I can’t tell you how exciting it was for me to watch the Canadian women win hockey gold at Sochi. What a great moment for Canada and for women. I just think of all the kids – girls and boys both – watching the game and not even questioning that women can play hockey, and play it really well.
For me, though, that victory wasn’t as sweet as it could have been. You see, I found myself disappointed when I noticed the Canadian coach was a man while the American coach was a woman. I don’t mean to take away from the fantastic job Canada’s coach did. Or to knock on male coaches. I just felt that if women could play the game and ref the game, why couldn’t we see a Canadian woman participating at a coaching level as well?
The difficulty of finding more gender equality in sports traditionally dominated by men in coaching and refereeing roles isn’t limited to hockey, soccer too has these struggles.
But a University of Victoria initiative called SheKicks is looking to make things more balanced. On a practical level, SheKicks is a female-only training program that targets women and girls in the soccer community aiming to bring them into the sport as coaches and refs. But on a more aspirational level, SheKicks wants to demonstrate that women and girls can take on leadership roles and affect change in their communities through sport.
SheKicks has been such a success it was nominated for the International University Sports Federation Gender Equality Sport Award. It’s hoped that the initiative will be picked up nationally – even internationally – by soccer and other sports where there’s a need to boost the numbers of young women in leadership roles.
In 2015 Canada will host the FIFA Women’s World Cup. To see more women coaching at this elite level a supportive structure is needed to help girls and young women grow their leadership skills while moving through the sport. And it’s here that a grass-roots program like SheKicks can really make a difference.
What are your thoughts on gender balance in coaching and refereeing? Would you rather see your daughter’s sports team coached by a woman? What would it take to get you coaching your daughter’s team?