Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Developing Effective Mentoring Relationships with Women in the Health and Fitness Industry: Suggestions from the Perspective of the Protege

Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Developing Effective Mentoring Relationships with Women in the Health and Fitness Industry: Suggestions from the Perspective of the Protege

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study introduced mentor characteristics and advancement techniques deemed necessary in developing a successful mentoring relationship with women within the health and fitness industry. The successful mentoring relationship may lead to the advancement of women with in leadership positions in the health and fitness industry. The participants included 480 female members of the ACSM Health and Fitness Alliance. The study addressed characteristics of the mentor and advancement techniques. These two areas of inquiry provided implications for female proteges seeking to enter a successful mentoring relationship with a mentor in the health and fitness industry.

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The benefits of the mentoring relationship have been established as a means for advancing women within a variety of industries (Ragins & Cotton, 1999; Allen, Poteet, & Russell, 2000). Several dictionaries have defined a mentor from a variety of perspectives. The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary (Morehead, Morehead, & Morehead, 2006) defines mentor as "a wise adviser; a trusted teacher and counselor" (p. 453). The Oxford American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus (Oxford University Press, 2001) define mentor as "an experienced and trustworthy advisor" (p. 518). While various definitions of mentoring exist in the literature, the most enduring image of a mentor was predicated in the classical vision of Odysseus. The term "mentor" actually derived from the character named Mentor, who was a faithful friend of the Greek hero Odysseus in Homer's epic story The Odyssey. Mentor served as a tutor to Odysseus's son, Telemachus, after he left for war. Mentor served in this role, earning a reputation of being wise, sober, and loyal. The classic understanding of the term "mentorship" evolved from the relationship of these two characters. This myth embodied many of the positive attributes associated with the mentoring relationship (Wilson & Elman, 1990). These positive attributes would later be defined through Kram's (1985) career functions (sponsorship, exposure and visibility, coaching, protection, and challenging assignments) and psychosocial functions (role modeling, acceptance and confirmation, counseling, and friendship). All of these definitions and positive attributes have several commonalities representing the description of a mentor: (a) wise or experienced, (b) trusted, (c) adviser, teacher, or counselor, and (d) advancer and nurturer. Therefore, the following definition of a mentor was a derivative of all the information mentioned: A wise, experienced, and trusted adviser, teacher, or counselor helping to advance and nurture the protege both personally and professionally.

Research has consistently demonstrated the mentoring relationship has provided substantial benefits in helping women advance within leadership positions within the sport industry (Bower & Hums, 2007; Strawbridge, 2000; Weaver & Chelladurai, 2002; Yager, 1983). The sport industry consists of many segments including interscholastic athletics, intercollegiate athletics, academia, recreational sports, business, and diverse populations (Hums, Bower, Grappendorf, in press). Bower & Hums (2007) examined women within international physical education departments. The results of the study established one of the reasons these women were successful were due to mentoring. In addition, the study provided mentoring techniques for helping other young women to excel within physical education departments globally. Strawbridge (2000) examined seven factors (education, work experience progression, sport participation and level of achievement, training subjects viewed as necessary for the career, recognition of a mentor, personal characteristics, and most helpful experiences) which traditionally appeared important to advancement to top-level administrative. Results indicated the most important factors for preparing women who aspire to be top-level administrators were mentoring, ability to speak and write, strong business sense, and strong motivation. …

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