5 Mar 2020

Sports system failing top women coaches

6:36 am on 5 March 2020

Female coaches are being failed by the elite coaching system in New Zealand despite the Breakers appointing a woman to their coaching team according to High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ).

Chanel Pompallier appointed assistant coach of New Zealand Breakers

Chanel Pompallier Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Chanel Pompallier is not the first woman to join an Australian National Basketball League coaching staff, but she will be one of the few women coaching at the elite level in New Zealand.

Statistics show just under 20 percent of High Performance Sport New Zealand coaches over the past five years have been women.

HPSNZ's own research showed women faced significant challenges to even get a look in when it came to filling coaching vacancies.

Unlike many of her peers, Pompallier was promoted from community coach through the New Zealand Breakers coaching system to work alongside the club's top players after five years with the club.

HPSNZ's Sonia Boland said there are many more women like Pompallier ready to step up - if the system allowed.

"There is no shortage of talented or inspiring female coaches in New Zealand but their is a failure in the system at the moment to support them to succeed in those roles."

"Appointments like Chanel's by the Breakers is really critical to raising the visibility of female coaches but also challenging the stereotype of what it means to be an elite coach in New Zealand," Boland said.

HPSNZ invested nearly $3 million into a Women in High Performance Sport programme last year, part of which focussed on the development of elite coaches.

But women often faced huge barriers, Boland said.

A lot of the women currently in coaching positions were in voluntary or part-time positions.

"In a lot of cases these women are trying to hold down professional careers outside of sport, the juggle around how can you devote yourself to pursuing a career in coaching, particularly at the high performance level, while also trying to still sustain a lifestyle and income is a really significant barrier," Boland said.

"The other thing that has come through research is the persistence of an old boys club kind of culture within sport and that is across all sporting areas and what that really tells us is that it doesn't matter how much we look to support women to improve themselves as coaches unless we start shifting the narrative how women are viewed and perceived and valued in coaching roles across the system we're not going to get the increase in numbers that we really need."

Sarah Leberman

Sarah Leberman Photo: Supplied

Sport New Zealand expected National Sports Organisations to have gender diversity around the boardroom table, but this mandate had not yet extended to the coaching ranks.

Women in Sport Aotearoa co-founder Professor Sarah Leberman said New Zealand could follow international examples.

"Japan for example have mandated and try to achieve that every women's team that is hopefully taking part in the Tokyo Olympics has a woman coach on their staff, so they've taken that approach we haven't got that in New Zealand yet but it might be something for us to consider."

Leberman said change will come but she is calling on a collective approach - and men need to champion women's efforts too.