Only 3.6 per cent of coaches in Alberta are female

Women’s hockey in Alberta has become more popular than ever among female players. However, there is only a small group of female role models making up the coaching core in Alberta.

In 2014, over 9,000 women were playing amateur hockey in Wild Rose Country —about 13 per cent of the total players. The coaching staff of Alberta is only 3.6 per cent female, half of the national average.

When asked about the lack of women in coaching roles, Hockey Alberta’s coach development manager Drew Dixon simply said, “the recruitment process is handled at the local level. A coach is hired based on an application process, or put in place because if they don’t coach a team nobody will.”

But Phillip White, an expert in regards to gender and sport and a sociology professor from McMaster University, said the past might be one reason for the small number of female coaches in Alberta.

“Coaching has traditionally been a male domain,” said White.Women’s Hockey is growing rapidly in Canada. The number of female coaches is not matching that growth.

Photo by Jocelyn Doll

But that lack of female mentors can be a problem for young girls growing up playing hockey.

“It’s absolutely important to have those role models,” said White.

“It’s a deterrent to a great extent when female coaches aren’t there. The more women we can bring into the coaching system then the more high-level female coaches can serve as role models for young girls,” White explained.

Maddie Wilton-Clark, an 18-year-old from the University of Calgary who has played high-level hockey for 10 years, believes a female coach would serve as a fantastic role model for young players.

“My male coaches have taught me tons of important things in sports, whether it’s determination, teamwork, or leadership,” said Wilton-Clark, member of the Junior A Calgary Titans.

“But, I can see how for a young girl having a women coach would also provide an example of what a woman should grow into!” She said.

Wilton-Clark also believes that there is no difference between a male and a female coach in regards to competitiveness, or a different mentality when it comes to their drive to win games.

“I don’t think it’s a difference in gender so much as just coaching style,” said Wilton-Clark, “I’ve had soft-hearted male coaches and one’s who won’t take any joking around. But then I’ve also had female coaches that push very hard too.”

There is no difference in regards to quality of coach based on gender.

– Philip White, McMaster University professor

But only 571 women are taking on that job in Alberta, compared to over the 15,000 male coaches in the province.

Hockey Alberta’s Dixon said that the issue is important to his organization and they have some strategies to get more women involved.

“We have a female review committee looking at the game as a whole, from a female standpoint,” said Dixon.

“If we’re looking for building the capacity of players that starts with coaches and building off of that platform to keep females in the game, so female coaches is something that we’d like to see an increase in,” Dixon said.

Dixon highlighted one program in particular that advocates for female coaches and mentioned the program is supported on a national scale.

“We have a program called ‘We Are Coaches,’” said Dixon, “Hockey Canada provides some grant dollars for the branches. Any female coaching initiatives that we run, Hockey Canada is going to support through some funding and resources.”

Coach Alberta, a separate association, also has several workshops in place to help get more women involved in sports organizations.Lack of female mentors can be a problem for young girls growing up playing hockey.

Photo by Brendan Stasiewich

“There, for sure, is a gender inequity in sport,” said Jason Sjostrom, Chair of Coach Alberta. “So these workshops are targeted to young women in sport—whether it’s coaches or sports administration—advocating for them to get involved.”

When comparing statistics over the past five years, the percentage of female coaches in Alberta has increased from 2.6 per cent in 2010 to 3.6 per cent this past season.

While still much lower than the national average of 7.2 per cent, the numbers are improving.

White believes that these numbers are going to continue to increase as more former female players make their way into coaching.

“I think things are going to change as women’s hockey becomes more established and I think given the success of our women’s national team, more women will filter into the coaching ranks.” White said.

“There is no difference in regards to quality of coach based on gender.”

bstasiewich@cjournal.ca

ndelima@cjournal.ca