Thank you, Michelle Obama: In support of women and girls




Watch Michelle Obama’s wonderful speech – it is time to stand up for women and girls.



Sharing Locally

I just got back from attending the AVCA convention and NCAA Volleyball national championship.  There were some wonderful educational opportunities.  The part I really enjoyed was the informal networking opportunities with former assistant coaches and the mentors I had supported throughout the volleyball season.  Now I need to take time to get more involved in my local community.


Celia Slater from the Alliance of Women Coaches ( spoke at a reception about getting involved with the females coaches and administrators in your community.  She recommends starting a “loop group” to make sure we keep everyone supported while sharing ideas, successes and failures.  She suggests having a different topic for each gathering that will give the group a particular focus. It will be my New Year’s Resolution to work with our university (and another university in our community) to organize a monthly gathering for the women coaches in our surrounding area.  What will you do in 2013 to provide support for the women coaches in your area?


Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season!

Body image – are we distorting reality?

I recently read a blog where a woman said that she looks at her naked body in the mirror every morning and loves what she sees. She said that she does not have a particularly thin or athletic body, and that her body looks nothing like the girls’ bodies in magazines, but that she loves what her body does for her and embraces every curve, bump and blemish. When I asked a few of my girlfriends what they thought about their bodies, many of them were not incredibly happy with the way they looked and would like to change something if they could. Things are not very different in the United States: according to the American Psychological Association, 30-40% of Americans are somewhat unhappy with their appearance while another 45% may experience anxiety or depression due to dissatisfaction with their appearance.

But what or who do we compare ourselves with? Why do we have these perfect images in our minds; are we distorting reality?

We want to look like the images of models and movie stars in magazines, but these women are either part of a very small percentage of the female population who were blessed with “thin” genes; OR they are paid lots of money to look good on catwalks/in movies and therefore are able to afford dedicated personal trainers, dieticians, chefs and babysitters to ensure that they get into, or stay in shape.

This does not apply to most real women – many of us have full time jobs, families to care for, a demanding schedule and countless other priorities. Why do we then compare ourselves to images that are celebrated and endorsed by the media?

Moreover, we see that teenage girls are most at risk for comparing themselves with others. Puberty is a time when young people are particularly vulnerable to the media and often compare themselves with images of celebrities. It is also a time that they want to feel accepted by their friends and want to fit in; girls often think that looking more like the popular or pretty girls will make them feel better about themselves. This can lead to a dangerous spiral of excessive exercise and/or eating disorders.

We need to encourage women and girls to set their own realities and to stop comparing. If we want to look good we need to invest the time and energy needed – there is no quick fix or magic pill that will produce the results that we want; only our own dedication through training and eating a healthy diet. But when embarking on this journey, we need to ensure that we are setting healthy and achievable goals so as not to get discouraged if after two months we don’t have Elle Macpherson’s legs or Halle Berry’s body.

Body image

Are we distorting reality?

Sport and exercise is a wonderful way to be healthy, let alone the countless social and psychological benefits that comes with playing sport. Coaches should use this platform to encourage women and girls to practice self-acceptance and to embrace their bodies. Due to genetics, different body types and the demands of everyday life, all of us cannot be thin, BUT we can all be healthy. Instead of comparing ourselves to images in the media, we need to find our own standard of beauty and make that the norm. We owe it to our bodies to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, but above all:

Take pleasure in being alive and love yourself…including your body. Life is too short to obsess over immaterial external things that are fleeting and will fade away with time.

Tom Hanks Was Right…There’s No Crying In Sports

photo source

Here is Pet Peeve #249:  players that cry in practice.  You’re probably thinking, “oh Dawn, you’re so heartless, sometimes there’s a good reason for crying…stop being so mean!”  In my mind though, there’s never a reason to put self before team and that’s exactly what crying in practice or a game does.  Now, I’m not talking about tears that are the result of an injury or yay-we-just-won-the-championship tears…those are both acceptable reasons for crying in sports.  I’m talking about the tears that stem from frustration, anger, or just plain lack of knowledge as to how one’s behavior affects others.  Let’s look at why I have such a strong opinion about crying and what you should do when faced with a crier in practice.

4 Reasons Why Tears Aren’t The Answer

1.       It’s selfish. When a player cries in a practice or game, they’re saying that their interests are more important than the team’s…plain and simple.

2.       It’s distracting. When there’s a player that cries, the team and coach have a decision to make:  do we attend to the emotional player or do we get work done here at practice or our game?  That’s not fair!  Their teammates shouldn’t have to debate whether they’re being awful people just because they want to focus on the task at hand.

3.       It shows lack of respect. The crier doesn’t respect the work that the coach has put into practice planning, because we’ve got a time schedule to keep.  They don’t respect their teammate’s focus or desire to get better at practice.  And in turn, if it’s not nipped in the bud, the crier could lose the respect of their coach and teammates.

Continue reading  

The Women’s Side of the Glass Wall

In “The Glass Wall,” espnW and ESPN The Magazine writers Kate Fagan and Luke Cyphers discuss “a phenomenon researchers call ‘The Glass Wall.’ Women can see the thousands of jobs on the other side [men’s teams]. They just can’t get to them.”

The story opens with an image of Jody Runge – once a top women’s basketball coach at the University of Oregon – now the proprietor of a bed & breakfast.

“She won two Pac-10 titles and 70 percent of her games. She also fought for equality, demanding better practice times, fair distribution of gear, respect for her players and pay commensurate with that of her peers. She rocked the boat. And for her trouble, she says the administration tipped her overboard.”

With these credentials, one would think she’d be hired again in a heartbeat. Yet unlike her male counterparts who have job-hopped from various coaching positions, she was not able to find another position. Why?

“She repeatedly went to the administration with equality issues.”

“She demanded a share of the “prime” practice slot, 3 to 6 p.m.

“She refused to look the other way when the marketing department plastered Mac Court with life-size photos of men’s team members, but none of her squad.”

Aware of the risks she was taking, Runge sought advice of other highly successful female basketball coaches. Did they think she was doing the right thing? Were they prepared to stand behind her? NO. “They encouraged her to stand down.” They didn’t think that those battles were worth fighting, and the unfortunate reality is that they’re not.

The one sentence in this article that really baffles me is: “Many women, quite frankly, haven’t helped each other out.” How are things going to change if women don’t work together? As I think about my support system and the coaches and mentors I have met, at least three of them have all said that I should work at a school where the athletic director is female. However, this article shows that only 20% of athletic directors across all three divisions are women!

When Title IX was passed in 1972, “women coached more than 90 percent of women’s teams. By 1978, that number had already dipped to 58.2 percent. This year, it’s down to 42.9 percent, according to the most recent survey by Brooklyn College professors emerita R. Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter.”

Nicole LaVoi, associate director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sports [and one of our blog writers!], has conducted “research that shows that if young female athletes don’t see women in positions of power – as either head coaches or top administrators – they will be less likely to consider a similar career path.” Absolutely! But the statistics given above show a vicious cycle: if there are fewer women pursuing careers as head coaches and A.D.s, what will younger generations look up to? Furthermore, what if the advice we get is to take the safe road? How will we ever break this gender barrier? Our side of the glass wall needs more strength and power – through collaboration – before it can break through to the other side.

Work Cited

Fagan, K. & Cyphers, L. (2012). The Glass Wall: Women continue to shatter stereotypes as athletes. So how come they can’t catch a break as coaches? espnW and ESPN The Magazine. Retrieved from


Barriers to entry for Women & Girls in sport: Part II

In my previous blog I gave an overview of the different socio-economic and cultural barriers to entry for women & girls in sport. In this blog I will list various ideas and suggestions that can be (and have been) implemented in several sports organizations, clubs and schools across different continents that may help to increase the participation of girls in sports in your community.

  • Participation starts with awareness of sports in communities. Are girls aware of the sports programmes? Organize “come and try” weekends or evenings where girls can come to try out the programmes and meet the coaches.

    Be creative, think of new ways in which to involve girls in sport

  • Education of parents. By involving families, community leaders, and boys and men in gender education, changes to gender norms can benefit men and women alike. Organise mother and daughter and/or father and daughter sessions to help create a familial culture of support for sport, and to inform parents what benefits there are for girls in sport. Encourage the approval and support of parents.
  • Make sure all girls, regardless of skills or experience, get the chance to be an active part of activities and teams, and that they get regular game time. This will serve as an incentive to participate and attend training sessions regularly.
  • Ensure there are female role models in your facility, club or organization, both in terms of women staff, coaches, organisers and managers, and in terms of prominent publicity and images of sporting women and girls.
  • Focus on girls-only sports codes in developing countries like Netball, aerobics and dance: Make the girls feel special about “their” sport and forming part of their unique and trusted circle of friends/team mates.
  • Provide a range of activities and services, in addition to sport, to attract and retain more girls. Introduce non-traditional sports and physical activities (dance such as hip hop or modern) to encourage greater participation in programmes by girls.
  • Encourage girls through coaching sessions and competitions, by using incentives like certificates, T-shirts, posters and group photos, for everyone, not just those who perform best in the activity. Have quirky awards for teams and individuals.

Continue reading  

The 10 Essential Characteristics That Winners Must Possess

photo source

“I want winners!” –Mike Singletary, former Head Football Coach, San Francisco 49ers

Recruiting is any team’s lifeblood.  You need new people for different ways of looking at things, different skill sets, and to take your team to the next level.  Beyond the measurables, what makes one player a winner and another fall short?  If I knew the definitive answer to that one, I could retire in the south of France!  I’m sure most coaches and leaders believe that there’s more than just skill that contribute to making someone a winner.  Let’s use the book Values Of The Game by Bill Bradley to help shed some light on the intangibles that separate those who are just highly skilled from those who carry the qualities of a winner.

1.       Passion: A winner loves to play and they have fun playing, they’re what some coaches call gym rats.  No one to play with?  They’ll play alone…the opportunity of playing the sport brings them joy.

2.       Discipline: Winners follow the game plan.  Think about the running back that has to patiently wait for the offensive line to open up a hole…that’s discipline.  Winners understand that they need to not only discipline their bodies through practice, they also know that their minds need to be reined in through that same practice.

Continue reading