FEARLESS COACH INTERVIEW PART 3; How can we change the culture in a department if the female coaches are being treated badly?


Meet Becky Carlson, the “Fearless Coach”  

Becky has been in NCAA college coaching (USA) for more than a decade and is passionate about not only Women’s NCAA Rugby, but is also an advocate for the health and welfare of our coaching population.  


As a public speaker, equality advocate and coach, Becky has grown tired of the abundance of resources for sport specific technical skill building and sitting at endless seminars only to be left with no solutions on how to survive in the profession of coaching with this generation.



Becky believes our athletes are losing their ability to communicate with each other and therefore, with us, the coaches.  Becky is interested in connecting and assisting other coaches who are challenged daily through this profession with today’s generation.


“Athletics / sports remains a staple in a long line of vehicles used to create social change. I am a firm believer that if we have truthful conversations with the next generation, both male and female about equity and treatment, we can solve unfair hiring and ethical practices in athletics / sports.  Ultimately this will lead us to a healthier society with both women and men having equal representation in law making, policy development and in the workforce. If you are having trouble as a coach finding your voice and asking for more, please connect with me. We can all learn from one another.”

Becky Carlson – Fearless Coach 


As “Fearless Coach”, Becky is often the first to stand up for female coaches alike and share stories and examples of women being mistreated and discriminated against within the US NCAA System.  We wanted to find out from Becky where her passion for equality advocacy began and how she thinks the coaching profession can be improved for all.

Follow Becky on Twitter @TFCoachCarlson and visit her website for more information: https://www.thefearlesscoach.org


Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing videos and blogs created by Becky, but first, we will be sharing with you our interview…if you missed PART 1 CLICK HERE





Q: How can we change the culture in a department if the female coaches are being treated badly.  Is it just a case of firing the abusive colleagues?


A: The toxic culture in an athletic department is not just one person.  It’s the allowances that we make to the person who brings the archaic mindsetand behaviors to the department. If a toxic Athletic Director leaves, the culture is still in place even though people think they have got rid of the problem, they haven’t.


You could get rid of Josh Berlo at UMD or Gary Bartaat Iowaand you could get rid of all these the leaders at Michigan state- but there are people waiting in line wanting to continue to lead the way they did and that culture continues.   That is what people don’t understandwhen they think a single firing fixes the issue.

Q: Do you think one of the ways of eradicating that negative culture as a whole is by making the department more diverse with female coaches etc?  Or is it a case of having to wait until the ‘old boys’ die out?


A: Let me compare that scenario of waiting for the ‘old boys’ to die out to a dynamic of a team culture; you have a team, and lets say you have a particular class (i.e. your juniors, seniors, freshman etc) that may have a fewwho have contrary ideas to the way they want the team to be led. I learned much about this from Mollly Grisham, who is the founder of a Person of Influence.


So let’s say you get pockets of push-backon your leadership, a few problem athletes not interested in following team rules, or just an absence of positive service to the team- and rather than wading through that quagmire of drama and trying to handle it you just say “I’ll just wait to graduate that class and things will be fineafter that” – that’s just like saying “we’ll just wait for these dinosaursin athleticsto die out and things will be fine in the department”.


The problem is that those juniors or sophomores will eventually become the seniorsand juniors, and they have learned from the older students how to behave.  So even though those graduated students aren’t around anymore, the lessons of how to create cultural unresthave been passed down to the juniors and the behaviour continues.


So that idea of just letting the toxic culture just age out, if you don’t deal with it in the moment, I don’t think it will ever change.  You just end up in a never ending cycle because others then hold on to those bad values.  You never know what people listen to and hold on to and what stays and what goes in terms of what they are absorbing from the leadership.


The point about making the departments more diverse is also a complex one. Part of the problem in the US right nowis the disconnect of ourfemale administrators.  Some of them are a group who have created a divide, because at the upper levels female administrators are trying to preserve their own longevity in athleticsinside the good ol’ boys club.It’s not an easy balance. They feel like if they don’t go along with the culture of the department, they will never progress, or keeps their roles. Climbingthe ladderin athletics doesn’t arrive by taking one for the team in supporting your female coaches, it arrives with submission, silence and helping departments keep their reputation in tact at all costs. Supportingfemale coaches is far less of a resume booster than hitching your wagon male leaders in positions of strength.


A lot of the coaches I talk to have more issues dealing with their supervisor who happens to be female, because that female is having to hang on to their position and maintain their seat.  Being compliant in the NCAA is one of the biggest ways to climb the ladder.


Yes, we can point fingers at the male athletics directors who are not hiring women, but you can also point fingers at the women who are not supporting those women who are in the industry.




If you are a coach in the NCAA…share your thoughts and experiences below (anonymously if you wish) and visit Becky’s twitter page for more information  @TFCoachCarlson 










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