- New Zealand Football hosting local Female Coach Mentorship Programme
- Well-known names, including international Katie Duncan, among 2021 participants
- Opportunity to alter perceptions and create role models ahead of 2023 World Cup
Despite some incremental change over the past decade, the world of football coaching has largely been dominated by males. Just three females were in a senior coaching role at the 16-team 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup™, though that figure rose to nine among the 24-nation field at France 2019.
That momentum suggests the quantity of female coaches will be further enhanced when the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup takes place in a little over two years’ time. And in New Zealand – co-hosts of the 2023 event along with Australia – there are plans to not just tap away at the glass ceiling, but shatter it.
Tangible evidence comes in the form of New Zealand Football’s (NZF) Female Coach Mentorship Programme. The programme is of course about helping the individuals involved, but it is also about visibility, role models and changing the narrative around female coaches. As Ashleigh Cox, New Zealand Football Women’s Development Manager, says, some female coaches “fear being the only female on a course”.
“We hope that by providing this programme we will not only open the doors up to more women wishing to make a career out of coaching at an advanced level, but also inspire more females to take up coaching at a community level with more female coach educators on the ground to deliver courses.”
The participants are mentored by three of New Zealand’s top female coaches, namely Gemma Lewis – who took part in FIFA’s 2019 Coach Mentorship Programme – Natalie Lawrence and Maia Vink, with the programme overseen by Football Ferns head coach Tom Sermanni.
Such was the quality of applicants, the participants number was increased to nine. Among the well-credentialed field are current national league coaches and assistant coaches, current Capital Football captain Katie Barrott and former W-League regular Maika Ruyter-Hooley.
But the most well-known name is undoubtedly Katie Duncan. A stalwart of the New Zealand midfield for well over a decade, Duncan retired soon after a fourth Women’s World Cup selection at France 2019.
Now starting out on a new part of her football journey, the programme is offering another indirect benefit by helping players transition from athlete to coach.
“I have loved the feeling of being still ‘a part of a team’, so that aspect of coaching has really helped transition from playing to not playing, Duncan told FIFA.com. “It is great to see so many eager and young females wanting and willing to learn from what experiences and knowledge I can pass on. Most of all, I enjoy the challenge of coaching in terms of learning, and always wanting to improve.”
The 125-cap veteran says there are traditionally been multiple impediments to female participation in coaching. “While we are slowly seeing an increase in females within the game, in general there are obviously various reasons as to why female coaching numbers are still relatively low.
“To give a few of these examples, I think the very fact there has been a lack of role models for young female players is a big factor. From my own personal experience I know the challenges of having a young family and finding that balance between being a present mother and wife can at times be tricky. Another example may also be the pay inequality between what a coach of a female team earns compared to the men’s game.”
With the first Women’s World Cup to be held in the southern hemisphere now on the horizon, NZF are ensuing a platform is being laid off the field. “We hope that by providing this programme we will not only open the doors up to more women wishing to make a career out of coaching at an advanced level, but also inspire more females to take up coaching at a community level with more female coach educators on the ground to deliver courses,” Cox says.
“Participation numbers are constantly growing, there’s a FIFA Women’s World Cup in our backyard and a real desire to get more female coaches into the game. We see this as an opportunity to develop some key leaders who can then go on to educate, mentor and inspire the next generation of females looking to take up coaching.”