On Side
On Side
Mar 31, 2021
Taking the gender out of ability with Kate Palmer, Cara Honeychurch and Tracey Menzies
Play • 51 min

The dearth of women in leadership and in high performance coaching roles is still a problem in sport.

In latest episode of On Side we talk to former Sport Australia CEO Kate Palmer on the gulf in parity that still exists in high performance sport and what needs to be done to help women transition into these roles. Palmer says sports need to take a “proactive approach” to, not just equality, but diversity in general.

“The reality is that sport is not immune to society,” Palmer says. “Sport reflects all that’s great about society, and all of the things that are bad about society.
“Sport can play a role [in promoting women and diversity] because on the whole it’s very public so we can show best practice to other industries and other organisations.”

She says thinking about diversity more broadly is really important. “I think acknowledging the differences and including everyone in the decision making is really important, and that goes beyond gender, that goes into multi-cultural areas too, indigenous areas, to disability, everyone, putting a voice around the table for all.”

We also talk to Commonwealth Games gold medallist Cara Honeychurch, who has a unique perspective as both an athlete and an administrator.

“I have to say I had a very positive experience throughout my whole life, I’ve never really felt that being a women has held me back,” Honeychurch, one of Australia’s most successful ten pin bowlers, says. “My sport of tenpin bowling has always been very inclusive, and very welcoming of women.”

Honeychurch, who is now General Manager of Corporate Services at Athletics Australia, says she is “very aware” her experience is “very much the exception” rather than the norm.

And in our segment From the Highlight Reel, we re-live the 400m freestyle event at the Athens Olympic Games through the lens of Ian Thorpe’s coach – Tracey Menzies.

Menzies says she faced criticism for having a coaching philosophy that differed from her (mostly male) peers.

“Sometimes there has been a bit of a criticism that I’ve shown too much empathy for people and compassion but I sort of wear that as a badge of honour now, that I actually have that vulnerability that I’m prepared to show who I am and care for the athlete,” she says. “Having the capacity to hear what we say, and to understand, if we do things a little differently, that’s ok. Not everyone has to coach the same way, behave the same way, and different is actually good.”

In the segment From Left Field our athlete educator Annabelle Cleary answers the question, “Do coaches get in trouble if an athlete tests positive?”

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