“IF I had a euro every time I was asked if I was the physio, I could retire,” said Lisa Fallon, the first team coach for Cork City FC.
Dublin native Fallon retorted that the “people who don’t do their homework or don’t know who I am or what I’m capable of” risked making a mistake and giving her and her team “an advantage”.
She was speaking at Liberty Insurance’s “Women in Sport: The Coaching Effect” event this afternoon.
At the event Irish and international female athletes and coaches — including Mags D’Arcy, Wexford hurling coach and former camogie All-Star; Emma Hayes MBE, Chelsea FC Women’s manager; and Tracey Neville MBE, England Netball coach and Commonwealth Games gold medallist — described the challenges and opportunities for women in sport and the importance of women in coaching and managing roles.
New Liberty Insurance research reveals that only 11% of Irish women under the age of 25 are regularly involved in sports. Almost three-quarters (74%) of Irish people agree that female sports coaches are good role models for young women and 68% agree that more female sports coaches would encourage more young women to participate in sports.
However, four in five haven’t seen any increase in female coaches in amateur or professional sports in the last year.
Fallon sees coaches and managers as role models and opportunity creators. “The reality is that women can’t do anything in sport without the opportunity. You need every opportunity to reach your potential.”
Other panellists made similar comments. Tania Rosser, coach at Clontarf RFC, said that she had to reluctantly step away from women’s rugby to pursue her ambitions of provincial and national coaching.
Rowing Ireland CEO Michelle Carpenter said that while huge progress has been made for female rowers, rowing coaching has not followed suit: “Even though we have equality in the sport in the water, we don’t have it on the bank.”
What can women—and sports organisations—do to level the playing field?
According to Liberty research, over a third of Irish people believe all professional male sports teams should have to interview at least one female candidate for a coaching or managerial position. 44% would support extra funding for the training of female coaches.
“Fake it until you make it,” said Emma Hayes. “The men I’ve interviewed are often confident beyond their abilities. Women, on the other hand, stammer and sweat, even if they’re qualified. Perhaps we have to start thinking about how we recruit people, or we as women have to do better at putting our names forward.”
Speaking about women’s sport in general, she added: “If a sponsor wants to come on board with the men’s team, they should have to sponsor the women’s team, too.”
Mags D’Arcy said that environment plays a big part in encouraging more women to take part in sport: “I have really seen the value of creating inner circle of supportive people. Role models are important, too. Look to challenge yourself at every turn and expose yourself to as many people in the industry as possible to upskill continuously.”
Commenting on the event, Siobhan Fay, Compliance Leader for Western Europe at Liberty Insurance, said:
“While women have come a long way in sport, coaching remains a problem area. Progress will slow and perhaps even halt if we can’t encourage more women to take on training and leadership roles at clubs. Coaches and managers inspire and teach, they drive players to perform, and they encourage spectators and casual observers to take an active role in sport.
“As sport is still viewed as a disproportionately male domain—something that’s off-putting for a lot of women—this is an area that we need to focus on changing. We need more female coaches to send a positive message to women that sport is for them, too, and not just for men.
“The majority of Irish people understand that more female coaches will encourage more women to participate in sport. As a society, we need to do more to remove existing barriers for females and to develop a sporting climate conducive to female coaches succeeding at every level of sport, from grassroots to elite level.
“Liberty Insurance will continue to invest in women and sport, highlight their achievements, and support the Government in their own efforts to increase participation in and viewership of female sporting events in Ireland.” The event was held at Fallon & Byrne in Dublin 2.