Arguing Cause As

The Decline of Women in Head Coaching Roles and Society

In the last 25 years, women in head coaching positions have steadily declined. There are several opinions on why this may have happened and many causes that may have had a helping hand in this situation. The main societal problem that has influenced women and coaching is the unequal opportunities given to women in sport and the stereotypes that continue to support these opportunities.
For centuries men have been viewed as the powerful gender and it has taken many trial and tribulations for women to gain rights let alone equality. When looking at the issue of women in sport some explanations may seem self-explanatory. Males have always been the higher power when it comes to sport. But why is that? Why can't women be just as powerful and just as capable of coaching a winning team? These are the issues that need to be addressed. The stereotypes need to be abolished and women must gain equality in the world of sports. It is clear that society is evolving to become a more gender equal world but why has this taken so long?

Before talking about the issues present in today’s society, let’s go back and look at how the world of sports started and evolved into what it is in modern day America. Kamphoff talks about sport and its patriarchal nature and defines patriarchy as “structured and ideological system of personal relationships that legitimates male power over women and the services they provide” (Kamphoff). Because so many college institutions are founded based off ideals and experiences of males, these institutions continue to evolve around the ideals of masculinity. The sport world thrives off of masculinity by idealizing toughness and competitiveness and highlights the abilities of everyone involved. Sports were invented and designed to separate the strong from the weak and to show who the toughest competitor was. Willis argues that women have two options in the patriarchal society of sport. First, to follow ideal stereotypes and sexualize themselves within sport, or second to attempt to defy the stereotypes and prove their own equality to men in the sports world (Theberge).

Women being allowed to participate in sport equally all started with Title IX in 1972. Title IX allowed women the same opportunities to play sports at the collegiate level as men, stating that there must be the same number of opportunities for women as there are men in sports at any given school or institution. This rise in female athletes also influenced a rise in female coaches. In 1972 the year Title IX was enacted, approximately 90% of head coaches were women (Kilty). However, this high percentage of women in head coaching positions has changed drastically. In 2006, 42% of head coaches were women, a near 50% decrease and less than 2% of head coaches of Men's teams were women (Kilty). So why the change? The United States Olympic Committee and NCAA have partnered to try and fix the issue of the decline in women coaching. An annual conference for women in coaching was started to address both the external and internal barriers that women in coaching face in today's athletic world.

In the conferences conducted by the NCAA and USOC for women coaches as mentioned before there was both difficulties and challenges discussed as part of being a women in a man's world, as well as steps that can be taken in order to help overcome these barriers. One of the barriers discussed was that women are assumed to be less competent in the world of sport. Growing up the saying, “You run (throw, skate, hit, etc) like a girl" was something that was very common when used to rouse a friend or teammate about not being good at a sport or other activity. Stereotypes such as this saying are one of the reasons women are seen as less powerful in the sport world. It is a gender stereotype that women cannot compete with men and that men will always be bigger, faster, and stronger than women. While anatomically and biologically this may be true in some aspects, the general mindset that women cannot be equal to men has created a problem in our society and has influenced the opportunities given to women in the coaching world. In a study conducted by the University of Minnesota on Head coaches in women’s collegiate teams it was found that there were 971 women’s team head coaching positions out of 86 different division I institutions (LaVoi). Of the positions offered, 40% went to females and 59.8% went to males. This may seem like an almost even split between women and men for head coaching positions until you take into account the positions also offered for male teams. Women coach less than 2% of all male collegiate athletic teams, which has been consistent for the last three decades (Kilty). Assuming these positions are available for both women and men applicants, this supports the gender stereotypes stating women are less capable of coaching and that men are more powerful and held to a higher standard in the sports coaching world.

Another aspect of women being looked upon as inadequate is the simple ideal of gender equality. It is wrong that just because of gender, coaches are being over looked by assumed lack of competence. Gender should not be a deciding factor when looking at hiring for positions. Thoughts such as "women are less intense" or "Men know more about sports" are common and support the gender inequality that our society is facing. Because sports were originally created for the heterosexual male, the role of masculinity and power will always be present and sports will more than likely always cater more towards male influence. However, being that it is the 21st century, women should no longer be under-represented and paid less for the same jobs that are also offered to men. There are some instances for example, where men are in fact paid less than women such as coaching a women's basketball team. But, on the flip side, the head coaching position salary for a men's basketball team doubles that of what the Women's head coaching position offers (Cunningham). Obviously Men's basketball teams bring in more revenue than a women’s team but the issue at hand is not the money, it is the opportunities that are available for men to take their own careers to the next level that is not available for women. Women are hired for 1 out of 10 Women's team head coaching positions each year and only 1 of 50 for a men's team head coaching position (Acoasta). One factor that was found to have an impact on the gender of the coach being selected was the gender of the Athletic Director. The gender of the athletic director directly correlates with the percentage of that specific gender being hired for a coaching position. For example, in 2002 for a Division I school with a Male athletic director (AD), only 44.4% of head coaches were female, whereas with a female AD 53.5% of head coaches were female (Acoasta). These statistics help back up the theory that gender does in fact play a role when deciding who is best fit for the job.

Another factor that plays a role into the gender of a coach is how challenging or different the sport is looking at male or female divisions. Sports like track or swimming can easily be coached by either gender since the dynamics for both males and females are fairly similar. In a study that interviewed 49 different women coaches, one coach stated “I got a call that it was time she had a man-"she's at that age where she will perform better for a man, she will learn better from a man because she needs that attention." It broke my heart. I thought, what is this? Needs a man? Really! Get a boyfriend.” This supports the ideal that women are not adequate enough in sports to coach at a high level. Society has taught athletes that once they are at a certain level, they should switch to a male coach because they are the ones who will allow them to succeed further. Personally, I find this completely false. As an 18-year-old female athlete, having a women coach who had the same experiences I had regarding recruiting and getting prepared to enter into the college world of athletics was extremely helpful. She had every ounce of knowledge I could have possibly needed to be a successful collegiate soccer player and I owe a lot of my skills to her although she had only coached me for one year. Experiences like this cant possibly be rare. Having a female or male mentor is a very important aspect in sports and adds other advantages to an athlete aside just from coaching well and winning.

Women in sports have come a long way since sports were created. It is pertinent to the continuation of women’s participation that the viewpoints of society change. Women can no longer be viewed as lesser than men. In order to reverse the decline in women coaching, women must fight to prove themselves as equal and society much change their opinions and forget the double standard that is present. If this issue is not addressed and women do not become more equal in coaching we will continue to have a male dominated society, which will have direct correlation with other aspects of society out side of sports. It is important to the development of athletes to learn the equality of women and men in the sporting world.

Works Cited
Acoasta, Vivian, and Jean Carpenter. Women in Intercollegiate Sport: A Longitudinal Study. Twenty Five Year Update, 1977-2002. University of New York, 2002. Web. Feb. 2015.

Cunningham, George B., and Michael Sagas. "Gender and Sex Diversity in Sport Organizations: Introduction to a Special Issue." Sex Roles 58.1-2 (2008): 3-9. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

Kamphoff, Cindra, PhD. Bargaining with Patriarchy: Former Women Coaches' Experiences and Their Decision to Leave Collegiate Coaching. Diss. U of North Carolina, 2006. N.p.: UMI Dissertations, 2006. Print.

Kilty, Katie. "Women in Coaching." Human Kinetics (2006): n. pag. Endicott College, 6 Mar. 2006. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

LaVoi, Nicole M., Ph.D. "Head Coaches of Women's Collegiate Teams." (2015): n. pag. University of Minnesota. Tucker Center for Research on Girl's and Women in Sport, Jan. 2015. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.

Theberge, Nancy. "Gender, Work and Power: The Case of Women and Coaching." Canadian Journal for Sociology 15.1 (1990): n. pag. Web. Feb. 2015.

Theberge, Nancy. "The Construction of Gender in Sport: Women, Coaching, and the Naturalization of Difference." (1993): n. pag. Web. Feb. 2015.

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