UW Center for Leadership in Athletics

January 26, 2023

Q&A: Marsa Daniel on Gender Inequity in Sport Science Research

Marsa Daniel, Teaching Associate & Coach Developer, recently spoke at the 2023 National Association for Kinesiology in Higher Education Conference: Leading for Good in a Post-Pandemic World. Marsa answers a few questions from Jake Silver, Marketing Specialist for the Center for Leadership in Athletics. 


Q: What do you hope people will learn from this presentation?

A: A fact I share with audiences that always surprises people is that the majority of research in exercise and sport science has been conducted on men, by men.
That means that the predominant training models used to prepare athletes can be misaligned with the health and performance needs of 50% of our population.

The first goal of these talks is to increase awareness around that inequity in the research.

Then I pose these questions:

  • What is our role as coaches and educational leaders in closing that equity gap?
  • How do we design sport experiences that support the health, well-being, and performance needs of all the athletes we serve?

The reality is these conversations can be difficult because we’re working against a culture of silence around women’s health. To talk about the health of female athletes, we have to talk about menstrual cycle health, and that can be uncomfortable for people who aren’t used to it. What we’ve found though, is that coaches want to learn and talk about this, they just need a
safe space for doing so. Our role at the Center begins with creating that safe space for learning and discussion.

Q: This is content that you teach in the Sport Performance course offered to the Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership (IAL) graduate students. How do students typically react to this topic?

A: Every year there is a collective feeling of dismay. The common reaction from students is: “Why didn’t I know about this?” And it’s a good question they ask.
Unpacking these difficult questions is at the heart of the IAL experience. We must grapple with the “why” before we can move on to discussing steps toward change.

Q:  What are IAL alumni doing to improve this issue?

A: Our IAL alums are doing incredible work in this area! My favorite part of these presentations is sharing a collection of video interviews where they share how they’re incorporating what they learned in IAL about female athlete health and performance into their leadership roles as coaches, health and PE teachers, and student-athlete development professionals. One of our alums even created a female athlete health education series for her university’s coaches and athletic trainers. This work of change can be difficult and messy, but our alumni know how important this is in shaping equitable, healthy sport spaces, so they’re leaning into that challenge. I couldn’t be more proud of them.

Q: Do you plan to present this content to other audiences?

A: Yes, I was accepted to present this content at the Annual International Conference on Sport & Exercise Science. This July, we will be taking alumni to the conference in Athens, Greece!