Gender Equity in Irish Coaching
written by: Fiona Mernagh
There have been several prominent female leaders involved in coaching and leading Irish Ultimate in many of the major hubs of Ireland over the past 15 years or more. Whereas there have always been strong female role models in the community, it is only more recently that the need and desire for more leaders has led to a surge in female coaches.
This piece will discuss some of the local examples of female opportunities to lead, specifically in a coaching role.
There has been a noticeable move in Irish universities to hire outside coaches rather than selecting a coach internally. As Irish colleges do not divide into separate clubs based on gender, there is every reason to hire a head coach who can do an equally good job with men and women.
In 2019, in the colleges in the eastern region alone, every college in the region had hired a female coach. In three of five of these, the head coach was female. Three of five also had a female coach selected as main coach for the women’s team while there was also a men’s team coach. In one college, both the women’s and men’s teams were coached separately but both by females, with no male coaches. In two colleges, the head female coach worked with all the players alone.
In 2018, the one ultimate playing University in the west of Ireland had a female head coach for their open team and the year before she had been the women’s coach. The previous women’s coach of UCC in the southwest of Ireland is also female and she was one of the playing-assistant coaches for the Irish women’s team that took home gold at EUC 2019.
This level of involvement by females in these prominent positions is a great testament to the respect that the younger generation has for these women who have been playing for the better part of a decade or more. These women have shown great leadership over the years: from running national junior teams to participating in national senior teams as captains, coaches and/or players. This is not to mention the level of work they would have done within their colleges and clubs as players and the work they have done – and continue to do - for the IFDA.
IFDA Coaching Qualification
The Irish Flying Disc Association has had its own coaching certificate for several years now. Previously it was held over several hours in a single day. It had a makeover in 2020 to become available in full as an online course using Canvas Instructure.
The course is available to anyone who wishes to participate – regardless of age or experience level - and every club registered with the IFDA receives two places for free. This promotes mixed clubs to choose one of each gender which was seen in 2020 (though not a lot of clubs ended up registering due to COVID).
Two of the three course tutors who correct the assignments and designed the course are female. At present, 33% of the 63 coaches qualified are female. We hope to see this ratio improve as the women’s division increases in number and average age.
Dublin Women’s Ultimate
Dublin Women’s Ultimate (DWU) is a regional focused organisation aimed at promoting women’s Ultimate in Dublin. In the summer of 2019, they ran an open session for all the nearby college committees based on trying to maximise the success of their women’s teams for the upcoming academic year. This was run with great attendance and interest from males and females alike.
Some of the topics included recruitment and retention tips, balancing resources between the men’s and women’s teams and some differences between coaching female beginners and male beginners.
It is intended that more of these college informational workshops will be run around the country in the future by the IFDA. The topic of growing the female side of the club will not be left out!
The growth in Irish women’s Ultimate has brought with it a growth in female leaders, particularly in the coaching realm. The skills and intelligence amongst our women should be capitalised on for this generation and many more to come.
Referenced Good Practices
Define seasonal goals as a team and make a financial plan on how to reach them
Player responsibilities should involve development activities
Define a standard training for recruiters, so that more people are able to deliver a good beginner training
Emphasise and promote what makes your association or your sport special
Support the development of your women's teams, leaders, and coaches.