Developing elite level women coaches is the next frontier for football in Australia according to Bentleigh Cobras State League championship winning coach, Aish Ravi.
The 29-year-old, who is a Business and Economics school teacher, is a passionate advocate for gender equality and believes building pathways for women in coaching is key to inspiring young girls to be leaders in changing the face of Australian football.
“The numbers need to increase because you can’t be what you can’t see,” says Ravi.
“Current playing numbers are going up but there aren’t many visible women role models for people to look-up-to in terms of coaching.
“Power structures need to change to allow women more access and we need to invest in their success.”
Women coaching numbers have improved in recent years but they are still well below men. Nationally in 2019, there were 38,715 registered coaches of which only 20% or 7,733 were female.
In Victoria, only 10% of the 2,600 registered coaches in 2019 were female. Ravi is not only passionate about getting these numbers up, but she wants women coaches to pursue coaching at not just the junior level but also the senior level. She wants to show it is possible to get there.
There is currently only one female coach in the W-League and the Matildas haven't had a female coach in six years.
“There are a number of women junior coaches but why aren’t there too many women senior coaches at the higher levels? We have some exceptional women coaches in our country who are not coaching at the highest level.
“Over 800 female coaches have attended a community coaching course in the past two years, but only a small proportion have attended an advanced coaching course and even fewer have completed the required assessment required to attain the qualification.”
Ravi, who is completing her Licence B and has coached at the NPLW junior level for Bayside United and Heidelberg United, co-founded ‘Lead Between the Lines’ with fellow researcher Julia Hay. It is an organisation that helps educate councils and sports clubs on how to build gender equality and foster inclusive practices on and off the field, specialising in coach development.
She is also completing her PhD on women in football at Monash University, with a focus on coach education.
Ravi grew up in a traditional Indian family where football wasn’t the main sport, especially for a female. However this did not stop her pursuing her passion for the world game.
Having played limited football growing up, Ravi soon developed an interest in coaching through being a teacher within the school system. Her success in the technical area was highlighted last year when she coached the Cobras to the State League Three title, an achievement she is immensely proud of.
“It felt great to win, very proud of the team,” she beamed.
“I was proud of the teams development on and off the field!
“I encourage other women to go out and give it a go. The possibilities are endless if they put their hand up.”
Her success inspired Ravi to start ‘Lead Between the Lines’ with Hay, with the goal of helping football clubs build their inclusive brand. She is passionate about driving change by challenging the current structures that limit participation, which she hopes can then open spaces for women to challenge the norm.
“We need to change the culture in the current environment to be more inclusive,” says Ravi.
“Clubs need to ask women to coach and support and invest in their development and ongoing growth within the game.
“This needs to be a long term plan. They need to give women opportunities and treat them with respect at all times including providing resources and access. They need to believe in women and support them to succeed!”
Ravi also started Bayside Futsal Womens (http://www.baysidefutsalwomen.com/) last year, a free social competition encouraging women and girls to stay involved in the game and be healthy and active.
Ravi, an all round sportswoman who currently plays Aussie rules for MCC and cricket for Cluden Cricket Club, is confident sport in Australia will recover from the current COVID19 crisis.
“I think football and sport in general will bounce back...people will be itching to get off the couch and get back into social team environments!”
PHOTO: Aish Ravi (back row third from right) is a passionate advocate for women in sport.