Despite a lengthy career as a soccer player, AC Lang hadn’t considered coaching until someone suggested she’d be good for the role – something she attributes to the fact she’d never had a female coach.
Now the assistant coach for Guelph Union is cheering on a $196,000 federal government grant for Guelph Soccer that aims to improve gender equality on the pitch through the She's Got Game – She Can Coach program which aims to improve female participation as both players and coaches.
“I did not see any role models in my environment that were coaches,” Lang said during a virtual funding announcement Thursday morning. “Athletics is unfortunately lagging behind society (in terms of gender equality) and hopefully a program like this will help change that and help girls feel like they’re welcome and included rather than an afterthought, which is how I felt at many times.”
The funding, explained Guelph Soccer executive director Sara Orrell, will be used to support a 'Mom’s Can Coach' program and provide financial assistance for women and girls to become certified coaches, as well as research and data collection efforts.
Ideally, Orrell said, the addition of more female coaches will result in more female players and/or help inspire female athletes to continue further in the sport than they often traditionally do.
“This is a really exciting time for us and our organization,” she said during the announcement, noting Guelph Soccer, which is the city’s largest sports club, includes roughly 60 per cent male and 40 per cent female players. “We’re really looking at innovative ways to engage more women to coach with us that will be positive role models for both boys and girls in our organization.”
Ann Pegoraro of the University of Guelph provided a deeper look at the national picture of women in sport. She noted only 16 per cent of national-level coaches and 25 per cent of coaches overall are women, with only six per cent of Canada’s Olympic coaches during the 2016 Summer Games being women.
Adam van Koeverden, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth and to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Sport), joined Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield in making the funding announcement. He explained one in three girls drop out of sports during adolescence, compared to one in 10 boys, with nine out of 10 girls decreasing their sports time or dropping out altogether since the pandemic began.
“This will have a positive impact right across the province,” van Koeverden said of the funding, adding the federal government is committed to achieve gender equality in sports by 2035. “Everyone deserves to play.”
Lessons learned through Guelph Soccer’s She’s Got Game – She Can Coach program can be implemented in various other sports organizations, the Milton MP added.
“We don’t do a good enough job of keeping girls and women in sport,” Lang said. “We just really want to capture and inspire as many girls and women in our community. We’re so grateful for the opportunity to pilot this program and hopefully create change across the country.”