Category Archives: women in sport coaching

The Decline of Female Head Coaches in Women’s Athletics

the decline

Hear my radio interview with Jim Dubois of Access Minnesota, as we discuss issues related to the decline of in the percent of women in coaching, the Report Card on College Women Coaches, coaching career pathways, and a host of other issues related to women in the coaching profession.

To hear the interview, click here.

Football Bowl Winners…A Slightly Different Approach

Now that the 2013-14 Football Bowl Series has come to a close and winners declared, I am posting bowl winners based on a slightly different approach.

The winners of 7 arguably most prestigious bowls in this graphic (click on it to make it larger) are based on the institution’s commitment to gender equity in its hiring of women head coaches for women’s teams for 2013-14.

One Sport Voice Bowl Winners 2014
One Sport Voice Bowl Winners 2014

So if you are a fan of Ohio State and Wisconsin…you have something to cheer about, even though your teams lost their bowl game, your institutions have a higher percentage of female head coaches (FHC) of women’s teams than did your opponents!

Sorry Florida State (54.5%)… yes you beat Auburn (33.3%) both on the field and by % of FHC and even though they didn’t play in the title game, University of Central Florida is the real National Champion as 8 of 9 (88.9%) of their women’s teams are coached by women head coaches! Well done UCF!

Oklahoma State, you lost to Missouri (33.3%) both on the field and in % of female head coaches, but you are the winner the Toilet Bowl as only ONE of 8 (12.5%) of your women’s teams are coached by a woman…you can do better, A LOT better! However OK State to be fair, in 2012-13 NONE (0%, ZERO) of your women’s teams were coached by women, so you are moving in the right direction!

This data is taken from 2014 Women in College Coaching Report Card. (note: UCF is not included in the sample, but data was calculated separately from the UCF Athletics Web site)

RELEASED: New Reports on Women College Coaches

Did you know that in the 40+ years after the passage of Title IX, female sport participation is at an all-time high but the percentage of women coaching women at the collegiate level has declined from 90+% in 1974 to near an all-time low today of 40%? While the number of collegiate coaching opportunities is also at a record high, only 20% of all college coaching positions for men’s and women’s teams are filled by women.

T2012-13_women-coaches-reportoday we (meaning the Tucker Center & the Alliance of Women Coaches) released a research series, 2 report cards and infographic on the status of women college coaches at 76 of the biggest NCAA D-I athletics programs. This work is the culmination of many people’s efforts. The purpose of this initiative is to increase the number of women in the coaching profession, generate awareness, and hold institutions accountable. I hope you will check out the reports and infographic and read the article Christine Brennan wrote in USA Today about the report.

Here are some key take-aways from the reports:

  • As the position became more visible and arguably powerful from graduate assistants, to assistant coaches, to head coaches, women occupied those positions less frequently.
  • In one academic year the percentage of women head coaches declined from 40.2% to 39.6%
  • Only ONE school, Cincinnati at 80%, was awarded an A for the percent of women head coacheswcr_2013-14_infographic
  • An equal number of schools got above average grades of A’s and B’s as got F’s (11 each). To see which schools passed and failed, or where your school stacked up, click on the infographic.
  • Two sports had 100% female head coaches (field hockey, synchronized swimming) while five sports had ZERO (0%) (water polo, bowling, skiing,, sailing, squash)
  • The B1G Ten (46.1%) conference had the most female head coaches of the 6 conferences we examined (ACC, Big East, Big 12, SEC, PAC 12), the SEC had the lowest (33.3%)wcr_2013-14_head-coaches
  • 66 of 886 head coach positions turned over from 2012-13 to 2013-14. Out of those 66 positions 74.2% of all coach vacancies were filled by men resulting in a net gain of five head male coaches, thus the decline in the percentage of women head coaches.
  • 7 schools increased the % of female head coaches in one academic year, while 13 decreased.

To read more about why this research matters, grading criteria, methodology and more specifics on processes go to the reports.

Female Coaches in High School Sports: Data Released

You don’t need to look far or drill down very deep in a Google Search on ‘female coaches’ to find out two facts.

1. Female coaches at all competitive levels have declined since Title IX passed in 1972
2. Female coaches are the minority in almost every workplace

Many are familiar with the longitudinal work of Vivian Acosta and Linda Carpenter, who have tracked the number of females in positions of power in intercollegiate athletics for the past 35 years. Based on their data we know that in 1972 over 90% of female college athletes were coached by women, and in 2012 that number is near an all time low at 42.9%.   To date a similar nationwide analysis for high school sports did not exist.Colleague Cindra Kamphoff, PhD and I decided to change that by analyzing a 2010 national data set of high school coaches we obtained from a reputable coaching directory. Some interesting, but not surprising, patterns emerged. Here are three key findings:

Slide141. 27% of all high school head coaches are female

2. Females coached of girls’ teams (39.6%) more often than boys’ teams (7.5%)Slide16

3. In basketball, the most popular** high school sport (and therefore the most visible, prestigious, important, valued, and known) females coached girls’ (28.1%) teams more often than boys’ (0.2%) teams.

Based on the data, female head coaches are often statistical tokens (<15% of a workforce) and marginalized (i.e., assigned to coach the less important and visible teams) in high school athletics. Tokens often experience or are subjected to scrutiny, pressure to over-perform to gain credibility, discrimination, harassment, and a host of negative workplace outcomes, and this is supported in the vast literature on barriers and support for female coaches which I’ve previously written about on this blog.

**most popular as indicated by the National Federation of High Schools

NOTE: Complete and refined analysis will continue. Please note these numbers represent a 3-5% variance, are not exact, but provide an initial picture into power, leadership, and high school sports.

Supports for Female Coaches II: Stay in the Game Early

support_360_320-300x266Read my monthly blog post “Supports for Female Coaches II: Stay in the Game Early” for the Women in Coaching blog by clicking here.

If you missed Supports for Female Coaches Part I” click here.

Female coaches–if you haven’t signed up yet for The Alliance of Women Coaches Huddle event June 12-14, 2013 yet, you should! I’ll see you there.

The Scarcity of Female Coaches-Part III

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Currently I’m out in Denver for the NCAA Women Coaches Academy (run by the Alliance of Women Coaches) and in the next room is the NCAA/NACWAA Institute for Administrative Advancement where in both rooms the current and future generation of coaches and athletic administrators are being empowered. Seeing this group of women is inspiring and motivates me to continue the work I do to help them in part to succeed and stay in sport careers. Unfortunately they need a lot of support to do so.

As I was getting ready this morning I caught part of the ESPN Outside the Lines piece on “Coaching Conundrum” as to why there is a scarcity of female coaches. The ESPN crew had been out in Atlanta filming at the Alliance of Women Coaches annual Huddle in last May. While the ESPN piece is great for raising awareness about the scarcity of female coaches, it only scratched the surface of this complex question. An espnW piece on “The Glass Wall” is a much more in depth treatment female coaches.

I have written previously about this issue (Part 2  here and Part 1 here), but I want to elaborate a bit more on the eve of the Title IX anniversary.

The barriers for female coaches reside at four levels.

1. Individual (perception of lack of competence or confidence, choose not to coach, perception of time commitment to fulfill role)

2. Interpersonal (family & domestic commitments, lack of support from administration, negative recruiting from colleagues)

3. Organizational (lack of opportunity for professional development, lack of family-friendly policies, limited opportunities for advancement, lack of female role models in positions of power)

4. Societal-Cultural. This is the level that rarely gets discussed, is the hardest to change, and has to do with stereotypes of women, gender and leadership. The traits of effective leadership we mostly highly value in US society align with a male/masculine leadership style. If women don’t adopt or conform to this style (firm, authoritarian, assertive, loud, in control, competitive) they are perceived to be incompetent and weak. If they do adopt this style, the are often labeled a bitch because she is not conforming to a stereotypical female leadership style (caring, quiet, nurturing, passive, collaborative). The key here is that the association with gender and leadership is constructed and arbitrary, but has a dramatic effect on the careers of female coaches. If those in positions of power are mostly men (and they are!) and they are not aware of their own uncritical acceptance of leadership beliefs, and largely believe that male coaches are more competent than females…this will result in most likely a male being hired into the position. The result?–The current structure of sport and male power does not get challenged and females remain marginalized and in the minority, and because men continue to dominant the sport landscape and occupy the most important positions, society at large continues to believe that men are inherently more competent to coach.

Effective leadership is not gendered. Being competent, knowledgeable, facilitating optimal performance, treating people with care and respect, being organized, communicating well, are not inherent to males or females.

Female coaches need a voice in the sport landscape that is dominated by men. Be part of the critical mass and join the Alliance of Women Coaches.

Look for a full length article I wrote with a graduate student on this topic coming out in July 2012 in the inaugural issue of Sports Coaching Review titled “Barriers and support for female coaches: An ecological model.”

Gender Differences in Coaching

Good coaching is good coaching, regardless of athlete gender.

Male and female athletes are much more similar than they are different. There is just as much variability within females and within males, than between males and females. Despite the popular Mars/Venus perspective that females and males are vastly and inherently different, psychological research has not proven this true (see APA keynote from Janet Hyde titled “The Gender Similarity Hypothesis”).  Similarly, despite widespread opinions, anecdotes, quotes from famous coaches (i.e. Anson Dorrance), and popular press “coaching girls” books that are not evidence-based, research in coaching science and sport psychology does not support the idea that coaching males and females is different.

The only statistically significant difference, but has a very small effect size, is that female athletes prefer more democratic leadership styles from their coaches.

The Self Determination Theory states ALL human beings have 3 inherent needs-belongingness, competence and autonomy (I call them The 3C’s = care, competence and choice). Similarity.

Here are some common stereotypes I hear about coaching girls: more emotional, take criticism personally, too sensitive, hold grudges, need to talk and socialize, value relationships more, less competitive, need a cohesive team, lack killer instinct, and are better listeners. I would argue, yes this is true for SOME girls, but it is also true for SOME boys.

A Mars/Venus “difference” approach to coaching exaggerates, promotes, and reinforces outdated and dangerous gender stereotypes that are potentially harmful to BOTH males and females.

For example, if a coach believes or uncritically accepts that boys are inherently more aggressive and competitive, the coach may have different expectations and ways of structuring practices, interacting, communicating, motivating and leading girls. Similarly, if coaches believe boys don’t value connections and friendships, this too erases boys’ need for feeling a sense of belongingness. Coaching based on opinions, beliefs and popular press coaching books of inherent difference is dangerous and can limit the experiences of athletes, regardless of gender.

Coaching science researchers have demonstrated that good coaching is good coaching.

NOTE: If you would like to read a more in depth critique of this topic, please consult: LaVoi, N.M., Becker, E., & Maxwell, H.D. (2007). “Coaching Girls”: A content analysis of best-selling popular press books. Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, 15(4), 8-20.