What Swimming Australia’s Recommendations Will Mean For Female Coaches

Swimming Australia is looking to make significant changes regarding the experience that women and girls have across all levels of the sport, and that includes coaching.

The organization recently released its response to a comprehensive report filed by an independent women’s panel, which came out with 46 recommendations for Swimming Australia to implement.

One of those recommendations is geared towards Swimming Australia establishing a quota system to have more female coaching representation, specifically referencing the practices of two other organizations:

Recommendation #26: That Swimming Australia establish quotas for female representation amongst Advanced and Performance coaches to enhance the leadership and pathway development training opportunities.  Best practices examples from World Rugby and AFLW can be used to model SA’s policies.

The report points to World Rugby and the AFLW (Australian women’s football league) as examples of what Swimming Australia should do to get more female coaching representation within the organization.

So what would that look like?

World Rugby has been at the forefront of pushing women’s coaching forward for the last number of years, publishing a report in 2018 that reviewed the status of women in high-performance coaching.

The report found that the challenges and barriers influencing a lack of women in high-performance coaching were complex and inter-linked, leading the organization to design a Women Coaching Rugby Toolkit to create a robust framework and pathway for unions and regional associations to address challenges and barriers in four core areas: planning, recruitment, development and retention.

World Rugby has set itself a target of having 40 percent of all coaching staffs at the 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup being women.

The AFL/AFLW announced a new Women’s Coach Acceleration program in December, aiming to fast-track the next generation of female senior coaches. Participants in the program will be employed by an AFL club for a minimum of two years, and then will take up a coaching role within either an AFL or AFLW program.

“The AFL remains committed to creating legitimate coaching pathways for women, and through this program, we look forward to witnessing the industry’s emerging coaching talent further develop their skillset to progress to senior coaching positions at the elite AFL and AFLW level,” AFL EGM of football operations Andrew Dillon said.

The independent women’s panel recommended that Swimming Australia implement quotas to ensure the representation of women at the advanced and performance coaching level, and added that it should “never again select an all-male team” to manage international competitions.

The report recommended no less than two women when there are four or more coaches selected, and at least one woman where there are three or fewer coaches.

Those numbers fall roughly in line with the target of 40 percent set out by World Rugby, and looking at what the AFL has implemented, it’s likely that Swimming Australia will be putting in place a fast-track program for female coaches to develop their skills in the near future as well.

UK Sport announced earlier this week that it was set to begin the second edition of its female coaching program, which factors in coaches from several different sports. Mel Marshall, the head coach of Olympic champion breaststroker Adam Peaty, was among the women that helped spearhead the introduction of the program last year.

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Lia T
3 months ago

Surely then on the flip side there should be at least two men on their independent woman’s panel? Coaches should always be selected on merit & performance, without any gender bias.

Charlie Brown
4 months ago

I agree with this but is there any quantifiable evidence of an equally qualified female candidate missing out on coaching opportunities? If there is then that needs to be rectified 100%. Ultimately we owe it to our swimmers to put the best people on deck possible, and I am not assuming that will be a man…

Reply to  Charlie Brown
4 months ago

The problem with this reasoning is that “qualifications beget qualifications.” Qualifications are based on who you’ve coached, what meets you’ve coached at…if all of the opportunities are given to one group, in this case men, then all of the qualifications are also going to be given to one group, in this case men.

You have to do something to break the systemic cycle. There are a lot of different ways to accomplish that, with this being one of them. Other ways could include enforcing a quota at the root level of the sport and let the cream rise to the top with homegrown athletes, but that is a WAY messier thing to do.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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