Andy Murray’s achievement in coming back from injury and battling for another Grand Slam title was somewhat overshadowed because he has chosen Amelie Mauresmo as his coach… If you weren’t aware, Amelie is a woman and French and as it happens, openly gay.
The blindingly obvious response to this is, so what? However, once again the media and self-styled experts who one would think might know better are once again allowing sexism to raise its ugly head and showing ignorance about the role of coaching and coaches. This has wider implications that the world of professional sport. These attitudes are still pervasive in the workplace and still have a profound effect on women, and men…
On the surface, the media reaction to Murray appointing Mauresmo was how brave he was etc… However, the undercurrent from commentators (predominantly male) has begun to question her credentials, how the relationship is affecting Murray etc…. Now to put this into some perspective, Mauresmo was a Grand Slam champion, world no 1 and experienced well publicised battles around her own self confidence. One would think ideal credentials for a coach at this level.
Contrast the reaction with Murray’s appointment of Ivan Lendl 3 years ago. Also a former world number 1, Grand Slam champion who capitulated in his first few Grand Slam finals. His appointment was seen as a masterstroke, the genius to answer to all the questions that Murray had to answer at the time. Interestingly both Lendl and Mauresmo have the qualifications and experience for such a role. Also neither had really coached before,yet Mauresmo’s appointment was questioned and scrutinised. To the predominantly male media this was fair game. The scrutiny was couched, as usual by the media as fair game and the role of a free press. Only a few questioned the motives of the media.
When the mirror is held up in the normal workplace, the issues are similar if not more acute. It is well documented that women’s pay does not keep pace with their male counterparts especially after career breaks. Whilst legislation has helped in this arena, there is still a cultural barrier for women in the workplace, despite the success of our girls in schools and for Fathers of daughters, this has to concern us. I have told my daughter to work hard at school to expect what?
Will she and friends work hard at school to be questioned by, lets face it, my generation about their motivations? Will they be allowed to challenge the assumptions that if they want a family, they must take a back seat in their career aspirations? Perhaps Murray appointed Mauresmo because he recognised the need for a more considered approach, a different language and a more collaborative style in order to achieve his goals.
Another mistake the media have made is projecting the role of coach as all seeing and all knowing. The modern coach is there to guide, enable and empower the coachee with ability to make their own decisions when under duress and pressure. They encourage clear thinking and choice, After all, the coach cannot be on court or in the office at a crucial time to give the perfect answer. The assumption the media and the public make is dangerous for the coaching profession in general.
The point here is that once again small prejudices can have long term consequences. Perhaps we might leave Andy to make his own decisions and not assume what is good for him and in the same way perhaps we might stop assuming what women and girls really want and ask them?