Tag Archives: NCAA Basketball

March Madness! Visible Women Head Coaches

Here is a different twist on March Madness 2015.

It is pure Madness! (in a good way) that:

  1. the ESPN coverage of the NCAA D-I women’s basketball tournament is well produced so that we can actually SEE these amazing female athletes and their coaches
  2. a majority of the head coaches of women’s basketball are women. In the Women in College Coaching Research Series, 62.8% of head coaches of women’s basketball in the 86 “big time” NCAA D-I schools (many of which are in the tournament) are women.

Based on the 2014-15 data in the Women in College Coaching Research Series, I took the remaining 2015 Sweet 16 teams and filled out the bracket based on the percent of women’s teams at that institution which had a female head coach (see Figure 1). With that data, Maryland and Florida State would be Co-National NCAA D-I Champions (coached by Brenda Frese and Sue Semrau respectively), due to the fact 54.5% of all their women’s teams at both institutions are coached by a woman head coach. Madness!

2015 WBB sweet 16 bracket
Figure 1. 2015 Women’s NCAA D-I Winner by Percent of Women Head Coaches of Women’s Teams by Institution

 

Madness! Of note, 13 of the Sweet 16 women’s teams (81.3%) have a female head coach–that is an over-representation of women head coaches for the best teams in the nation, than are found in women’s D-I basketball in general, given the stat I stated before (62.8%). The Sweet 16 stat is a really interesting stat in that 29 of 64 teams (45.3%) in the full bracket are coached by a female head coach. Based on the data, it appears the female head coaches are proportionately outperforming their male coaching colleagues and are represented in a larger percentage in the Sweet 16, than the initial pool of women coaches in the bracket. More Madness!

And there are many other competent women head coaches represented in earlier rounds, such as Princeton coach Courtney Banghart, whose undefeated 31-0 team lost to Maryland in a hard fought game which was written about by USA Today columnist Christine Brennan.

To break the tie and declare a national champion, we (thanks Marnie Kinnaird!) looked at the gender composition of the coaching staffs for the Sweet 16 women’s basketball teams (see Figure 2 below).

We weighted the score by position, if a woman occupied the position a school earned the following points: Head Coach = 3pts, Associate (Head) Coach = 2pts, Assistant Coach = 1pt. Males in any position earned zero points. We counted only 4 coaching positions for each institution (except for UNC who had 5).

Based on the data in Figure 2, Notre Dame and Arizona State tied for the “win” with 8pts each (due to the fact both programs have 2 Associate Coaches, which are weighted more heavily than an Assistant Coach, therefore giving them the lead), and Stanford and Iowa tied for second place with 7pts each. Notwithstanding Notre Dame, Arizona State, Stanford and Iowa share an interesting stat–the coaching staff is comprised of all women.

Meaning 4 of the Sweet 16 teams (25%) are coached by all women–prime examples of women mentoring women. Madness! 

2015 Gender Composition of Coaching Staff for Women's Sweet 16 Women's Basketball  Teams
Figure 2. 2015 Gender Composition of Coaching Staff for Women’s Sweet 16 Women’s Basketball Teams

 

This data did not break the Co-National Champs tie…both Maryland & Florida State had 5pts! (mini madness!)

Seeing powerful, successful female role models, athletes and coaches, on TV matters!

It provides proof that women can be successful at the highest levels in the coaching profession. It provides visibility to young girls and women who aspire to play college athletics and who may aspire to continue following their love and passion in sport by coaching. It provides evidence and gives boys and young men a picture that women can be, and are, leaders. So thanks to ESPN and espnW for providing excellent coverage, content and production value, so that these amazing women athletes and their coaches can be seen for the role models they are. So here’s to more Madness!

p.s.-If you have an idea on how to break the tie between Maryland and Florida State, tweet me @DrSportPsych

 

Bobby Knight’s Validation is not Needed or Wanted for Women’s Sport

This weekend I enjoyed watching many Regional games for the NCAA Women’s College World Series (WCWS) on ESPN and BTN. I love watching the array of talented female athletes getting prime time TV coverage, as it so rarely happens! Sport media coverage of the WCWS seems to be expanding and improving in production quality. One step forward!

However, why does ESPN air interviews of Bobby Knight discussing his appreciation of women’s sport during women’s sport broadcasts? One step back ↓  I saw his softball segment aired at least twice over the weekend, and he also appeared in ESPN segments during the 2013 Women’s NCAA Basketball March Madness and Final Four programming discussing Brittney Griner.

I thought it offensive during the basketball tournament, but when he appeared again during the WCWS it really made me pause…and then it made me outraged. Bobby Knight is no fan or advocate of women’s sport or women in general.  Why do I find this offensive?

1-forward-2-back1. in 1988 in an interview with Connie Chung, Knight stated, “I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it”  (NOTE: He was not sanctioned nor fired from his post as head men’s basketball coach at Indiana for his comment)

2. Despite his coaching record and reverence by some, he has a history of abusive behaviors toward athletes that are well documented. While he did not coach women, his abuse of male athletes should not be overlooked or forgotten. There are PLENTY of coaches, male or female, to interview that are real advocates of women’s sport and treat their athletes with care and respect. Why give a controversial coach a voice? Why give Knight any airtime during the two most important and premiere college women’s sport events that are broadcast on ESPN? (I’ll come back to this momentarily)

3. In early 1989 shortly after Knight’s rape comment, my college tennis coach at Gustavus Adolphus College ‘arranged’ (i.e., we stalked Knight in 2 hotel lobbies until midnight waiting for him to return post game, and then our coach pounced on him and convinced him to talk to his team) for our team to ‘meet’ Knight after Indiana played Minnesota here in Minneapolis. None of us wanted to meet Knight as we were well aware of his comment and one of our teammates had been raped the year prior. The thought of facing Knight was traumatic for her and angering to the rest of us. Knight reluctantly agreed and we were treated to a short ‘pep talk’ that included offensive comments like, “Girls shouldn’t play sports like basketball because they don’t look feminine – just sports like tennis where they run around in skirts and look cute” and “female athletes should look like females when they play and wear some make-up, like lipstick and nail polish.” If you knew my teammates, all amazing and strong women, it is unfathomable how Knight escaped that night unscathed. It remains to date one of our most memorable moments as a team. I know his offensive comments and dismissive behavior in part shaped who I am today, and what I do…trying to make a difference in the lives of girls and women through sport.

I am offended due to my personal experience with Knight in addition to his historical record of disregard for women. Here is what is bothering me today: Why would ESPN give Knight airtime during the two most important and premiere college women’s sport events shown on TV? Why does his voice matter in the landscape of women’s sport? What does it say that a major sport network continues to give Knight airtime and treat him with respect when he has a history of abusive behavior as a coach? (especially in light of the Mike Rice/Rutgers coach abuse scandal, where you could argue Rice’s behavior is an emulation of Knight) What does it say about ESPN and their value of and commitment to respectful coverage of women’s sport? Who decided Knight should be interviewed and what criteria did he use? ( I say ‘he” because a large majority of positions of power in sport media are held by men)

In short, giving Knight airtime during premiere college women’s sport events marginalizes female athletes and is offensive to those who are true fans. It sends the message that women’s sport needs a powerful and (arguably) successful male figure to validate its existence. Women’s sport and female athletes do not need, and I would argue by and large do not WANT, Bobby Knight’s validation or appreciation. The whole thing feels patriarchal and patronizing.

Sport and media are inextricably linked–what is communicated (and not) to audiences is important, and this is no exception. Knight appearing on ESPN when he did is about preserving and perpetuating male power and privilege in the world of sport. What better way to undermine amazingly talented female athletes who are the best in their respective sport, playing on ESPN in prime time, than to interview someone with a history of disrespect for female athletes and women in general.

Two steps back… ↓↓

 

 

Female vs. Male Basketball Players: No Comparison Needed!

I just read another great column by espnW writer Kate Fagan regarding discussion about  Brittney Griner’s possible tryout for the NBA. In her column, Fagan argues that Griner, or any other female BB player, could not compete in the NBA and gives her rationale by pointing out that, “…now everyone is once again measuring female ballers in relation to their male counterpart. These constant comparisons do little more than reinforce the notion that the women are somehow second-class players, instead of world-class in their own right.” 

AGREE!!

However, I want to enter a few friendly counterarguments to Fagan’s column. I say ‘friendly’ because I want to state that Fagan is one of the very few sport journalists that write about women’s sport thoughtfully and from a critical perspective. I greatly welcome, appreciate and admire her perspectives and in a space greatly in need of diverse voices.

comparison.quoteMy contention: The comparison being made matters.

Fagan makes the point that the best female BB players cannot compete with the best male BB players. This statement however serves to reinforce the viewpoint of gender as two distinct and opposite binaries, and that the only (or certainly the most important) comparison that matters is between elite athletes as the highest levels. Highlighting this comparison further reinforces female athletes as second class citizens–the very notion that Fagan is trying to argue against! It sets up the idea that the NBA is the norm by which female athletes are compared against.

What is not articulated in Fagan’s piece or elsewhere, is that  MANY females routinely outperform many male athletes in basketball and other sports.  I’m sure there are many college male BB players that have not dunked 12 times during a game in their careers, as did Griner. There are also many males who have not dunked as many times (if any) as the male dunk leader (For the NBA, Blake Griffin is the dunk leader. I couldn’t find stats for most college dunks). The key point here is range of difference in performance is far greater between males, than between males and females. But we never hear about these comparisons. If we discussed performance as a continuum (See Kane, 1995), rather than a binary, it may help resist against constructing female athletes as inferior.

Fagan also states, “Game recognizes game, and the best players know that the main difference between the men and the women is something completely out of their control: a threshold for athleticism bestowed upon them at birth.”

Unfortunately when a “biology is destiny’ argument is used, it is used against women as difference = less than, and again reinforces female inferiority.

What Fagan does say and is ultimately the MOST important point to highlight is that women’s basketball and female ballers should be appreciated for their athleticism….period. No comparison needed!!

College basketball players are arguably the most visible and popular female athletes in college sport, and thus have great potential to change the way society views female athleticism. Celebrate and enjoy, rather than compare, women’s basketball.

Also read Jemele Hill’s espnW piece “The false promise of the NBA” on this topic, also good!

 

Old School Coaching Has No Place

March Madness takes on a whole new meaning when you watch this Outside the Lines video about the Rutgers head men’s basketball coach, Mike Rice. I find this video hard to watch and appalling. What is more appalling is that Rice has not been fired for his abusive behavior and sexist and homophobic language (update 4/3/2013 Rice has been fired). This type of old school coaching behavior should be just that…Old School.Old_School

Coaches have the responsibility to treat their athletes with respect and care, as human beings, not just as cogs in the performance machine. I think you can learn a lot about a coach by watching him/her on the sidelines and by listening to what he/she says.

What is the demeanor of the coach? How do they act under pressure in the most contested moments? How do they act when they are winning versus losing? Are their athletes paying attention in the huddle and looking engaged? Do the athletes look like they are listening to the coach intently or blowing him/her off with disregard? What is the body language and facial expressions of the athletes and of the coach? How are the assistant coaches involved in the game? How does the head coach treat the assistant coaches? How does the coach treat the officials? How does the coach react to mistakes by athletes? How does the coach explain losses and wins? Do the athletes embrace the coach after wins and seek him/her out after losses?

If you watched the OTL video and Google Image search Mike Rice it will paint a picture of what a coach should not do and look like.

On the contrary, last night I watched the Cal Bears Women’s Basketball Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb, coach her team to their first-ever NCAA Final Four last night with grace.  I was impressed by this young coach. She didn’t yell or act abusively toward athletes, officials or assistants. She coached. Her Google Image Search tells a very different picture of teaching, calmness under pressure, care, fun, enjoyment, pride…what coaching should look like.

I hope that the New School and face of coaching begins to look much more like Gottlieb and others like her, and that taxpayers who pay the HIGH salaries of coaches like Rice become outraged and less tolerant of abusive behavior toward young people.

updates:

Women’s Basketball Coaches By the Numbers

With March Madness and basketball on the minds of many, I thought I’d provide a “by the numbers” analysis of coaches of women’s basketball. In previous blogs I have outlined, in part, the many barriers female coaches face in entering and staying in coaching at all levels (to read click here and here). Two writers for espnW, Fagan and Cyphers, published an in depth story on this topic titled The Glass Wall: Women continue to shatter stereotypes as athletes. So how come they can’t catch a break as coaches?” that is worth a read.

The 20111 WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve in an article by Fox Sport North, discussed her desire to see more female head coaches in the league. When the WNBA formed in 1997, seven of the eight head coaches were women. Today, the league boasts two all-female staffs, in Indiana and Los Angeles, and six of the 12 head coaches (50%) are women. Of the 33 total coaches, 21 are women, and there are no all-male staffs. The writer of this article makes an interesting point–successful female coaches in the WNBA have primarily been mentored by NBA experienced male coaches. Now female coaches like Reeve can provide visible role models and mentor other females who desire to coach at the professional level.

At the collegiate level some interesting patterns also arise. According to Acosta & Carpenter’s 2012 Women in Intercollegiate Sport Report, basketball is the sport most commonly offered on college campuses and 6 of 10 (60%) of women’s basketball teams are coached by females. This is interesting because only 42.9% of female college athletes in all sports are coached by a female. At the most elite level, the percentage of female head basketball coaches is even higher.

In the Women’s NCAA I basketball tournament, in the Elite 6 of 8 (75%) teams were coached by a female head coach. In the Final Four 3 of 4 (75%) teams were coached by a female head coach. In the championship game both teams (100%) will be coached by a female head coach-Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame, and Kim Mulkey of Baylor.

Is this proof that females are ultimately more successful coaching females when given the opportunity? Is this a sign of the times that the percentage of female head coaches in women’s sport is on the rise? Or is it just a unusual year that makes it seem like the glass ceiling/wall is cracking when it really hasn’t?

Regardless of how you may answer these questions, having McGraw and Mulkey coaching against each other in the NCAA Championship game provides visible role models for young girls and women who aspire to coach, communicates that females can be successful at the highest levels of women’s sport, and helps change gender stereotypes that females are not as competent as their male counterparts.

NOTE: Read a NYT article about pay disparity between head coaches of men’s and women’s basketball. It statesFor Division I basketball, the median salary for coaches of a men’s team in 2010 was $329,300, nearly twice that of coaches for women’s teams, who had a median of $171,600. Over the past four years, the median pay of men’s head coaches increased by 40 percent compared with 28 percent for women’s coaches.” To read full story click here.

2 Important Firsts in Sport for Marginalized Groups

1. Afghanistan is poised to get their first national women’s team. The sport will be cricket and the Afghanistan Cricket Board feels cricket will allow the women to play a sport but remain consistent with Islamic tradition and values. To read more about the team click here.

2. This weekend a historic basketball game will be played here at the University of Minnesota’s Best Buy Classic. Kye Allums will be the first transgender athlete to play a NCAA D-I basketball game. He is a Minnesota native and I think it quite fitting he play this historic game in his home state. In light of the new report released a few weeks ago on transgender athletes, perhaps Allums courageous will help forward dialogue and policy. To read the original article on OutSports.com that broke the story click here.

Observations from the 2010 Women's Final Four

As I’m watching the Men’s Final Four Final on TV, I have a few observations to share from my recent return from the Women’s Final Four in San Antonio. Both are related to Baylor’s Brittney Griner.

Play Like a Girl T-Shirt from SOOZN Design and Print

First, it was my week of meeting enterprising women that own their own companies. I was sitting on the Riverwalk before the semi-final games and fans of all the teams (Baylor, Stanford, UConn, OK) were filing by. There were even some lost Tennessee fans for some reason. Anyway, a couple women walked by with a great T-shirt that said “Play Like a Girl”. I had to get a picture of it, so I ran after them (see pic). The t-shirt is by SOOZN Design & Print. The shirt plays off of Griner’s ability to dunk. I asked the co-owner Susan Loftus (pictured on left with friend Jacky Howell) why make this shirt? She answered they were disgusted with the lack of t-shirts that pictured female athletes in action, that looked authentic and represented an accurate portrayal of athleticism. I thought to myself “Wow”…we need more women like this making sportswear. They were gracious enough to let me take their picture. This is a perfect example of many things: 1. women ARE sports fans, 2. many fans desperately want to see real representations of female athletes, and 3. female business owners can help create change by making products the giant sportswear makers don’t want to make, didn’t think to make, or don’t care enough to make.

The second occurrence happened while I was at the airport gate and overheard a conversation between two high school girls. These two were returning home after playing in the WBCA High School All-America Game. where one of them had met and talked to Brittney Griner. She talked for a good 20 minutes about her conversation with Griner in which she over and over again iterated how “nice” Griner was. She couldn’t believe Griner would care enough to talk to them for that long. It sounded like Griner genuinely took the time to answer her questions, and spend time with she and her teammates. It was obvious what an impression Griner made on this young woman, and I’m guessing on countless others. The girls asked Griner how she dealt with all the media attention and being accused of looking like, sounding like, and playing like a boy. Griner told them something to the affect of… “I can’t control what other people say. I just focus on myself and my basketball”. This also made quite an impression–What a great take away message! I do think Griner will help change and grow women’s basketball just as UConn has set the bar for what the future of women’s basketball will look like. Both are redefining what “Play Like a Girl” means and looks like…unapologetic athleticism.

Critique of 2010 March Madness Sports Illustrated Cover

Sports Illustrated 2010 March Madness Cover

I love March Madness. Every year I wait for the March Madness cover of Sports Illustrated. Every year I do a critique of the cover. Now that I have a blog, I can post the critique for the first time as I started this blog post March Madness in 2009 (April 5, 2009 to be exact). Here are the results of this year’s cover(s) [there are 4 versions of the March Madness cover this year]. The major point in this critique is to demonstrate that male power and dominance in sport is reproduced by the images portrayed and selected on this one cover. An equally important point is that women’s basketball, female coaches, female referees, and female sport fans are literally erased, marginalized and portrayed as secondary to team mascots.


RESULTS:

  • 1 giant male basketball player dunking a basketball (all 4 covers are of males dunking, despite the fact that Baylor’s Brittney Griner is well known for the fact she can dunk, thus it would of been feasible to feature a well known regional FEMALE player dunking)
  • 2 male referees
  • 3 cheerleaders (2 of which are discernibly female)
  • 4 fans (3 of which are male, the 4th is not discernible)
  • 5 coaches–ALL of whom are male, and I think they are all coaches of men’s teams. This is despite the fact UConn Head Coach Geno Auriemma’s team is on a very long winning streak (74 and counting as of 3/28/10) and is been touted as the BEST women’s basketball team ever.
  • ~9 female basketball players (2 of which are almost not discernible as one positioned under the giant dunking male’s player right foot who I think is UConn’s Maya Moore and one player from Texas(?) is under his gluteus maximus, otherwise known as one’s buttocks)
  • 16 Mascots
  • A LOT of male basketball player (roughly I counted ~77…~8 times the number of female athletes portrayed. I’m pretty sure the ratio of male to female basketball players in the NCAA is not 1:8. In fact, according to NCAA research the 2007-08 numbers are 15,307 women and 17,081 male basketball players)

The NBA.com Dance Bracket?

When a student (nice find EH!) sent me this blog post “She Got Game Too: Is the NBA Dance Bracket’s Time Up?” by Sarah Tolcser (@ticktock6).  At first glance I thought the blog was about  “The Dance”…like as in, NCAA March Madness. I was mistaken.

This blog post is about the NBA.com Dance Bracket 2010, which I had no idea even existed…did you? If you click on a Dance Team logo, for example the Luvabulls (yes…roll eyes at the name) you will see pictures of the dancers so that you can appropriately vote. I couldn’t find any criteria for what I’m supposed to be voting for, so I’m guessing it is a vote for the best dancers?

Tolcser makes some GREAT points about the NBA’s confusion about how to market to female fans. She writes, “The answer is not more pink jerseys. Things like, as a member of a growing class of unmarried women ages 25-44,”family friendly” promotions and cute distractions on court during the game entice me no more than they entice male fans. Things like, some of the advertising spots from your own sponsors have sexist overtones that make me uncomfortable. Things like, when I go to your official website and see scantily-clad girls on the front page, I can’t help feeling that the NBA is not meant to be “for me.” WELL SAID!

Females comprise a growing, and predominately untapped, market of sport fans. In a previous blog about female sport fans, I summarized the statistics about the percentage of women that attend professional sport events.

I’m joining Tolcser (@ticktock6) in challenging the NBA and other professional sports to ask their female fans–what can we do for you?!  Who’s in?

3/25/10 addition: Tolscer just added another great blog on the “Body Shot” contest the Memphis Grizzlies are currently running pertaining to their dancers The Grizz Girls and their “preparation” for the NBA.com Dance Bracket. It just keeps getting better…it certainly is MARCH MADNESS!!