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September 17, 2021

Building a Gender Balanced Bench: The Value of the Female Coach


"1 in 4 Girls are not committed to return to sport post COVID-19"*

"1 in 3 girls leaving sport by late adolescence."**


Stark facts facing girls in sport

Rates of sport participation by girls in Canada continue to face a huge uphill battle and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has made a tough situation even tougher.  The most current research undertaken by Canadian Women & Sport* paints a harsh landscape with respect to where young girls stand in Canada's local organized sport scene.  

Their June 2020 Rally Report** found that 1 in 3 girls were leaving sport by late adolescence as compared to boys who were leaving sport in their late teens at the rate of 1 in 10.  Compounding this situation is the impact of COVID-19 on future expectations of sport participation after the pandemic.  Again, research from Canadian Women & Sport determined that 1 in 4 girls are not committed to returning to sport after the effects of the pandemic are over.



The time to act is now

Given the stark situation regarding the future of sport for girls in Canada, local sport organizations like the Nepean Ringette Association (NRA), recognized the need to play a proactive role in turning these troubling numbers around.

For the NRA, having a "time is now" sense of urgency to be the difference and step up with innovative programs that support girls and women who play in and support their ringette community was front and centre in the minds of a number of their members.  For Coach Laura Finlay and Board member Brent Dobson, it inspired the creation of a virtual informational series to get more moms into coaching and behind the bench for the 2021-2022 season.  



“be brave enough to suck at something new” ~ Coach Laura Finlay


A virtual series to inform and inspire

For Coach Laura, her introduction to the sport of ringette happened when her 7 year old daughter asked to play the game at the encouragement of a school friend.  Laura spent her childhood at a dance studio, so rink life and the world of ringette were completely new to her.  As someone who doesn’t like to sit on the sidelines, she stepped up when help was needed, and volunteered for her first full experience behind her daughter's bench as the team's trainer. 

Once there, there was no going back.  Laura loved the interaction she had with the players on the bench.  So when Ringette Ontario implemented a requirement to have female coaches, Laura stepped into an assistant coaching role with her daughter's U12 team. She took from her years teaching dance, and developed her skills as a coach thanks to a very encouraging and supportive head coach, and the mantra: “be brave enough to suck at something new”.


(Photo courtesy of Laura Finlay)


Turn can't into can

For many women, a lack of willingness to put oneself out there and step into a leadership role is a big barrier to giving coaching a go.  Instead, the tendency is to talk oneself out of it before you've even tried to talk yourself into it for fear of failing.  This was an important consideration that shaped the series' first session and its content. This initial session had to be about inspiring conversation and addressing the 'buts' and the perceived barriers as to why one can't do it, and, instead, talk about why you can do it. 

It also included having current coaches share their own coaching stories and providing important information on how older players can see the path to coaching for themselves. It meant helping the Association's moms understand what unique strengths they bring to a team and to give them the opportunity to model to their daughters how to lead, be assertive, confident and accepting of failure. 

Ultimately, the overarching goal of this new series was to build a gender balanced bench where the strengths of everyone in the Association is leveraged to create an optimal experience for the players and help more girls see playing ringette as a rewarding lifetime pursuit. 



It takes a village

A critical factor in helping anyone get out of their comfort zone and take risks is to provide a strong support network and easy access to good information.  For the NRA, it meant making sure that the moms participating in the virtual series knew that all they had to do was bring their time, enthusiasm, commitment to helping players succeed and a desire to be present in the moment, and the Association would do rest.

That included providing key instruction on the basics of ringette; sharing the how-to behind planning and running practices and drills; creating a collaborative and supportive environment with current coaches from all teams; and providing ongoing coaching resources.  With the NRA's current coaching ratio of 60% - 70% male, the moms had to know that they could confidently be the leader in a room full of men without fear of exclusion or rejection.



It was also critical that the girls playing connected the role of being a coach to both their mothers and their fathers and clearly saw the pathways available between playing and coaching. 


A focus on the future

Helping others understand how the impact of their actions today will shape the future of others is critical to inspiring anyone to reach beyond themselves. 

For the NRA, it was vitally important that their virtual series help moms better understand how making a memorable impact on a female athlete now will influence their confidence to get involved in coaching as a parent or non-parent later in life.  It was also critical that the girls playing connected the role of being a coach to both their mothers and their fathers and clearly saw the pathways available between playing and coaching.  



Helping others succeed 

Has your sport organization had success in creating a more gender balanced bench and coach representation?  Are you willing to share the ways and information that has helped make this a reality for your sport community?  We invite you to share your experiences below and help other sport communities learn from your success. 


Women in Coaching - More from SeeWhatSheCanDo

Learn more about our SWSCD Women and Coaches Circle

Head to our Women and Coaches Circle Activity page

Journey to Coaching

CYGHA Coach Tayler Gorman Leads With Passion and Confidence

Let's celebrate women who coach: 5 stories that inspire



Find the Nepean Ringette Association and other local ringette organizations in our Athlete Advisor, your online athletic business directory. Find, rate and review programs, local community offerings and businesses that will help you do your thing.  

Need a place to coordinate and connect with your ringette team? Start a ringette group on our SWSCD Hub.

Look for advice, stories, news and more on our Ringette activity page.  

Share your ringette moments directly on our Discover blog or by using #seewhatshecando on social media and inspire others to play and watch ringette.


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