Where are the Female Coaches? Elevating Opportunities for Women in Tennis
It is no secret that tennis is male-dominant in all aspects of the game. This is particularly true in the coaching sector, as women continue to be passed over for leadership positions across the industry, particularly at the professional level. Despite the push for fair opportunity, female coaches on the WTA Tour continues to be a rarity.
One of the primary reasons Women’s Tennis Coaching Association CEO Sarah Stone created the WTCA was to increase opportunities for female coaches at the professional level. While coaching on the Tour, she was appalled by the lack of female representation, and determined that the best way to bring more opportunity to women was to educate male coaches on how to work with female players, which would create a more cohesive environment where female coaches could also thrive.
Initially, the WTCA community was focused on creating more publicity for women’s tennis on social media since coverage is as low as seven percent for women as compared to men. “I felt that if I could create a platform with more content about women in tennis, then that could be a good way to change the game and keep more girls and female coaches in the sport,” Stone explained.
Since then, the WTCA has grown into a community of over 58,000 across the globe and has hosted conferences in New York, Paris, Indian Wells and Eastbourne. But, perhaps most importantly, the organization has increased opportunities for both female players and female coaches in the sport with the support of major partners such as TennisPAL™ and its visionary CEO, Haleh Emrani.
Stone recognizes the impact the WTCA has had on women’s tennis. She notes that many tennis federations are now including educational courses specific to working with female players. In fact, Tennis Europe dedicated their most recent conference to women’s tennis.
Despite the improvements, Stone recognizes that there is still work to be done, particularly at the professional level. She believes there are a number of factors contributing to the lack of female coaches on the Tour, largely due to a faulty belief system that has been in place for decades.
“A lot of players don’t want a female coach because they have always been told that men are better at being coaches,” said Stone. “A lot of the women have never even had a female coach, so it’s a foreign concept to work with a woman. It’s also the hitting level. Women are judged so much more harshly on their credentials, but it always comes back to level of hitting. Players like to hit with males because they think it’s more challenging, which leads them to wanting a male coach.”
In order to combat this issue, Stone believes tournaments, the Tour, and the national governing bodies should provide hitting partners for female players. Above all, she thinks there should be funding allotted solely to creating more opportunity for female coaches at the professional level and beyond.
Elevating coaching opportunities for women is essential for leveling the playing field in the sport of tennis. To accomplish this goal, both men and women must rally together and form an alliance for benefit of generations to come.