In 1972, 90% of collegiate female athletes were coached by women. Today, women constitute approximately 40% of all head coaches for women’s teams and a meager 4.6% of all head coaches for men’s teams (Wilson, 2017). Today women make up approximately 40 % of all head coaches of women’s teams and a meager 4.6% of all head coaches of men’s teams (Wilson, 2017). Women’s athletics is growing, yet the number of women coaches are not growing with it.
In a study conducted by N.M. LaVoi & M. Wasend (2018), the authors looked at the ratio of men to women coaches for women’s teams at universities and colleges in the United States. Each school was given a grade between A and F based on their ratio. Schools with ratings of A or B were interviewed on how they attract female coaches and how they achieve longevity of their female coaches in the programs. The most common theme among these schools was support. They categorized this support as the 3 C’s: Care, Competence, and Choice. Learning from former mistakes, the athletic directors at these schools noticed that female coaches did not accept a position at the school or leave the program due to a lack of support in the areas of the 3 C’s.
Schools who were given grades of D’s or F’s found it difficult to balance the needs and wants of the program, in terms of staff diversity, with direction given by HR. Hiring women to coach women still seemed to be a priority to some of these schools but could they could not explicitly advertise for a female coach without exposing themselves to litigations . However, when an athletic director has the desire to hire a male coach for a men’s team, it is often assumed . It’s an expectation that a male should coach a men’s team.
As a new female coach, with fewer female mentors than male, it made me question why there were not more females in the profession. For example, why are there so few female coaches for women’s teams? What makes a great female coach? Why are women in coaching so important to young women in sport? I recruited two female athletes and coaches, who I greatly admire, to give further insight into the importance of women in coaching, particularly on women’s teams.
My first interview was with Camille Saxton-Crudup, a professional beach volleyball player and youth volleyball coach at the Volleydome in Calgary, AB. Creating job stability in a male dominated environment can be difficult for women and Camille says she wants to “be a female coach people can respect because it is harder for women to prove themselves as competent leaders”. Camille worked under Jr. National Team coach Gina Schmidt at Simon Fraser University as a mentee. At Simon Fraser, where she learned some valuable lessons on what it takes to be a great female coach.
“It is important to be consistent. Typical traits of women that people don’t generally associate with leadership qualities can be used to the advantage of women when coaching women’s teams. Being emotional can mean you are more understanding to the needs of your athletes.”
Many of the lessons and experiences, she has learned and understood from fellow female athletes and coaches helped shape her coaching philosophy.
“For young kids, it’s more about the joy of the game. I want to bring more people to the sport [volleyball] and to develop a lifelong love for activity. I want to teach them about life and make it a space for them to grow their confidence. I’ve also learned to make my expectations very clear at the beginning of the season, so I can be more lenient once that foundation of trust is in place.”
Ultimately, Camille wants to lead by example in that as a woman, you don’t have to quit being a competitive athlete or having the career of your dreams just because you became a mom. Women have the gift to be able to do both.
Experienced coach and former competitive artistic swimmer, Dr. Cari Din, had a very different outlook on women in coaching. Being part of a virtually all female sport, all her former coaches were women. It wasn’t until later that she realized how much she admired all the women who coached her. Role models had always been around her, even before she had acknowledged that.
The most important lessons Cari has learned from her years as a competitive athlete, from her coaches, and working alongside other great women in leadership positions are:
“…to be reflective enough to always be improving, to build a solid network of individuals from all different areas, to learn the things you find difficult, that how we lead, and influence others truly influences who we become, and to be comfortable and confident in your own skin.”
These lessons helped her shape her vision and philosophy as a coach.
“As a young coach, and new Olympic medalist, I was more about outcome and performance. Now I realize I was too much about that. Now my philosophy is more about learning and developing. Experience and formal learning helped change that.”
There are many valuable lessons young athletes, specifically female athletes, can learn from having coaches who understand their growth, needs, and experiences as a female athlete. Thus, a conclusion that may be made from formulating this article may be that as women’s athletics grow, the role of female coaches should grow alongside it.
LaVoi, N.M., & Wasend, M.K. (2018, July). Athletic Administration Best Practices of Recruitment, Hiring and Retention of Female Collegiate Coaches. Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, University of Minnesota.