In the NBA, it’s Becky Hammon and Jenny Boucek. In the NFL, it’s Jennifer Welter, Kathryn Smith, and Katie Sowers.
These five women all have one thing in common: they are some of the first female coaches in professional sports associations.
What has typically been known as a ‘boys club’, is slowly being revolutionized and glass ceilings are being met with hammers within the sports world.
This is something that Elsa Donovan has experienced for decades. She has been coaching for over 32 years and has had her coaching style, personality, and decisions questioned time and time again.
“There would be comments made about my behaviour, but my behaviour was the same as the male counterpart against me. There was a label put on what I was doing versus what the men were doing. I remember thinking about that and realizing that the only reason they were saying these things was because of my gender.”
Kris Potter is a guidance counsellor and coach at A.B Lucas Secondary School. Although he has never been witnessed to this discrimination, he is well aware that it is a conversation that needs to continue.
“I think that maybe it comes down to some ignorance and just a lack of awareness in not knowing, on the male side. They just really may not know that what they are saying is not okay. There might be this belief in their mind that a male coach may know more than a female coach, but I’m hopeful that if anything like this were to happen, that another coach would correct the one that said those comments and state how unacceptable it is.”
While the conversation around gender discrimination will only continue, and Donovan may continue to experience discriminatory comments, she knows her role both on and off the court.
“They can’t change who I am, just like I can’t change who they are. I’m not hurting anyone, I know what I’m talking about and I’m there to help my team be the best they can be and teach young athletes to love the game that I love.”
And if there’s something Donovan wants any coach to keep in mind, it is to remember why they started in the first place.
“Channel your passion. You aren’t there because you want to experience the hate and discrimination. You’re there because you love the sport and you want to pour into the next generation.”