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British tennis star Andy Murray, who has been without a coach since March of this year, just announced he is hiring former world No. 1 Amélie Mauresmo. Only two weeks away from the start of Wimbledon, the defending champion surprised the tennis world by appointing the Frenchwoman to help him retain his title.

Few male professionals are coached by women but Murray is said to believe Mauresmo can offer something different to turn him into a winner again. The tennis star, 27, was coached by his mother when he was younger and she remains a constant presence at his matches.

“Obviously when I was growing up I had my mum working with me until I was 17 years old. I have always had a strong female influence in my career. It didn’t feel like, you know, a strange thing to do just because I grew up with a female coach.”

Mauresmo, 34, has reportedly been hired to unlock a more emotional side to Murray’s game. He was humiliated in straight sets by Rafael Nadal in the French Open semi-final last week and is obviously looking to shake things up.

‘In making the announcement, Murray said: ‘Amelie is someone I have always looked up to and admired. She’s faced adversity plenty of times in her career, but was an amazing player and won major titles. I have a very strong coaching team already, but I’m convinced that her joining the team will help us push on. I want to win more Grand Slams.’

Mauresmo, who has won two major titles herself (the Australian Open and Wimbledon) was ranked world No. 1 for a total of 39 weeks during her career. I distinctly remember the day in 2006 that Mauresmo beat Henin to win Wimbledon and am excited to see what the Murray/Mauresmo partnership will yield.

It is not the gender of the coach that is important but the results and to his credit, Murray was unconcerned what others thought of his coaching choice.

“From other players’ point of view, I don’t really care whether they think it’s a good or bad appointment,” he said. “It’s whether it works well for me and my team, and hopefully it will be a good move for my career.”

Predictably, Murray’s announcement brought out the worst in people on social media – seems there are still a lot of people who don’t believe a woman can successfully coach a man.

A little more than 40% of women’s athletics teams are coached by women while about 3% of men’s teams are coached by women. Do the math: men are coaching 60% of women’s teams and 97% of mens teams. That’s not right.

Changing social norms requires hard hitting, which is exactly what  Murray and Mauresmo have done in the past.  This is a bold move that we hope will pay off.

June 9, 2014
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