THE Olympics has just launched a series highlighting the role of women coaches – and who better to kick the series off than Penrith’s very own Miriam Fox Jerusalmi – an outstanding coach and incredible athlete, who just happens to also be the mother of two of our most successful female paddlers, Jessica and Noemie Fox.
Whilst great strides have been made to balance the number of male and female athletes participating in the Olympic Games, the number of female coaches at elite level remains remarkably low. This new series will highlight the various initiatives taken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to tackle this important issue and share the journeys of inspirational women coaches who are beating the odds and proving that ‘if she believes it, she can be it’.
In the first article of the series, the IOC speaks to the canoe coach and two-time Olympian, Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi, who has called for more female coaches at elite level, reminding women there is a “door open for them” to become coaches.
Last December, Myriam was honoured with an IOC Coaches Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognises coaches who have dedicated their lives to their athletes. Myriam has done just that and gone above and beyond. After representing France in K1 at Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996, where she won bronze, Myriam has gone on to create a successful coaching career over the past 25 years. On top of helping her daughter Jessica to win 12 world titles and four Olympic medals, she’s been instrumental in helping to develop the women’s canoe slalom Olympic program and achieve gender equality.
Myriam welcomed the visibility that the Lifetime Achievement Award had brought to Australia and to canoeing, adding it showed that women could become Olympic coaches too. “Maybe now it shows that it’s possible and there’s recognition for the coaching job, because there’s not enough women coaching around the globe,” she said.
Despite this, it has been hard to increase the number of high-performance women coaches, and progress has been slow. In the last decade, women accounted for just 10 per cent of all coaches accredited at the Summer and Winter Games, a figure that rose to 13 per cent for Tokyo 2020. The IOC established a Women Coach Working Group in 2020 to increase the number of women coaches and alleviate the shortage.
Meanwhile, the IOC’s bespoke four-year Women in Sport High-Performance Pathway Program (WISH) has been steadily gaining momentum. Backed by USD$1M Olympic Solidarity funding, the program will prepare over 100 women for coaching at elite level.
To date, 66 female coaches from 14 sports have already immersed themselves in activities designed to further develop their leadership skills, confidence and careers. All have demonstrated a desire and potential to reach the highest level of coaching.
“To the participants of the WISH program or even to the women that want to get into coaching and can’t be in that program, follow your dream, and be persistent in what you want to do,” Myriam said.
“Try to get educated and try to gain experience to be able to reach your goal.”
In spite of this progress, however, the lack of women coaches stands out. That is why it is an important part of the IOC’s work-plan for 2021 to 2024, which focuses on five key areas: participation, safe sport, portrayal, resource allocation, and leadership, and clearly sets out the objective of increasing the number of women coaches across all Olympic sports.
“I’m the lucky one, because I think there are a lot of coaches around the world that also deserve this award,” Myriam said. “The more women we have, the more women think they can go into these jobs and it’s okay to be a coach, because there’s a door open for them to become a coach.”