Working with male coaches to bridge the gender divide

A new research project aims to promote male allyship in sport coaching to allow more inclusive sports experiences for all genders.

Dr Zoë Avner is working with male coaches to build positive knowledge and understanding of matters of gender inequity, as well as gender and diversity-responsive coaching.

She is specifically exploring how male coaches can become ‘relational experts’ and navigate gender-responsive coaching practices with their athletes. By combining qualitative survey and interview data, she seeks to unveil the knowledge and assumptions that shape coaches’ practices.

Dr Avner said while many men held progressive views of gender in sport, there was evidence that few male sport leaders were proactive in addressing gender inequality in sport.

“It is a topic that has been overlooked, despite considerable research that shows how gendered power relations play a strong role in the quality and effectiveness of the coach-athlete relationship,” she said.

For the project, Dr Avner conducted an online survey of 36 male coaches involved in coaching female and/or gender diverse athletes. Some coaches also participated in an online interview to expand on the knowledge and understanding gleaned from the survey.

Once the data is analysed, it will be used to design strategies which promote male allyship in sport coaching, improving the experience of sports participation for all genders.

“By challenging existing norms and promoting new coaching practices that prioritise athlete wellbeing, skill development, and performance goals, we can foster strong and inclusive sports experiences and environments for athletes of all genders,” she said.

The project is a collaboration between Deakin University, the University of Bath (UK), VicSport, and Golf Australia.