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«Standards and separatism: the discursive construction of gender in English soccer coach education FIELDING-LLOYD, Beth and MEÂN, Lindsey J. ...»

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Standards and separatism: the discursive construction of

gender in English soccer coach education

FIELDING-LLOYD, Beth and MEÂN, Lindsey J.

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FIELDING-LLOYD, Beth and MEÂN, Lindsey J. (2008). Standards and separatism:

the discursive construction of gender in English soccer coach education. Sex Roles, 58 (1-2), 24-39.

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Sheffield Hallam University Research Archive http://shura.shu.ac.uk Standards and Separatism in English Football 1 Standards and separatism: The discursive construction of gender in English soccer coach education Beth Fielding-Lloyd* Sport Management and Culture Sheffield Hallam University Collegiate Crescent Sheffield, UK S10 2BP +44 (0)114 225 5799 Fax: +44 (0)114 225 2394 Email: B.Fielding-Lloyd@shu.ac.uk Lindsey J. Meân Department of Communication Studies Arizona State University P.O. Box 37100 Phoenix, AZ 85069-7100 Tel.: 602 543 6682 Email: lmean@asu.edu * Authors listed alphabetically. All correspondence should be directed to Beth Fielding-Lloyd.

This paper is based on Beth Fielding-Lloyd’s Ph.D. dissertation undertaken at the Centre for Human Communication, Manchester Metropolitan University, U.K.

Standards and Separatism in English Football 2 Abstract Affirmative action is a problematic, but common, organizational approach to redressing gender discrimination as it fails to address discourses underlying organizational definitions and practices in highly masculinized sites like English football. Unstructured interviews with 27 key personnel and participants in coach education in the north of England within a regional “division” of the organization regulating English football (“The FA”) were conducted to explore the gendered construction and enactment of football and coaching, and the framing of women-only (separatist) coaching courses. Critical discourse analysis identified the deployment of discourses concerning the undermining of standards and the privileging of women as strategies used to neutralize the significance of gender and previous gender discrimination, while re/producing the centrality of masculinity for key definitions and identities.

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Of all sports, football (known as soccer in the U.S.A., we use ‘football’ to reflect the site of study) has been acknowledged to be the dominant, most popular, and influential sport throughout the world (Sugden & Tomlinson, 1994). Given the cultural significance of sport (Kinkema & Harris, 1998), and football in particular, it is therefore not surprising that the organizations that regulate football are considered major forces. Indeed FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) is a major trans-global socio-economic and “culturalideological” force (Sklair, 1991, p.6). Such an impact is to be expected given the influence of organizations on wider discourses and practices (van Dijk, 1993), especially culturally significant organizations such as sport regulators that combine regulatory power with a privileged access to communication, particularly the Media (van Dijk, 1993; Meân Patterson, 2003).

A key element of the cultural power of sport is its significance as a site for the re/production of male identities (Messner, 1987). As such, football remains fiercely masculine (the USA is a notable exception) and strongly resistant to the entry of women (Bryson, 1987;

Meân, 2001). Consequently, the institutions that regulate and organize sport—internationally, nationally, and regionally—have remained strongly masculine organizations (Shaw, 2006; Shaw & Hoeber, 2003) despite policies and promises to facilitate and encourage female participation.

While the production and maintenance of traditional gendered boundaries and constructions within many organizations has been widely recognized (Grant & Tancred, 1992), the cultural prominence and influence of key sporting organizations over wider ideologies, discourses and practices makes them especially important sites to explore the re/production of gender and

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determine their behavioral norms (Schneider, 1987). Consequently, we focus on the identities, talk, and discursive practices of those who enact or perform the organization—as they implement or enact sport and the practices that comprise it—re/producing knowledge and power in the “everyday” action of “doing” the organization.

Of the national football organizations, the English Football Association (referred to in England and throughout this paper as “the FA”) regulates one of the most staunchly masculine sites in which football remains a strong bastion of traditional hegemonic masculinity (Sugden & Tomlinson, 1994). With a long history of actively excluding female participation at all levels, the FA was forced to embrace female players by FIFA in 1993. Logically, the subsequent influx of women players (Premier League Survey, 1996) would be expected to advance to other forms of participation, such as coaching. However, there has been little change to date suggesting active resistance and gate-keeping practices (Foucault, 1970; Gumperz, 1982a).

A key role of the FA is regulating coaching, particularly youth football, accomplished through the training and certification of coaches and implemented through the regional FAs, such as county FAs (CFA). This is significant because all coaches participating at FA sanctioned establishments and clubs must be FA certified, providing a powerful grassroots level of ordinary or everyday enactment of the explicit and implicit FA core values, meanings, and identities. This is a key entry point not just into the organization as a coach, but into football as a player being coached. Hence it is a point at which gate-keeping practices to protect identities and the organization from unsuitable or inappropriate members can occur, predominantly through the language and discursive practices of dominant members (Gumperz, 1982a, 1982b). This is especially significant given that peripheral organizational members (like any identity category

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process of working up their own organizational or category membership (Bruins, 1997; Meân, 2001); arguably a key element that contributes to the re/production of gendered organizations observed in many studies (e.g. Grant & Tancred, 1992).

Sport, Coaching and Masculinity Sporting expertise is synonymous with males and masculinity; hence, coaching is a gendered occupation within which women are “othered.” Female coaches are typically devalued and invalidated (Staurowsky, 1990) and subject to direct and indirect discrimination (Knoppers, 1989; Thorngren, 1990). Despite increasing numbers of women playing sport, the numbers of women coaches have not increased significantly. Indeed, while there has been a small rise in women coaches at introductory levels, 81% of qualified coaches in the UK are male (Sportscoach UK, 2004). Thus, the notion that sporting expertise is linked with masculinity continues, and the effectiveness of policies to actively encourage women in a variety sports remains questionable.

The gendering of occupation results from meanings ascribed to that activity (Hearn & Parkin, 1983) arising from the shaping of knowledge, understandings and definitions that are linked to power and its re/production (Foucault, 1970). Given the link to hegemonic masculinity, predominant sporting discourses value toughness, aggression and competitiveness (Campbell,

1990) and these are therefore valued in coaching. Thus, females are perceived as employing a different approach to coaching their athletes (e.g., democratic, nurturing), which is considered indecisive and inappropriate compared to the autocratic and forceful male coach (Knoppers,

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Nonetheless, there has been an increasing emphasis in many sports upon wider skills desirable in coaching and a broader, less autocratic definition of coaching has come to the fore – at least in policy and practice guidelines. The FA, in their current coach education literature, states the qualities of a good coach include “enthusiasm, patience, open-mindedness, fairness, knowledge of the sport, a desire to learn and a willingness to help other people improve” (Houlston, 2001, p.2). Knoppers (1992) argues emphasizing such qualities should have led to an increase in women coaches, given the predominant discourses that naturalize women as possessing these qualities. The lack of an increase therefore suggests three things. Firstly, these qualities are devalued (as natural) when displayed by women, but celebrated and exalted when displayed by men (Ward, 2005). Secondly, emerging discourses in sport have been either resisted or framed in ways that re/produce traditional power relations and maintain the status quo. For example, skills typically defined as feminine (e.g. nurturance, support and encouragement) have been reframed in coaching as distinct and unique to sport and typical of successful and central category members (i.e., men). Thirdly, and arguably most significantly, a key element of exclusion stems from a fundamental failure to include women in the category (Gumperz, 1982a,b; Meân, 2001; Sacks, 1992) which automatically excludes them from the basic category entitlement of knowledge of sport; in this case football. The significance of this criterion, “knowledge of the sport,” can be seen in its move from what should be an implicit requirement to being explicitly stated in the FA coaching education literature (see quotation above).

The FA coach education literature states “a major goal of The Football Association is to ensure that every person who wants to get involved in football … can do so no matter what their ability, gender, age, socio-economic status, sexuality, race, faith or ethnicity” (Howie, 2000,

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these issues (other than stated policies and complaints procedures). The coach education literature defines sports equity as “about common sense and respect for others rather than taking extreme, over-the-top measures to be politically correct” (Howie, 2000, p.49), though examples of what extreme or common sense measures entail are conspicuously absent. Indeed the notion of common sense is highly problematic and strongly questioned at many levels, particularly as re/producer of traditional discourses and power relations (Foucault, 1970, 1972). Further, contemporary meanings of the term “political correctness” (PC) are often derogatory, and Cameron (1995) describes how the meaning of the term has drifted into a generalized derogation of liberal concerns. Thus, the proximity of common sense and political correctness clearly suggests these notions should work together to guide the coach; suggesting a favoring of “common sense” practices as opposed to “extreme, over-the-top” PC. The PC discourse utilized here routinely simplifies and trivializes complex social and political debate. It suppresses dilemmas of exclusion (Suhr & Johnson, 2003) in favor of taken-for-granted knowledge that appears to be common sense to members of a particular category without recourse to the bias that may come with that position. The representation of (limited) social change revealed in this small excerpt from the FA coach education literature demonstrates how social change has been addressed in ways that actually re/produce normative hegemonic knowledge and practices.

Dealing with Women as Diversity: Separatism Separatist policies provide separate facilities and means to particular disadvantaged groups, which in this context, are women (Hargreaves, 1994). Such policies are argued to widen

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powerful members of a society; that is, white, heterosexual, men. However, separatist policies can be controversial and problematic (Sinclair, 2000), especially in strongly gendered organizations or occupations highly resistant to the entry and participation of the “other.” This is significant given the highly masculine context of sporting organizations (Shaw, 2006; Shaw & Hoeber, 2003) and that the most explicit means by which the FA is addressing gender inequity in coaching is by the provision of separatist, women-only coach education and specialist posts such as Women and Girls Development Officers.

Separatist education and training.

Advocates of women-only policies reason that the advancement of women requires specific, dedicated organizations as all other organizations are effectively male (controlled by men and male practices) and will never fully embrace the cause of women (Theberge, 2000).

Indeed in sport contexts, females have reported strong preferences for single-sex settings (e.g.

Flintoff & Scraton, 2001) in contrast with performance pressure in the presence of men (e.g.

McDermott, 2004). Generally, women-only settings appear empowering, providing the opportunity and resources to take the first steps to develop sporting ability and expertise.

Additionally, they provide women the opportunity to experience female solidarity in a sporting environment in a manner that men have historically experienced; an experience argued to have re/produced hegemonic masculinity in sport (Whitson & MacIntosh, 1989).

Conversely, women-only policies and events are argued to disadvantage, and potentially hinder, equality in the wider organizational and sporting context. Women-only sport contexts

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become a “technique for maintaining a socially constructed difference between men and women, symbolically preserving through sports the power of men over women” (Pronger, 1990, p.18).

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