ADDRESS THE LACK OF FEMALE COACHES
The caaws report that notes declining participation of girl in sport also reports that only 24 per cent of all athletic director positions and 17 per cent of all head coaching spots in U Sports (formerly Canadian Interuniversity Sports) are held by women. Those percentages don’t waiver much throughout the industry. There is a huge need for female cycling coaches in Canada. Audrey Duval, founder of Shred Sisters, has 12 female coaches working for her in just the Calgary area after only a few years in business.
It’s not just about finding women to be instructors: those coaches often become role models and mentors as well. By age 17, more than 50 per cent of girls will have quit sports, according to a survey sponsored by Always. Why? Almost seven out of 10 girls surveyed said there are “not enough female role models in sports.”
Female coaches are becoming more common, but cycling certainly needs more working at all levels, from coaching the most beginner-friendly groups to working with Olympians. In particular, Proulx says that more qualified coaches at the lower levels are desperately needed.
Racers such as Sandra Walter and Catherine Pendrel are lauded for their mentorship and coaching roles in female athlete development. Consider Pendrel, who was injured and unable to race at cross country nationals this past summer, but still showed up for the race to run around the course to cheer on her under-23 athlete Emily Unterberger, who had a breakthrough performance and finished second.
Coaching doesn’t have to be performance or race-oriented, either. Riding becomes more fun when it’s easier, whether that means the skill to navigate a rock garden, a pump track or a tight switchback on a steep downhill on the road. So instruction for athletes is not just important at a competitive level – it’s important for having fun. The coaching can be as casual as a single afternoon with a local elite racer offering young girls in the area a few tips.
top Emily Batty speaks with the Durham Shreddersabove Catharine Pendrel talks with young girls about cycling at a Fast and Female Champ Chat in Canmore, Alta.