especially when things don’t go right on the field.  Having seen the level of abuse that female officials have received it would be a brave woman indeed who entered into management.  The FA should be doing more to encourage the likes of Powell and Marley to get into the men’s game.

Perhaps it won’t be too long before we do see the first female coach in men’s football.  Would the FA consider Powell for the job of England Manager now?  Almost certainly not, and yet she appears to be as good a candidate as there is.  With a wealth of experience, the pedigree of managing in the international game and no club requirements to hold her back from the job.  If the FA is going to deal with racism with a heavy hand then it is time to deal with gender equality in the game at the same time.

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Tags: Football, Hope, Marley, Mo, Powell, Women's

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Comment by redmisty on February 21, 2012 at 14:10

"that the best managers in the game often never played the game at the top-level."


I believe this is the exception rather than the rule - the vast majority of top level coaches are ex players.


"Hoddle found himself frustrated as England manager owing to the lack of talent that he had to work with compared to his own ability and as a result had little success."


This is a highly subjective opinion that I don't agree with. Hoddle was just as successful as any other England manager over the last 20 years. I don't think there is any evidence at all that being a top player is a hindrance to a person's managerial ability.


I agree that women's sport should have more female coaches but I'm not convinced from this article that the men's football would benefit from having female coaches. When you consider that football has a ridiculously laddish culture, I think it stands to reason that a male coach has a better chance of connecting with the players (many of whom are clearly chauvinists). This isn't a moral issue imo - it is one of practicality. In fact, I would say that this debate is political correctness for the sake of it. The fact that footbllers are chauvinistic is not right but it is the nature of the beast I'm afraid. As a Chairman/owner, you want the manager who will get the best out of the players and, like it or not, I believe that a male coach/manager has a better chance of doing that. I can't speak for other sports but that's my take on football.


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