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8 Myths About Women Coaches; Including One About Title IX (USA)

Forbes Magazine

So, now that the number of high school and college female sports teams have substantially increased since Title IX passed in 1972, can we declare Title IX an unequivocal success in helping?girls and women achieve equal access to sports? Looking on the courts and playing fields suggest that this may be the case. Looking on the sidelines suggests otherwise. A closer look reveals that Title IX seems to have benefited more male coaches than female coaches. Well, that?s a plot twist comparable to the ending of?The Empire Strikes Backand the first of?8 myths about women coaches?.

Myth 1: Title IX has benefited female coaches more than male coaches.

Many have credited Title IX, a federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in education, for increasing access to sports for girls and women.?From 1970 to 2012, the number of females playing sports in high school and college increased more than ten-fold (approximately 16,000 to 200,000 for college and 294,015 to 3,173,549 for high school) and the number of women?s sports teams per college more than tripled, based on a study conducted by?R. Vivian Acosta, Ph.D., and Linda Jean Carpenter, Ph.D., J.D.,?professors emerita, Brooklyn College.?However, over the same time period, the percentage of college women?s teams coaching positions occupied by women dropped from 90% to 40%. You don?t have be a mathematics whiz to realize that this means male coaches have been hired at a much higher rate than female coaches to coach female teams.

Myth 2: Coaching is just a sports issue so there are other more important topics to discuss.

The overwhelming majority of high school and college athletes, regardless of gender, will never come close to making a living playing sports. (No, fantasy football doesn?t count.) Therefore, the biggest impact of coaches will be on the physical, psychological and emotional well-being of people who will assume other roles such as parents, artists, programmers, lawyers, teachers, doctors, models, modelers, hedge fund managers, hedge clipper salespeople and any combination of roles (such as a Ninja Cardio-Thoracic Surgeon Poet?as mentioned by model-activist Cameron Russell). Coaches catch people in their formative, impressionable years (which, for me, were known technically as the ?stupid years?).?Good coaches can help instill healthy habits?(that can help prevent obesity and a variety of chronic diseases) and self-image. Bad coaches can do the reverse.

During a panel in New Orleans on September 18, moderated by Tom Farrey with Allyson Felix, Deuce McAllister, Kelly Clark and Tonya Antonucci at the Female Youth Retention in Sports Panel featuring Allyson Felix, Deuce Mcallister, Kelly Clark and Tonya Antonucci on September 18, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images for Laureus)

Myth 3: Why bring up this issue, when women have made strides in coaching men?s teams?

Yes, there?s Becky Hammon, who is an assistant coach for the National Basketball Association?s San Antonio Spurs. There?s also Becky Hammon. And Becky Hammon as well. (Did I mention Becky Hammon?) Jen Welter also recently completed an internship as an assistant coach for the National Football League?s Arizona Cardinals. And in collegiate sports, only 2% to 3% of men?s teams are coached by women. So, let?s not exaggerate some exceptions.

Myth 4: There are not enough qualified female candidates for coaching positions.

Last I checked, for the past several decades, female high school and college sports teams have consisted mainly of females, resulting in a large potential pool of coaching candidates. Unless most of these women are too busy serving as Standard & Poor (S&P)?500 CEOs,?which is less than 5%, or?female superhero leads in television and movies?(which at last count was two, maybe three), a great number are probably still available to serve as coaches. In fact, the pool of available female candidates may extend beyond former players since many successful male coaches never played at the level that they coached. For example, Duke football coach David Cutcliffe, winner of the?2013Walter Camp Coach of the Year award, never played college football. Over 80% of current NFL head coaches as well as coaching legends Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, and Paul Brown never played in the NFL. Lawrence Frank, former head coach of the New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons and current assistant coach for Los Angeles Clippers, did not even make his high school basketball team.


Myth 5: Women do not have the personality or the abilities to be coaches.

Women can?t use men?s bathrooms. But that?s only because of the signs and maybe by choice. Otherwise, there?s too much emphasis on supposed differences between the genders. Can we once and for all dispel the notion that any particular gender (or race or ethnicity) is better or different in leading others, whether it is coaching, running an organization or acting?

Myth 6: Women do not like to coach.

Yes, and women love the color pink and don?t like spiders. While we are at it, all Irish people love potatoes, all Italians talk like the?Goodfellas, all Asians are nice and meek and everyone from New Jersey is just like the TV show?Jersey Shore. The more you experience in life the more you realize how few stereotypes really hold.

Myth 7: Women have equal access to applying for open coaching positions.

No, you don?t just go to on to LinkedIn or or send a resume to get coaching positions. Just because a position is advertised doesn?t mean there?s open competition. Athletics directors and general managers already have their ?short lists? when they broadcast a coaching vacancy. Grooming of a person for a leadership position can occur many years before that person actually assumes the position. And not everyone has access to that grooming process.

Myth 8: Female athletes respond better to male coaches than female coaches.

Firstly, as above, not all women are the same. Yes, there are women who currently do not want a female coach. But how many women really feel that way?and how much of these feelings is due to conditioning? Similar to?race and ethnic biases, with more examples of and familiarity with women?s coaches, such biases may change. And seeing more diversity in sports leadership roles (as well as stronger roles on television) could convince more to play sports.

So, all of this does not deny that Title IX was a successful blockbuster. However, just as?Return of the Jedi?and?The Force Awakens?followed?Star Wars, (and even a Jedi needs a good mentor), to really extend the potential health benefits of sports to the entire population, sequels are needed (just don?t include Jar Jar Binks or Ewoks).

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  1. Ute Scholl


    It is sad to hear that these misconceptions are still perpetuated. Just incidentally the same myths are perpetuated about women in Sports and Exercise Medicine. It feels sometimes that in both disciplines women are classed as second rate.

  2. Devin


    As a former college athlete and college coach (and a female) I love to see the push to bring more women into coaching. However, the biggest issue I have seen (first-hand) is one that is rarely addressed. To get into (I will speak about college as that is my background) coaching, you have to grind. Begin as a volunteer or a low level paying job (video coordinator, etc..) which for many means working a second job. I know one assistant who worked in a bagel store from 4am-9:30am in order to finance the lower level of a coaching job. Plain and simple…women don’t want to do that. Men are willing to sleep on a buddies couch, stay in some random person’s garage etc, while they grind and pay the dues in the lower levels. Or coach club sports then race across town in traffic and no food to make the college practice. I watched so many of my male friends do this. And so few of my female friends be willing to do it. So when the higher level paid assistant job opens up…who is the better candidate? The man who has spent 2 seasons working 2 jobs, coaching club, volunteering at the grunt work of a program or the woman who has just finished her eligibility and thinks she may want to coach? I interviewed one recent grad and told her the job open was to be an unpaid assistant, be at all practices and take on responsibilities like ordering the team meals, setting up charter buses and the like. She flat out told me she was unwilling to do that. Her answer “I was in the olympic team pool” Um ok. The man I hired to do that job (for free) is now a division one head coach.

    This is one story and my scope of friends is of course limited. But in all the discussion about why there aren’t more women’s coaches, I never see this addressed. In my hiring I have rarely (almost never) seen a woman more prepared (not that she wouldn’t make a good coach) than a man. He will have years of experience (a lot of it low level grunt work) compared to her 4 years of college and one year as a volunteer assistant as she finished her degree.

    If we truly want to help women we will tell them that to get the head coaching job one day means doing the work to make yourself the best candidate. That means pad your resume. Coach club COach two club teams. Work 2 jobs. Volunteer and supplement the income with another job. DO what it takes so when your resume is up against anyones you have put the work in.

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