She's4Sports x GXS Labs - Be Bold Speaker Series: She Can Coach

Noora Popal
BarnBurner Sports Writer


Friday, January 17, 2020

TORONTO - Being a woman in the sports industry comes with a lot of challenges, whether it be for the athletes, those who work for a sports team, or those in sports media. There is a lot of criticism that women are faced with on a day to day basis.

Thursday night’s panel full of female trailblazers, hosted by Ainka Jess, talked about their careers and the struggles they faced on their unique journeys. Though some progress is being made for women, they are still heavily underrepresented on coaching teams and in the sports industry in general. 

The discussion on how to remove barriers for women in the sports industry was eye-opening for both the men and women who attended the She Can Coach event. That, along with the fact that women have been convinced that they are not good enough or that they do not belong in high positions, such as being a coach of a major league team, is quite unfortunate.

Women need extra validation that they belong, often time because they do not feel that way or because they have been convinced otherwise. The panel agreed that young girls need more examples of strong women in high coaching positions so that they can have role models to look up to.

Shireen Ahmed, a writer, public speaker and sports activist that encourages and represents Muslim women in sports, said that finding your voice when you are being silenced by others around you is difficult. And it is not just the fact that women have become voiceless, it is that they are “deliberately silenced or preferably unheard”.

Brittni Donaldson, the assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors, went into detail about her unconventional path to becoming a coach for a major league sports team. She mentioned several times how the Raptors organization is ahead of others when it comes to pushing women and encouraging them to succeed. 

Dr. Jen Welter, an American Football coach who has accomplished many “firsts” as a female in a very heavily male-dominated sport, talked about how she became the first female NFL coach, while at the same time completing her Ph.D. in Psychology and Masters in Sports Psychology. 

Jen Welter made a brilliant comparison about how hiring women into coaching roles is similar to the difference between a blind date and marriage. She said that it is hard to be convinced into a marriage from a blind date, but when you know the person then it is much easier to commit to them. 

Her point here is that if women do not go out and search for opportunities, meet people, get connected, then the people who are in charge of the hiring process will not feel comfortable hiring them. She said, “if you won’t fight for you, then no one will”.

Coach Jen also mentioned that there were no female football teams or leagues of any level for girls and women. They said women do not like to play football, but no one allowed them to say whether or not they actually would like to play. Which is what inspired Dr.Welter to create her camps and teams for women.

Kayla Alexander, the Canadian Professional Basketball player, said that failure and learning from failure is being bold and that they make you better at what you do. She enjoys learning from her mistakes and wants to continue to improve her craft and to further inspire young women. 

The conversation for the panelists also touched on the fact that males who are in charge of hiring processes, and those who hire women are bold as well. They are taking risks to give women opportunities they have never had before. This type of support from men is incredibly encouraging and inspiring for others around them. 

The main thing to take away from the conversation that was had is that women must be confident in themselves, take risks, apply to jobs they deserve, and be bold. They have to put themselves out there, if they don’t, then no one will see them. 

When women gather and have discussions like the ones had at the “She Can Coach’ panel, it shows us how impactful women can be once they realize what they are capable of doing.