sports gazette

OSCARS WEEK: Top 10 current or former leading ladies of male athletes and teams

Published: 18 Feb 2017

Chan Yuen-ting will become the first woman to manage a men's team in a continental competition when Eastern Sports Club start their Asian Champions League campaign on Wednesday.

The 28-year-old’s side face two-time winners and Chinese giants Guangzhou Evergrande, who are coached by former World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari.

To mark the occasion, Sports Gazette takes a look at the top 10 current or former female coaches of male athletes or teams and, surprise, surprise, Yuen-ting isn't top. 

10) Chan Yuen-ting – Eastern Sports Club

Overcoming a sceptical family, conservative views about women's involvement in men's sports, personal anxieties and being younger than several of the players, Chan Yuen-ting became the first woman to win a top-flight title in men’s professional football, with a club that hadn’t won the Hong Kong league for 21 years! At 28, she is undoubtedly one to watch – a pioneer for aspiring female football managers.

9) Kathryn Smith – Buffalo Bills

After interning for the New York Jets while in college, Kathryn Smith progressed to become the first full-time female assistant NFL coach. Versatile, knowledgeable and well-respected, she is a role model for young women. New coach Sean McDermott released her – preferring to bring in his own assistants – but with 14 seasons’ experience and age on her side, don’t rule out her making a return.

8) Helena Costa – Benfica, Cheleirense, Celtic

Highly qualified (UEFA A Licence and a master’s degree in sports science), and with wide-ranging experience, including 13 years coaching in Benfica’s youth set-up, guiding lower-league side Cheleirense to the 2006 Lisbon championship and scouting for Celtic, Helena Costa was appointed Clermont Foot’s coach. She had the confidence and self-belief to walk away when management decisions were made in her absence. Expect to hear more of her.

7) Shelley Kerr – Stirling University

Appointed in 2014, Shelley Kerr is the first woman to manage a senior men’s team in Britain. Lauded for her tactical nous as a player, she never hid her ambitions to work in men’s football and guided Stirling University to third in the 2015/16 Lowland League. Driven, determined and dynamic, expect her to make waves in the men’s game at a level higher than the Scottish fifth-tier.

6) Margot Wells – Danny Cipriani, Allan Wells

Straight talking and much in demand, Margot Wells’ first major success was as long ago as 1980, guiding husband Allan to 100m Olympic gold and 200m silver in Moscow. Since then, her ability as an elite sprint and fitness coach has led to improved performances by rugby stars past and present – Lawrence Dallaglio, Danny Cipriani and Paul Sackey among them.

5) Corinne Diacre – Clermont Foot 63

Corinne Diacre is, undoubtedly, a trailblazer – the first woman in France to achieve her qualifications to run a professional team, and first to manage a men’s team in a major European league. Against the odds – youngest and least experienced manager at the club with the smallest budget – the adventurous style she’s instilled has brought admiration, respect and the award of Ligue 2 Manager of the Year by France Football.

4) Jane Figueiredo – Tom Daley

Energetic and passionate, Jane Figueiredo is credited with reinvigorating Tom Daley after London 2012 and injuries. Her involvement saw him defend his Commonwealth 10m title in 2014, win European silver, two British titles and six 2016 World Series medals – quite a haul (and not even fully comprehensive)! Disappointment followed in Rio, despite Daley breaking the Olympic record in the preliminaries; but dwelling on disappointment isn’t an option under Figueiredo.

3) Amélie Mauresmo – Andy Murray

The French former world no.1 became the first woman other than a relative to work with a Grand Slam champion. Between June 2014 and May 2016, she guided Andy Murray to seven titles, including his elusive first two on clay. Her calm and level-headed approach saw Murray rise from no. 11 to no. 2. Greater variety and attacking instincts, that did not always come naturally, have enhanced the Scot’s game.

2) Jenny Archer – David Weir

Six Paralympic golds, six world titles and 2014 Commonwealth Games Champion is ample evidence. Jenny Archer became David Weir’s coach in 2002 to begin a formidable partnership, taking the national and international stage by storm. With a mutual respect and shared steely determination, Archer brings the best out of Weir, who has hailed her the “best in the world by far.” Were Weir’s disappointing performances at Rio linked to Archer’s absence?

1) Mel Marshall – Adam Peaty

Since spotting Adam Peaty’s potential in 2009, Mel Marshall has guided his development, helping him become the first swimmer to win both sprint breaststroke events at the same world championships and the most successful British swimmer in a single world championship. Her modesty belies her confidence in her own coaching ability. Team GB’s first Olympic gold medal at Rio 2016 owes much to Marshall.

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