Parkes coach emphasizes importance of encouraging female coaches

TRAILBLAZER: Parkes PE teacher and coach Meghan Kempson coaching Western NSW at the state titles in 2018. Photos: Kerry Archer.
TRAILBLAZER: Parkes PE teacher and coach Meghan Kempson coaching Western NSW at the state titles in 2018. Photos: Kerry Archer.

Through sheer will and unbridled enthusiasm Parkes High School PE teacher and football coach Meghan Kempson is setting the path for other female coaches in the region to follow.

While massive strides have been made over the past decade in regards to the participation, pathways and professionalism of women's sport, coaching has lagged behind somewhat.

Kempson, who has previously coached Western NSW and helped established the women's football side at CSU Bathurst, coached the Parkes Cobras in their inaugural season this year - the only female coach in the league.

It was an unconventional start to life as the Cobras coach for Kempson, who explains she didn't even have the role at the start of preseason.

"Adam Parker (who helped establish the club) bailed me up at school and we got chatting and he soon realised I was actually qualified and he got me down to do a session with the boys.

"My intention was to just come down and help out, particularly with establishing a formation, but the session went so well I got the tap on the shoulder to take over as coach."

Kempson had just received her Senior C licence from Football Federation Australia (FFA) which enables her to coach a regional side (like Western NSW) or be the assistant coach of a NSW youth side.

It's not an easy course to pass either - Kempson estimates the drop-out rate for the course is about 85 percent, particularly for regional coaches with the amount of travel and technology involved.

This is someone who will give absolutely anything a crack: in 2018 she saw an ad for the Kokoda Youth Leadership program on Facebook and signed up to complete the gruelling 14 day trek moments later on a whim.

It's that will to improve herself that enables her to shine, even when the path is just that little bit harder for female coaches.

At last year's FFA coaches conference in Sydney, Kempson estimates that out of roughly 500 people at the event, only 5 - 10 were females.

She is staunch in her belief that the best way to help rectify this gender gap is positive discrimination.

"Positive discrimination might be enforced by regions being told that you need five (for example) female coaches by 2025.

"It's not a matter of appointing five females that year, but having a process in place to ensure there are females capable of getting to that standard.

"It's crucial to have education and mentoring specifically for females, otherwise you are setting them up to fail; it can be quite intimidating being the only female in a course with 24 men," says Kempson.

Parker was full of praise for the impact Kempson had on the Cobras in their inaugural season, and the way she led from the front.

"Kempson's ability to maintain a positive stance and give effective feedback (when we threw away opportunities to take home the points) cannot be taught.

"When she spoke, everyone listened and that's hard to do with a room full of frustrated young men," says Parker.

When asked to look back over the season, Kempson spoke with great fondness about being involved with the club, thankful for the impact her side had on her as a person and a coach.

"By the end of the Cobras season I felt like I got 20 new brothers."