Female Leadership and Representation in the Sports Performance Field

Back when I was speed skating in Salt Lake City, Utah, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar by Charlie Francis (one of the all-time great sprint coaches).  At that seminar I would make friends with Derek Hansen, Charlie’s #2, a friendship that I maintain to this day.   He actually brought me up to Canadia to present on nutrition to some of his incoming athletes and it was that presentation that morphed into my Applied Nutrition for Mixed Sports.  But this isn’t supposed to be about me.

An accomplished athlete and coach himself, Derek seems to know absolutely everybody of importance in the field (somehow I qualify for this group).  Coaches, physiotherapists, researchers, etc. he knows them.  Somehow I qualify for inclusion in this group but I think he just needs someone on hand to make jokes about Canada.

And about 4 or 5 weeks ago, Derek decided to try an experiment, to host a roundtable with all of these folks on various topics related to sports.  Each lasts about 90 minutes every Sunday with 4 experts on a given topic providing their experiences or knowledge before the rest of us argue, debate or ask questions.   We’ve looked at issues such as single-leg vs. double-leg work, how close to maximal an athlete should be going in training and others.   One day we talked about the issue of recovery from training and I talked about the role of nutrition.   The amazing thing about this is the absolute breadth of expertise from the presenters and this allows a tremendous number of different perspectives to be given.  So far there have been no outright major disagreements and most of us realize that all of this is really context specific.

Basically, we solve the world’s problems, well sports problems, for 90 minutes every Sunday. I’ve suggested we work on politics and economics next since, let’s face it, there’s work to be done.

Anyhow, this past Sunday, Derek hosted a roundtable on a topic that I don’t think gets very much traction or press.  Specifically it was on the topic of female representation in the sports performance field.   This wasn’t about women’s involvement in sports in a general sense (thought I had just finished writing a chapter on the history of women’s sports involvement) but rather women’s presence (or absence) in coaching, supervisory or other positions such as as strength and conditioning.

Towards that goal, all 6 of the primary presenters on the roundtable were women in the field.  They spanned a range of age, experience and expertise and were able to share their personal experience, whether historical or current, in this regards.  Those experiences varied and they all brought up issues that, frankly, it’s easy for men to never consider since we rarely experience them.  For a short look at this, I’d point you to a post made by one of the presenters, Ironmaven (she used to do the slow motion Dartfish analysis of Olympic lifting and I had reviewed one of their DVDs previously).

Titled More Women in Coaching: Some Thoughts on How to Get There, it gives a great overview of some of the issue that exist.

But there is much more that is brought up within the presentation itself in terms of what boundaries (real or perceived) or issues still exist which may be preventing there from being more female leadership and representation in sports.   For women either in the field or who are thinking of entering it, it might make you aware of some things that you may run into.  For men in the field, it might make you aware of some of the problems that exist that you are probably blind to simply due to never personally experiencing them.

The video can be seen on Vimeo and I’ve embedded it below as well.