Explaining the Scarcity of Female Coaches: Barriers Part I

One of my primary areas of research pertains to the many layers of barriers that influences the scarcity of female coaches at all levels. Given the percentage of female head coaches coaching females BARELY moved (in 2010 is was 42.6%, in 2012 it is 42.9%) in the most recent update of Acosta & Carpenter’s Women in Intercollegiate Sport (2012), increasing awareness of the complexity of barriers is important. When I do coach workshops I often hear from women they feel isolated, uncertain and perhaps discriminated against. They also feel helpless to create change, which often leads to burnout, lack of enjoyment and job satisfaction, and perhaps quitting coaching altogether.

In my series of blogs in 2012 (1st Monday of each month), I will outline a few different barriers so female coaches have increased awareness of the issues they may face, so that individual, social and organizational strategies to combat those barriers can be developed and implemented. At minimum, some female coaches won’t feel they are alone in experiencing and battling these barriers, which may provide some sense of comfort and support.

1. A great piece on espn.com covered the implications of homophobia and negative recruiting that plague women’s athletics and particularly women’s basketball. I thought this piece was very well done and lays out the complexities of the issue and how it may detract females, regardless of sexual orientation, from entering and staying in coaching, as I had wrote about in a previous blog.

STRATEGY: Do not tolerate or participate in negative recruiting or disparaging remarks about lesbians. For example, when I coached at Wellesley College, and all women’s institution, I experienced gender stereotyping and negative recruiting all the time. As a young, naive, recently married coach I didn’t recognize it for what it was. Parents would often say to me, “What kind of players do you have on your team, because we heard there are a lot of lesbians here.” The parents wanted me to reassure them this was not the case, so their daughter would be “safe” coming to Wellesley (i.e., not be surrounded by lesbian teammates and a lesbian coach). Once I learned about the insidious practice of negative recruiting, I would simply say to the parents, “If you are concerned that your daughter is going to be exposed to lesbians in college, then perhaps college is not for her, and particularly Wellesley, as we value diversity here.” Enough said. Ask your lesbian colleagues how you can help fight negative recruiting.

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