Breaking Down Silos … An Overview of the First ALTIS All-Women ACP

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ALTIS is an elite training environment for athletes, and a global leader of education in sport performance.

We all had an amazing time last week with the Thorne Apprentice Coach Program – women’s edition.  This was our 46th ACP in our 7th year of operation, and most certainly ranks up there as one of the best thus far!

“It was an opportunity to honor the uniqueness of training a female athlete as well as the complexities that being female brings to the table in each of our professional environments. It was a week filled with intelligent conversations and opportunities to collaborate amongst all of those who attended.” 

Michelle Snyder, attendee

The genesis of this all-woman Program stemmed from digging through our attendee stats over the last 6 years, and realizing how shockingly low the female representation was (like less than 3% low!!).  

“ALTIS is a group of amazing professionals willing to share their knowledge to help sport, and the professions within it. They are breaking down silos.”

Jenn Swager, Attendee

The under-representation of women in sport and women coaches is well-known. While the number of female coaches is at an all-time high, it hasn’t kept pace with the growth of women’s sports in general. The number of women coaching women’s teams is at an all-time low. In 1972, 90 percent of women’s teams had a female coach. By 2012, that number had plummeted to 43%.  

“The level of individual interaction and openness with EXOS/ALTIS members created a learning experience that felt personal to my education on various topics.” 

Melanie Heslop, attendee

It is worse in track & field and cross-country, where women head up 19% of women’s track & field teams, with minority women making up only 5%.  In men’s track & field, women head up 12% of teams, with minority women making up 4%. 

“ALTIS proves to be one of the leaders in the industry for athletic development, coaching the coach, online education, and now – women’s inclusion efforts. This week, we felt included, heard, and empowered thanks to the ALTIS and EXOS staff.” 

Carla Robbins, attendee

There is a clear lack of female representation in sport performance generally; coaching more specifically; and track and field coaching most-specifically.  There is a relative absence of mentorship, role models, and opportunity.

As we wrote, we have experienced similar representation within our own environment.  So we began to think about what we can do better as a company, and engaged some of our female friends and colleagues in this process.  

We reached out to women in sport organizations, female athletes and coaches, and others in our network, and we formed a partnership with the Female Coaching Network to aid us in this endeavor.

Girls Gone Strong Co-Founder, Molly Galbraith

“The atmosphere was professional with open minds and great energy.  I felt like everyone in the room had a voice and couldn’t wait to agree, disagree, take a note, and add experience.” 

Angela Hagenah, attendee

While there is still much to be done, we decided a good first step was to offer greater opportunity for women to our own Programs. 

And so we opened up all 2019-20 Thorne Apprentice Coach Programs to women at no cost, and added an all-woman Program for February – again, for free

 “I can’t say enough about my experience at the ACP. It was great to connect with coaches, athletes, and therapists from around the world. I truly appreciate ALTIS’ willingness to be transparent, and their enthusiasm for sharing knowledge, and continuing to advance coaching and sport performance.”

Caitlin Marshall, attendee

The response was amazing.  And we quickly had a waiting list of women wanting to come.  We wish we could have provided the opportunity for all who got in touch, but we are limited by space and time.  

But we are working on it!

“I loved the diversity of attendees; it definitely made for interesting and exciting conversations and offered a fresh and new perspective.” 

Alycia Carrillo, attendee

Our great friends at EXOS were especially generous and supportive.  While he doesn’t like to overplay it, EXOS founder Mark Verstegen is very proud that 65% of EXOS staff worldwide are female.  

And on our 3rd ACP morning, brand new EXOS CEO Sarah Robb O’Hagan very generously lent us an hour of her time, sharing her story, and answering some great questions from the ACP attendees.  

Sarah Robb O’Hagan and Molly Galbraith

“To hear from Sarah Robb O’Hagan on the day she took up the CEO role at EXOS was a unique opportunity and the quality of guest speakers ALTIS were able to attract for this ACP is testament to their reputation not only in Track and Field but across the Sports Performance Industry.” 

Laura Kerr, attendee

Both Sara and Girls Gone Strong founder Molly Galbraith led incredibly inspiring discussions, that should be heard not only by women, but all men as well (don’t worry – we filmed everything, so it will all be on ALTIS 360 soon enough! )

“It was tremendously empowering to be along side other female coaches who together, we shared in a unique experience filled with top level presenters from a vast array of fields who shared the same motivation – to help us be better coaches.”

Jennifer Lau, attendee

We would really like to thank all of those who made last week such an incredible experience for all: beginning with 20 amazing women who took time out of their busy schedules to come and join us in Phoenix, the ALTIS and EXOS staff, our presenters, Dr. John Berardi, Victor Hall, Carmen Bott, Dr. Laura Kunces, Molly Galbraith, Angela Hagenah, our amazing photographer/videographer, Lynwood Robinson, and of course our awesome partner in the ACP – Thorne Research.

“This ACP was shared with a remarkable and inspirational group of women. Every coach and presenter was always open to share insight and answer questions. The material presented was a perfect blend of data-based fact and experience-based wisdom. I left with some new relevant information, but more importantly, with lots of questions.”

Robin Barnes, attendee

Understand though that this is only a start.  

Sport participation largely mirrors the diversity of our broader society.  It is therefore vital that the coaching community reflects this diversity. We know that the majority of coaches are male, and that the majority of senior coaching roles are held by males. There have been countless ‘initiatives’ created to increase the participation and advancement of females in coaching, yet few are lasting, and fewer affect long-term change.

“If we truly believe that diversity is beneficial to the athletic experience, then our personal and organizational values must reflect this.  When we embrace a culture of inclusion we move beyond ‘initiatives’, and our practices naturally lead to representative structures.   Our most recent ACP focused on Women in Coaching was truly an eye opener. “Energetic, collaborative and compassionate” best describe the week. If we value these qualities then we must ensure our company is organized in such a way as to encourage greater representation amongst our coaching ranks.” 

Kevin Tyler, ALTIS President 

The Thorne Apprentice Coach Program is our flagship education Program. Inspired by the transparency and humility of all the best coaches, the ACP is an interactive blend of lecture, training observation, informal discussion, and practicals.  

“Not all great coaches make great mentors/teachers but clearly ALTIS has rounded up some of the best coaches in the world who genuinely like to share their expertise and have the skills to do this well.” 

Marylin Arsenault, attendee

You have three more opportunities to join us before the summer.  But hurry – slots are limited, and are filling fast!

“We touched on so many different topics between the practical sessions, the daily presentations, training observations, and my favourite, the poolside chats. Without question, I would recommend this to my peers in the field, and hope to be back soon again.”

Alyssa Morrison, attendee 


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