Shock of the week: man appoints female coach!
I’ve been amused, and sometimes surprised, this week by the reaction to Andy Murray appointing Amelie Mauresmo as his coach. Some comments and objections were just ridiculous and won’t be repeated here but I’m glad to say that mostly the press has tried to be even-handed. Nevertheless, the excellent Neil Harman writing in The Sunday Times and The Times described Murray as ‘unconventional’ and his decision as ‘courageous and stunning’, not to mention ‘historic’. Why the surprise? Is it because Mauresmo was a bad player? Hardly, she’s a former world number 1 and Wimbledon champion. Is she a lousy coach? We don’t really know; she has only ‘dabbled in it fleetingly’ (Harman again). She’s ‘fragile’ apparently and ‘can’t use the men’s locker room’ (various commentators). She’s also openly French. Will any of that make her a bad coach? I can’t see why.
The subtext of course is that birds can’t coach blokes (unless she’s his mum or wife, natch, in which case he’s probably a mummy’s boy and/or hen-pecked), although the other way round is of course OK, even desirable.
All of which interests me because I have an equal mix of male and female clients on my books at the moment, and historically it has always been about 50/50. So is it just me? I don’t think so. Research into executive coaching has shown that sometimes both women and men prefer to work with a female coach. Furthermore, men tend not choose their coaches on the basis of gender but on the professional characteristics of the coach (Gray and Goregaokar, 2010). Nor is there any evidence that gender affects the ‘helpfulness’ of the coaching intervention, rather it is the quality of the ‘working alliance’ or coaching relationship that counts (De Haan, Culpin and Curd, 2011). This all fits with what Murray himself has said:
‘She’s obviously a fantastic player. She won Wimbledon, she was world No.1, won the Australian Open. Just from speaking to her, she’s very calm, she’s a good person. I think we will communicate well together and I think that’s a very important part of coaching.” (Andy Murray quoted in The Telegraph, 8 June 2014)
It may not work out of course, sometimes coaching relationships just don’t gel or have the expected and desired effect but it looks like Andy chose Amelie for the right reasons so let’s wish them well.
Briggs, S. ‘Andy Murray appoints Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach’ The Telegraph 8 June 2014
De Haan, E., Culpin, V., Curd, J. (2011) ‘Executive coaching in practice: what determines helpfulness for clients of coaching?’ Personnel Review, Vol. 40 Iss: 1, pp.24 – 44
Gray, D.E., Goregaokar, H. (2010) ‘Choosing an executive coach: The influence of gender on the coach-coachee matching process.’ Management Learning 41: 525
Harman, N. ‘Murray appoints Mauresmo as his new coach’ The Sunday Times 8 June 2014
Harman, N. ‘Amelie Mauresmo gender not an issue for unconventional Andy Murray’ The Times 9 June 2014
For more on how to choose a coach check out this post: