The face of female coaches in tennis
Female coaches remain exceedingly rare in pro tennis. In 2014 when Amelie Mauresmo was hired by Andy Murray, she became the only female to coach a top pro on the men’s tour. In a New York Times article written by Christopher Clarey (2016) there were “only three members of the top 50 who list a primary coach who is a woman” (Wanted: Women to Coach Female Tennis Players). Why aren’t more women coaching top players and how do we change that?
Why aren’t more women coaching top players?
“The easiest answer to this question is a matter of social conditioning. Even in the second decade of the 21st century, women are predominantly expected to shoulder the burden of housework and childcare, something that is often difficult with any job, but particularly challenging within a coaching lifestyle. With odd hours and high travel months, women often feel that their coaching career has to take a backseat to their family. In other cases, women are sometimes taught at a very early age that they will not be successful in environments that require confrontation and leadership. When little girls are conditioned to believe that coaching is a man’s world, and that they are too emotional to handle players that would talk back and confront them, it is of little surprise that they do not grow up wanting to be coaches.” (Swimming World 2016 – The Importance of Female Coaches). This information is consistent with research used in my thesis and dissertation which shows the old age theory that “women are meant to stay home, while men are the breadwinners.” While this is slowly changing, it’s still a prevalent part of how girls are raised.
Alongside old historical socialization patterns, there are many other factors leading to the stagnating numbers of female coaches – fear, lack of mentors, discrimination among lesbian coaches, lack of networking opportunities, perceived gender biases, and continued pay inequity.
How do we change this?
“It starts with emerging talents like Daria Gavrilova, a 22-year-old Australian who has long been coached by Nicole Pratt and has added Biljana Veselinovic to her team, and Ana Konjuh, an 18-year-old from Croatia who reached the quarterfinals of this year’s United States Open under her new coach, Jelena Kostanic Tosic, a former top-50 player. I think it’s important because men haven’t played the women’s tour, Konjuh said. The tennis is different, and Jelena’s been through all that, and she can help me that way” (New York Times y, Clarey, C. 2016 Wanted: Women to Coach Female Tennis Players).
When women players start hiring a woman coach, this can help this shift in the tennis culture. Individual players are independent contractors who have the right to choose their own private coaches, whatever their gender.
“National federations — often publicly funded — are a different matter. The USTA, Tennis Australia, and Tennis Canada are among those attempting to recruit more female coaches, and the French Tennis Federation has embarked on a formal study of the subject. We have a role to play in breaking down barriers and confronting biases that exist in our sport and the coaching community, says Katrina M. Adams, the USTA’s chairwoman and president. The USTA also plans to expand its small fellowship program for female coaches and to make hitting partners available on the road” (New York Times y, Clarey, C. 2016 Wanted: Women to Coach Female Tennis Players).
WTCA – education
Another huge piece of this puzzle is education. The Women’s Tennis Coaching Association’s (WTCA) founded in 2015 is the first of its kind. “It is currently the only professional global organization formed solely in support of coaches working with female players.” (WTCA) On August 26 and 27, we will be doing just that. “The WTCA Conference in NYC – The art and science of coaching female players – is the first conference dedicated specifically to coaching female tennis players. Our team of Grand Slam champions, medical advisors and internationally heralded tennis experts are set to change coaching in women’s tennis” (WTCA).
My overall goal will be to educate coaches on Conscious Coaching – Build female self-esteem for success in tennis and in life – so that we continue to not only have great female tennis players but great female tennis coaches.
Possible shift for female coaches
This isn’t impossible. Changing the socialization process of a society is hard but when people band together – pros start hiring qualified female coaches and national federations begin to work on breaking down barriers, confronting bias, and expand their fellowship program for female coaches – the fabric of our society begins to change.
I am honored to be a part of the WTCA, their NYC conference, and that change.