Recently, the sports world was abuzz when Wimbledon champion Andy Murray appointed Frenchwoman and former World No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, as his coach. Experts tell Soma Das what this means for gender issues in sport
Amelie Mauresmo during the Federation Cup first round tennis match, France vs Switzerland, on February 8, 2014 in Paris. Pic/AFP
It is a remarkable move. Generally, male tennis players are disrespectful towards women’s tennis and term it boring or slow. Amelie Mauresmo didn’t reach her potential but played a strong game on court. It sends out a message to the rest of the sports fraternity to choose skills, overall capacity and mental understanding.
Great Britain’s Andy Murray during the French Open at Roland Garros stadium in Paris on May 29, 2014. PIC/ AFP
A good coach should help a player gauge what he is doing, what he should be doing and help him develop skills to combat the other player. Women coach in sports like shooting, which aren’t too physical. More people must realise that one doesn’t have to be a super achiever to coach.Some good coaches weren’t great players while great players didn’t make great coaches. Men might prefer male coaches as being men, they have the same game, body and mindset and know their challenges better. Men often take on coach roles as there are more of them and traditionally, coaching has been done by men. These walls need to be broken.
Ex-women’s cricket captain
This is surprising. Tennis is a game based on power and it is difficult for women to coach men. In badminton, table tennis or gymnastics, it might be easier for women to coach as they are not power games. I think this is a one-off incident and I don’t think top players like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal would opt for it. It is difficult for a woman to coach a men’s team; however, men should coach women. I have been suggesting to the BCCI that they get male coaches for the women’s cricket team. It would mean spending more, which is perhaps why they are not keen. We tend to make former women’s players as coaches and there is a stagnation in terms of skills and ideas. The Australian and English women’s cricket teams have former male players coaching the women’s team, and it helps. In cricket, male coaches are needed more than women, and the state should look into it.
Dr Sarala Bijapurkar
Our society is dominated by men in certain activities, including sports. It is assumed that men will perform better. Men prefer male coaches as they have a gender bias and devalue women’s performances. One has to break down the gender barrier and be open to the fact that like men, women can also perform well and both can be good coaches. If Andy Murray is confident that Amelie Mauresmo can help him perform well, then why not? It will help break gender barriers erected in the past and encourage people to move beyond prejudices. In India, it might take more time to catch up to the contemporary mindset as the gender barrier is still strong in our society.
Former Indian tennis player
The men’s tennis game is stronger, faster, harder and at a greater pace than women’s tennis. It requires more power. Perhaps that’s why there are so few women training male tennis players. Women can coach boys but not beyond the age of 16-17. The coach and student equation is personal and if there is chemistry between Andy Murray and Amelie Mauresmo, it might work. If the player is open to such a move and has faith in the coach, it does work.
A pioneering move for tennis equality
Reports suggest the grass court season will be a trial run to assess if the Murray-Mauresmo match can work in the long run. Dismissing speculations on the move, Murray told world news media, “From other players’ point of view, I don’t care whether they think it’s good or bad. It’s whether it works well for me and my team; hopefully, it will be good for my career.”