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Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation Lynne Tinsley Insight Manager. Introduction. The problem Women’s participation in sport and physical activity has declined over the last four years

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Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation

Lynne Tinsley

Insight Manager

  • The problem
  • Women’s participation in sport and physical activity has declined over the last four years
  • There is a significant gender gap in the level of participation between men and women at all levels of participation
  • Yet 54% of women (almost 12 million) say they would like to do more sport and physical activity than they do at the moment
  • As 51% of the population, it is vital that sports deliverers engage with the female market more effectively to drive up participation
  • Coaches play a really important role in overcoming the problem
  • Much of our research shows that coaches play an absolutely fundamental role in women’s experience of sport – at both elite and participation ends of the spectrum.
  • We believe coaches have a huge opportunity to create the right environment to attract and retain more women in sport!


  • A bit about WSFF
  • Coaching high performance women
  • Coaching women in informal settings
  • The ideal sports club for women
  • Resources


A Nation of Active Women


To increase the fitness, health and well-being of women and girls by making physical activity an integral part of their lives



Give the customer what she wants



Create a society in which being active is attractive



Develop policies to improve leadership,

investment & profile



In pairs or small groups, discuss what you think might be the main motivations women have for participating in sport?


Women are more difficult to coach

Women are not competitive enough

Women just want to chat to their mates

Female athletes lack confidence, over

analyse and cant take criticism

Women communicate differently


Understands what makes the athlete tick

Makes training sessions hard, but fun and varied

Supports the individual as an athlete and as a person

Is committed to the athletes (and teams) goals

Highly qualified and continually learning

The ideal coach

Organised and in control

Provides regular feedback, both constructive and positive

Can be a role model and mentor

Respects and listens to the athlete

Has high expectations of the athlete and challenges them


Coaching in

informal settings



Thinking back to the original exercise, what do you think the main motivations of women in informal settings might be?

How does this impact on the role of the coach?

women described several driving factors for taking part in sport or exercise
Women described several driving factors for taking part in sport or exercise

To get a ‘buzz’ from taking part (although more so for men than women)

‘Health’ was seen as more important than looks – particularly for older participants

Having a sense of achievement by taking part and seeing improvements

A break from family life or the routine of work

Setting personal objectives of taking up a new hobby or leading a more active


To meet new people in the area or as an activity to take part in with friends

for these participants taking part in this environment was not
For these participants, taking part in this environment was not....

Being part of a club or team

Clubs were often perceived negatively by participants, for example: commitment, achieving and maintaining a high standard of skill, ‘training and fitness’ sessions and competition, as apposed to just ‘taking part’ and playing games.

Commitment (time or money)

Women who had children or those who worked shifts found it difficult to commit to doing exercise regularly because of other obligations. Participants new to sport were also reluctant to invest money in a gym or club membership until they were sure they would play/take part regularly.

Competing in organised competitions

Participants enjoy a level of competition within a session through playing, and trying to win games (badminton and football) or beating their own personal best times or distance (running). However formal or organised competition or tournaments were unappealing.

A team /other people

Participants take part in the sessions for their own enjoyment or to achieve their own goals. It was reassuring to them that if they missed a session they would not let anyone down.

and they would be put off if it became about
And they would be put off if it became about...

Having your performance judged

This was particularly a concern for entry level or returners, whose goals for playing the sport were about taking part, being fit and active and seeing personal improvement. Judgement from other participants or coaches goes against these goals.

Not everyone coming along to the group is there to try and win the race, that for a lot of people the important thing is that they have actually got off their backsides and got there, which is an achievement in itself

(London, Running)

Being shouted at or corrected constantly

Linked to the above. Singling participants out by shouting or correcting them in front of the group was intimidating and off putting. Particularly important for entry level or returners who acknowledge that they may have low levels of skill but simply enjoy taking part.

Young, fit, skilled, and stylish people only

It was important to all participants that the sessions were very inclusive and welcomed people of all ages and ability. Not needing to invest in expensive equipment or kit made sessions appealing.

what is in a name
What is in a name?

Throughout the research, the term ‘coach’ was used interchangeably with other names when respondents referred to the person running an informal sport session.






The person organising and running the session

Across all groups, respondents were looking for similar qualities from this person, regardless of what term they were referred to.

the coach is there to help you participate in a way you couldn t do or wouldn t do alone
The coach is there to help you participate in a way you couldn’t do or wouldn’t do alone

This is achieved through:


  • Grouping people to play/run together of similar level
  • Being on time and in a regular slot
  • Has a structure /route planned out


  • Encourages you to go further/ faster / improve skill
  • Uses own experience to show they understand how you feel


  • Offers advice about injury/stretching/rules of the game
  • Welcomes you back if you’ve missed a session or two
  • Understands your goals and reasons for attending

Participants felt that the coach played a fundamental role in creating the right environment and atmosphere – so displaying the kinds of qualities above is important in retaining people in sessions

the role of the coach in these sessions is critical to participants enjoyment of the session
The role of the coach in these sessions is critical to participants enjoyment of the session

Participants are unlikely to return if they have a negative view of the coach

I come back because I like my coach

Running, London

dos and don ts for coaches

Coaches should

Coaches should not

Dos and don'ts for coaches
  • Single people out
  • Be badly organised
  • Be inexperienced in the sport
  • Patronise
  • Push people too hard beyond their level
  • Be judgemental or impatient
  • Be too strict or intimidating
  • Take an individual approach
  • Listen
  • Understand a person’s ability
  • Demonstrate
  • Participate
  • Give people advice (with appropriate tone)
  • Be passionate about (and skilled in) the sport
  • Be motivational and enthusiastic
  • Plan sessions in advance
  • Be on time
  • Keep the group organised
  • Lead warm-up and warm-downs

You’ve got to be really talkative and very clear... And also good at listening too.

(Badminton leader, level 1 experience)



What do you think is the most important feature of a sports club, for women?


It’s all about people

Sports clubs are evaluated in terms of the positive environment built by the people at the club, rather than by any other features of the club (its facilities, for example). Coaches play a fundamental role not only in their own relationship with participants, but in creating the right environment for women to participate in.

all of the people involved in the club contribute to developing a positive environment
All of the people involved in the club contribute to developing a positive environment

Women commonly talked about the importance of their relationships with other members – but their relationships with coaches and committee staff at the club were also fundamentally important. Everyone involved with the club contributes to building a positive environment – which was by far the main thing that kept women coming back to their club.


The people make the club

Current members say that their loyalty to the club is driven by the group of people at the club over any other factor. For non-members, the opportunity to participate with ‘like-minded’ women is a key driver.

in their own words women say that at the ideal sports club there should be
In their own words, women say that at the ideal sports club there should be:

Lots of friendly like minded women.

[Coaches who are] open, friendly, enthusiastic, competitive, fun.

[Coaches who are] approachable, friendly, encouraging, organised, committed to the team/sport, understanding but touch on his/her players.

Coaches who are friendly and inclusive

[Committee staff] who represent everyone from all parts of a club, old and young.

[Committee staff who] have the wishes of the members in mind.


Over to you….

Sharing examples of best practice…



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