Tag Archives: mothers

Mother-Coaches in Youth Sport

A colleague and I, Dr. Sarah Leberman from Massey University in New Zealand, now have an article in press in the Journal of Sport Management titled “Juggling Balls and Roles, Working Mother-Coaches in Youth Sport: Beyond the Dualistic Worker-Mother Identity.”

Focusing on the mother-worker duality is limiting and provides an incomplete picture of women‘s social roles, therefore we used a role triad framework of the worker-mother-coach which draws attention to the existence of a “third shift” for some women.

The abstract for this piece is below:

ABSTRACT: Despite the ubiquitous presence of mothers in sport contexts, mothers‘ voices are often absent in the sport literature, particularly at the youth sport level. A phenomenological approach was used to explore the experiences of working mother volunteer youth sport coaches. A role-triad model based on the work-family enrichment and role enhancement literature provided the theoretical framework. The purpose was to understand how and why working mother-coaches mange this role triad and to identify mother-worker skills which may transfer to youth coaching and vice versa. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight working mother-coaches and analyzed for themes. Findings suggest that notions of being a good mother and reasons for coaching are very similar, including spending time together, developing life skills and role modeling. Participants negotiated multiple roles using cognitive tools, such as reframing and separation of roles. The reciprocal benefits of motherhood, working and coaching for themselves and others were highlighted.

Dr. Leberman and I completed this research when she was a visiting Fulbright Senior Scholar in the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.

Did You Know? Videos: Hot Topics in Coaching

I put together a few Did You Know? powerpoints and turned them into short videos (1:22-1:34 in length).

One is about the scarcity of female coaches in youth sport and the other is about gender differences & similarities in coaching.

I’d love your feedback as this is a bit a work in progress. Here is what I’d like feedback on:

  • Content
  • Length
  • How could these best be used?
  • What other topics would you like to see in a DYK?
  • Any other feedback you feel is relevant.

Thanks in advance. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

(thanks to Austin Stair Calhoun for overlaying the cool music!)

New Short Videos of My Research Talks on Girls & Women in Sport

Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi

I just posted new videos of two research talks I gave in the last week on girls and women in sport.

The first talk was a Tucker Table on “Coaching Youth Soccer as a Token Female” and the other was “Current Research of The Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport” for the St. Paul AAUW.

To see some short clips go to The Tucker Center’s YouTube Channel.

What Do Fans of Women's Sport Want to See?

Leading up to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver the US Women’s National Hockey Team has been training here in Blaine, MN and going on tour to play exhibition games to prepare. I had the opportunity to support the team and watch two games over the winter break. While at the game I saw the program (Thanks to The Good Dr.!) and immediately felt my blood pressure rising. This program, which was being sold at both the games I attended, looks nothing like the team’s online media guide. The program starts out appropriately as you can see with the Team Roster picture. As you flip through the program, you see pictures of the team in “street clothes” and get a synopsis about “The Player” and “The Person” in the “Get To Know ‘Em” centerfold section (scroll down to see pictures of program pages). Why is this problematic?

For decades sport media researchers have demonstrated that female athletes (compared to their male counterparts) are much more likely to be pictured out of uniform, off the ice/court, and in poses that depict femininity and/or sexiness. Where are the pictures of the team IN THEIR UNIFORMS and IN ACTION? These women are some of the best female hockey players in the world!

Marketing the athlete-person duality of female athletes has become the default strategy for a majority of sport marketers in the last five years. Where did this strategy come from? Who decided this was the status quo? Is it based on research pertaining to what is effective in marketing female athletes and women’s sport? Is this what fans of women’s sport want to  see? I want to to see the evidence! Some of the evidence that I and colleagues have collected indicates that fans of women’s sports and female athletes attend because of the athleticism, not because the athletes are cute “girls next door” or look good in a sundress.

So here is my question: Are the “Get To Know ‘Em” pictures, what fans want to see or have fans been sold these images so they do not know any different?

My logic: If marketers continually pitch the athlete-person duality, this is what fans see and expect, and it becomes the norm, so fans think they like this approach. But what if consumers only saw images of female athletes IN ACTION, IN UNIFORM, DOING WHAT THEY DO BEST? Would that become the expected and the norm? I really want to know when and who decided that to successfully market elite female athletes that a “personal”/ human interest component has to be included. It is also not coincidental that a good portion of the “Team Tidbits” in the bottom picture below reinforce very feminine, traditional roles for women.

NOTE: In the Qwest Tour program, in which these 3 images were taken from,  I counted only 4 action shots in the entire 37 pages program.

RELATED NOTE: Do fans really want to see pictures of tennis player Venus Williams’ flesh-colored underwear? I would argue they do not, but when the media covers and makes it “newsworthy” then fans and general sport consumers are told this is important and begin to pay attention. I am wagering that more people know about V. Williams’ underwear than how she is playing in the Australian Open. Newsflash: female tennis players have been wearing “flesh colored” underwear for years. However, when the “flesh” color matches that of an African American skin tone it becomes international news.

US Women's National Hockey Team Roster page
US Women's National Hockey Team "Get to Know 'Em"
US National Women's Hockey Team Tidbits

Benchmarking Women's Leadership

Since it is finals and I don’t have much brain power left after grading to come up with clever original blog material, I’m sharing links to information already out there you may not know about.

The White House Project, just released a new report title Benchmarking Women’s Leadership which can be downloaded for free by clicking here.

Related to women in sport leadership, a research topic of mine and which you can read more about within previous blog posts, see pages 101-112 of the report.

Mother-Baby Workout Solution!

This morning I saw a segment on my local TV affiliate about a program called StrollerStrides, “a total fitness program for new moms that they can do with their babies”. The program seemed like a perfect physical activity solution for mothers with stroller-age children, and also solves many of the barriers to physical activity many women face due to afforadabilty, accessibility and availability.

StrollerStrides workouts are conducted by certified instructors in large indoor public spaces (mostly shopping malls in off hours) which cuts expensive gym memberships. Mothers can work out alongside the strollered child which cuts the need for childcare. It also provides  mothers with a social support system and affords the opportunity to get out of the house to a safe, warm space (this is key during Minnesota winters for those of you who don’t live here!) to get physical activity. The workout combines strength, flexibility and cardio components along with fun songs and activities that engage the children and keep their attention.

It also got me thinking what a better way to start a love of physical activity for infants! Researchers have proven time and again that parents are very important physical activity role models for their children. If parents are active and value and believe that being active is an important part of life, their children are more likely to be active. I also recently came across another resource from the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport & Physical Activity, Mothers in Motion, a program “dedicated to physical activity promoters working with mothers of low socioeconomic status”.

Many women must overcome a host of barriers in order to be physically active, which is why females are less active than their male counterparts at all ages and within all types of physical activity. Assisting women in starting and sustaining physical activity can lead to a host of positive physical and mental health outcomes. You can also read more about Developing Physically Active Girls, a report I helped to co-author and produce in my role as the Associate Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.

Picture from StrollerStrides

Found! Pictures of REAL Female Coaches

DSC_7517In a previous blog I was lamenting about the scarcity of pictures of real female coaches, especially at the youth level. I’m pleased to report I found some! A photographer for the University of Minnesota’s College Education of Human Development Connect Magazine shot some GREAT pictures of females coaches for a story they ran recently on some of our research. To read the story “The Sporting Life: Research Helps Families Adjust to an Increase in Youth Athletics” and see the pictures of two great female coaches in action, on the field, and in coaching attire click here (and scroll down to the link below the picture that states “enlarge picture and launch slide show”).

Most remarkable is that in some of the pictures, Coach Kari Ornes is pictured coaching high school boys! Even though females coaching males at all levels of competition occurs about 2% of the time-you never see it. We need more pictures of this nature to be taken and portrayed in traditional and new media outlets. Both Kari and Julie are part of the We Coach advisory board and two exemplary female coaches!

Where are the Photographs of Female Coaches?

As part of my research and outreach I’m always trying to track down pictures of female coaches, specifically at the youth level, that don’t look “staged”. I’ve looked in most all the photo websites like IStock Photo, and when you type in “female coaches”…well just try it and see for yourself. The choices are really pathetic—similar to the  image you see here (not from IStock). coach-mom_baseballIn fact, if you only looked at the pictures you can find on these type of sites– or anywhere for that matter— you’d wonder if legitimate female coaches exist at youth or interscholastic levels.

I’ve had my colleagues and graduate students look as well, in case I was missing something or not searching correctly or in the right spots. Same result. When I needed images for the website of my new initiative to increase the number of female coaches, We Coach: Educating & Empowering Through Sport, I had to email female coaching friends  for images of themselves.

This blog was inspired when I got notice today from WordPress.com that I could have access to pictures on PicApp.com, a site I had not previously been aware of. I immediately went to their site and typed in “coaches” and 3,829 images on 64 pages came up. Here is an example of what you will see–male coaches in action, in uniform, on the field looking competent and in charge. [picapp src=”e/5/7/a/Georgia_Southern_v_69ab.jpg?adImageId=5443390&imageId=6769230″ width=”234″ height=”150″ /] [picapp src=”6/1/2/f/Pistons_vs_Hawks_f5db.JPG?adImageId=5556926&imageId=6783389″ width=”234″ height=”159″ /]What you will not see are pictures of female coaches. I gave up looking for a female coach after the 5th page of images (sigh). (NOTE: I wrote this blog last night, and when I went in today the first images are from the Women’s Sport Foundation Annual Salute to Women’s Sport, including a few of Pat Summitt, the most winning-est coach in collegiate basketball. However, the images of Summitt are not in action, on the court, or in coaching attire, which sends a very different message about coaching competence compared to the images of the male coaches on the page)

Next I typed in “female coaches” resulting in 475 images on 8 pages. The first image is picture of Nadal signing autographs—not sure what this picture has to do with female coaches? The second image is this woman, who in my opinion doesn’t exactly look like a coach.
[picapp src=”c/f/b/e/Rafael_Nadal_Pre_41d7.jpg?adImageId=5557660&imageId=5606384″ width=”234″ height=”316″ /] [picapp src=”9/0/3/e/PicImg_Sarah_Gronert_in_f773.JPG?adImageId=5558108&imageId=4527814″ width=”234″ height=”332″ /]
The ironic part is the search for “female coaches” elicited more pictures of male coaches than female coaches, but when you search for “coaches” only pictures of real male coaches in action show up. (Note: the pics of Summitt mentioned previously do NOT appear on the “female coaches” page)

If you have the skills, passion, and time…please take some high resolution, pictures of female coaches in uniform, and “in action”. When I say “in action” I mean in action while coaching. Take pictures of what it looks like to coach in a REAL game, match, meet, or practice. When you do, make them available somewhere and let me know where to find them! Or if you know of a site with good images of female coaches not at the collegiate level, please enlighten me.

The scarcity of images that portray athletic competence of female athletes is well documented and I’ve written about it previously, but the same portrayal pattern exists for female coaches. A lack of legitimate images virtually and literally erases female coaches which is not good for anyone. Where are the pictures of female coaches?

Who Knew Tampons Could Be So Funny?

About a month ago I was watching TV and saw a strange commercial for Always, a feminine pad hygiene product, with the tag line “Have a happy period” with a woman dressed in white pulling a pristine pad out of a box, like as in a magic trick. I couldn’t find that ad but did find a French counterpart in which…well just watch it.

happy period
The themes in the Always ad campaign connote freshness, cleanliness, and relaxation. All words that women think of while menstruating (not).According to a New York Times piece women who use pads versus tampons have a different attitude about their periods. Which leads me to….

Yesterday I was alerted by @mhueter to a TV ad for Tampax in which Serena Williams takes on Mother Nature in a tennis match. When I first saw it, I wasn’t sure if it was hysterically funny and clever or super sexist. After watching it a few times, I’m going with the former. I love this ad! I love it because it uses humor to connect with women, rather than try to sell the idea of sanitary freshness regarding the process of menstruation (a rather mythical idea).

The Tampax ad uses strength, athleticism, physical activity, trash talking, and female athletes to promote a very different message to girls and women, than do the Always ads. The Always ad closely mirrors outdated gender stereotypes which were packaged and sold to women in the 1950’s, while the Tampax ad is a contemporary re-brand that females can do anything…and are not slowed down or marginalized by menstruation. I’m sure others out there find the video offensive, or as one colleague said “insipid”, but I’m sticking with funny. Sometimes one must put her critical lens aside and lighten up. Excuse me while I go watch it again. Game, Set and Match to Tampax 6-0, 6-0.

Dara Torres v. Tom Watson: One for the Ages

With the near win of Tom Watson at this year’s British Open, much talk arose around his age (59!) and his potential to win his 6th title at Turnberry. It reminded me of similar age x performance dialogue around then 41 year-old Dara Torres in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Both athletes have accomplished much in their respective sports: Watson (8 major championships, 6th on the list of total major championship victories, and the oldest male golfer to almost win the British Open or any other major championship), Torres (first-ever 5 time US female Olympic swimmer, 10 medals- 4 gold, oldest female swimmer to make the Olympic Team after an 8-year hiatus). Both have accomplished feats when most opine them “too old”. Kudos!

Torres v. WatsonBut what I find interesting is how differently the media constructs the gender x age x performance narrative of Watson and Torres. Here are a few thoughts:

1. The media portrayed that fans WANTED Watson to win and were sad when he didn’t. For Torres the message was people would be surprised if Torres won, and could claim “I knew it” when she didn’t.

2. There was nary a mention that Watson was a father (he has two biological children, and three stepchildren) during the British Open, but we heard NON-STOP that Torres was a mother of one.

3. Also missing from Watson’s British Open run was talk of if he was “competing fairly” or on performance enhancing drugs (although we did hear this drum beat about Lance Armstrong in the past, not for the 2009 Tour de France…yet. Wait until/if he wins then we can discuss.). Torres had to endure (and still does) constant questions about this issue.

4. The media was all-over Watson’s fairy tale near-win, but barely covered Torres’ 50 Free win earlier in the month at the US Swimming National Championships. With that win Torres will compete with the U.S. World Championship Team in Rome in late July-early August.

5. I did not see one picture of Tom Watson posed “sexily” and showing off his AARP body, while we did see picture after picture of Dara Torres in sexy, glammed up poses. Just type ‘Dara Torres’ into Google and hit “images” if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

The take-home messages for these common patterns in the media’s portrayals of female athletes….a near win for a man is valued more than a win for a woman; motherhood defines female athletes but fatherhood is seldom mentioned for male athletes; “old” competitive, winning female athletes are under suspicion as “cheaters” while when “old” men are in the hunt because they are hard working, talented and wily; the bodies of even “old” female athletes can be exploited and sexualized…and regardless, a male athlete’s performance will always be more media worthy than his female counterpart regardless of age. Come to think of it there are even gendered differences about how “old” is defined and constructed. “Old” for a male athlete is ~60 years while “old” for a female athlete is 40…

But don’t give up all hope…Dara Torres does have Tom Watson on one thing….she’s Got Milk?.