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Female environment brings benefits

Over 30 female coaches gathered in Wellington for the women-only Senior Level 2 Coaching Award. Image: Marty Melville / www.photosport.nz

More female voices are likely to be heard on sidelines across New Zealand as New Zealand Football continues to encourage women to try their hand at coaching and break down some of the barriers traditionally hindering them from doing so.

In what is usually regarded as a male-dominated environment, New Zealand Football Women’s Development Manager Holly Nixon says there are a number of barriers which can put females off pursuing a coaching career and is taking steps to ensure that will no longer be the case, including the running of a women-only NZF Senior Level 2 Coaching Award last week in Wellington.

Held at Capital Football headquarters in Petone, the course was fully-funded by New Zealand Football, allowing the 32 coaches involved to take part entirely free of charge. There were plenty of notable names among them with Football Ferns midfielder Annalie Longo, National Women’s League player Katie Barrott, ex-youth international Eileish Hayes, Central Football Women’s Development Officer Aleesha Heywood and former Football Fern Wendy Sharpe all participating.

The presence of the likes of Sharpe was significant as Nixon is aiming to tap into the knowledge of past players who otherwise may be lost to the game.

“Women’s football is a key strategic priority for New Zealand Football and developing female coaches is a vital part of that. We are looking to grow our pool of female coaches and develop them to an international level. It’s important to do so as FIFA regulations now state that a female must be on the coaching team at all age-group FIFA Women’s World Cups,” Nixon said.

Ferns legend Sharpe – who played over 50 times for her country in 15 years from 1980, scoring 38 goals – agrees that keeping women in the game once they finish playing can have huge benefits.

“It can be invaluable but you need to have that passion to want to give something back,” she said.

“If you only do it because you feel obligated then I don’t think it’s right for you. But if you’re still passionate and love the game then you can be a real role model to the younger ones.”

Barrott, a defender with 2016 National Women’s League runners-up Capital, feels creating more female role models will prove inspirational to the next generation of players coming through.

“If you look at female football and female sport in general, there’s such a lack of role models for up-and-coming athletes,” she said.

“When I look back on my football career, I realise how much women coaches inspired me so we need to provide that opportunity to other young girls.”

The former age-group international believes female-only environments such as the one offered at the Senior Level 2 course will help greatly in attracting more women to coaching.

“Some of us might not have necessarily considered doing a course like this if there were males involved,” she said.

“Often on courses like this there can be one or two females with a lot of males who tend to have pretty dominant personalities. So I think a female-only course gives the candidates a bit more confidence and allows them to feel like they’re not in the minority.”

After playing in a bygone era when female-only courses and Women’s Development Officers were unheard of, Sharpe is well-acquainted with operating in male-dominated environments but can see the benefits of moving away from the mixed gender model.

“It’s not a problem for me because I’m used to it but I can see a lot of the women on this course probably wouldn’t have applied if it was a mixed one,” she said.

“Some of them are quite shy and wouldn’t speak up because men can be more dominant on a course like this. Because of how comfortable everyone is feeling here, I think they’ll go away feeling a lot more confident than they did on the first day.”

Story courtesy of New Zealand Football

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