Legacy '23: Football Australia launches initiative to increase representation of women in coaching at all levels

Football Australia has launched a new initiative aimed at addressing the recruitment, development, and retention of women in coaching. 

While Australian women in sport have continued to achieve sustained success on the field, as witnessed at the recent Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the representation of women in coaching has remained stagnant and disproportionately low over the past decades.  

The High Performance Coaching Initiative looks to move beyond the well documented barriers and take an evidence-based approach to how women coaches in football will be supported, engaged, developed, and retained to increase the numbers in high performance. 

It signifies the activation of the Legacy ’23 Leadership and Development Pillar that works to encourage more women to participate in the game at all levels. 

Leah Blayney
Young Matildas head coach Leah Blayney instructions up and coming footballers

In a three-phase approach, Football Australia will work with coaches currently in high performance football, those who have demonstrated potential to work in high performance football and elite players looking to transition to coaching roles.

One of the Initiative architects, Rae Dower, Football Australia’s Women's Technical Advisor and Head Coach Women's U17, is delighted to see its commencement. 

“This is an exciting period for women coaching in Australian football,” Dower said. 

We have a real opportunity to spark change in how we consult and deliver programs and address the barriers that have long been identified."

“It is essential that we finally allow women coaches to articulate what their reality is and express what they require to acquire skills, obtain knowledge and experience to work in high performance football.”

“We want to move beyond the barriers and enable women coaches to have the necessary development opportunities to reach their own potential.”

National Technical Director, Trevor Morgan, has expressed the vital need to engage more women in coaching, particularly in high performance. 

“We are concerned by the low percentage of women coaching in football and, in particular, in high-performance arenas.  We need to take action to rectify this so that aspiring women in football have both support and opportunity to develop themselves and their careers to the highest levels.”

“With the popularity of the Matildas, we will continue to see them inspire an increase in the number of girls and boys playing football. 

As we work towards becoming the first sport to obtain a 50/50 gender split in participation, we will need almost 30,000 new coaches and women in football have been under utilised when it comes to coaching."

“It is imperative that football capitalises on the knowledge, skills and fresh perspective women in coaching can provide across our whole football ecosystem.”

Legacy 23 Thin Banner

The Football Department will be collaborating with highly regarded Performance Coach and Leadership expert, Darlene Harrison.  Harrison has been at the forefront of high performance and leadership in Australian sport having previously worked at the Australian Institute of Sport as the Director of Performance, People and Teams. 

With this Initiative Harrison is working to develop a unique program to address the issue of capacity by shifting the approach to recruitment and retention. 

Mel Andreatta
Matildas Assistant Coach Mel Andreatta one of the women in high performance coaching

“We need to challenge the narrow definition of what is required to be a good coach,” said Harrison.  “Coaching has evolved into a leadership role that builds on the traditional technical and tactical expert model.”

“This Initiative is a chance to take a step back and examine how we actually cultivate women in coaching.  In doing so, it presents an opportunity to create environments that acknowledge and reward divergent coaching styles and take into consideration the value of diverse racial, ethnic and gender identities in high performance.” 

In an Australian football first, over 150 women coaches at various levels will partake in a comprehensive study to better understand their coaching landscape in the first phase of the Initiative.  Phase 2 and Phase 3 will see findings of the study underpin the design of a pilot program tailored to facilitate the development and progression of the participants. 

Dower believes the High Performance Coaching Initiative is important in opening up the avenues of involvement for women and girls beyond the playing field. 

We have a bold vision for where we want participation of women and girls to be in 2027 and it’s exciting to have an equally bold vision for women in leadership and development roles, particularly in high performance coaching.” 

“Creating a significant and sustained increase in the representation of women in high performance coaching can only result in positive outcomes for Australian football.”