Forward Pass: Critiquing World Rugby’s Flawed ‘Coaching Women and Girls’ Module

April 4, 2024 Update: World Rugby has issued what can only be described as a “groveling apology for ‘misogynistic’ coaching guidelines for women,” as reported by The Telegraph (subscription required) or find more details from the NZ Herald. We’ve reached out to these sources to obtain a copy of the apology, as it doesn’t seem to be public yet. Since the publication, there have been modifications to the Coaching module, notably the removal of the chart from 2006, marking one of the most significant adjustments.

In the world of sports, inclusivity and equality are not just buzzwords; they are foundational principles that should guide every initiative, program, and module. However, it seems that World Rugby missed the memo with their recent release of the “Coaching Women and Girls” module. While the gesture of recognizing the unique needs of female athletes is commendable, the execution falls dramatically short, landing squarely in the territory of outdated, misogynistic, and woefully inadequate.

Let’s dissect this debacle starting with the material itself. The module’s content is about as current as a rotary phone in the age of smartphones. References to a chart from 2006 and citations of research that will soon be two decades old are not just laughable; they’re insulting. It’s akin to offering a course on modern medicine and citing Hippocrates as the primary source. We’ve moved beyond such antiquated notions, or so we thought.

**Seems like World Rugby realized their mistake and removed the table from their guidance. But you know what they say, screenshots live forever…

Furthermore, the idea of “hemisphere dominance” based on gender is equally perplexing. Hemispheric dominance, also known as lateralization of brain function, describes the tendency for either the left or the right side of the brain to carry out specific brain activities. Even though both sides of the brain are almost identical, one hemisphere primarily carries out some functions over others. However, linking this concept to gender in the context of sports coaching is not only irrelevant but also perpetuates outdated and scientifically unsupported ideas about inherent gender differences in cognitive abilities.

But it’s not just the outdated content that raises eyebrows; it’s the underlying tone of misogyny that permeates throughout. From the implication that women need to be “tended and befriended” to the absurd notion of “hemisphere dominance” based on gender, it reads more like a relic from the 1950s than a 21st-century educational resource. Women are not delicate flowers in need of coddling; they are athletes, fierce and determined, deserving of respect and equitable treatment.

World Rugby’s approach to gender inclusivity is further marred by its policies regarding transgender players. The recent bans on transgender players demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of gender identity and perpetuate harmful discrimination against transgender individuals. By failing to recognize that trans women are women, World Rugby and other unions are not only excluding talented athletes but also sending a damaging message about inclusivity and acceptance in the sport. There’s a clear connection between this mindset regarding cis women and girls and the exclusion of trans women from the sport. Sexism and transphobia seem to go hand in hand.

It’s clear that World Rugby’s attempt at inclusivity falls flat on its face. Instead of empowering female athletes and coaches, they’ve managed to alienate and demean them. It’s time for a complete overhaul, starting with consulting experts in the field of women’s sports and updating the material to reflect current research and best practices. Anything less is simply unacceptable.

In conclusion, World Rugby’s “Coaching Women and Girls” module is a prime example of good intentions gone awry. It’s not enough to simply acknowledge the differences between coaching men and women; we must actively work to dismantle the barriers and biases that perpetuate inequality in sports. Anything less is a disservice to the athletes and coaches who deserve better. Such attitudes contribute to the perpetuation of gender inequality in sports and reinforce harmful stereotypes. Therefore, labeling certain aspects of the module as misogynistic is justified based on the portrayal and treatment of women within the educational resource.

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1 thought on “Forward Pass: Critiquing World Rugby’s Flawed ‘Coaching Women and Girls’ Module”

  1. So well said Wendy. Thank you as always for being such an important and insightful voice in the women’s rugby community.


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