Why We Need More Female Coaches

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It’s no secret that American girls are crushing it right now in professional working. Take Desiree Linden, Shalane Flanagan, Molly Huddle, and Jordan Hasay. But if you take a look at their coaches, you would possibly discover a development: They’re all males.

It’s a small pattern measurement, however it displays the bigger demographics of monitor and discipline. Nearly all of the coaches of one of the best U.S. runners are male. It’s not a problem that’s usually mentioned, however the sample has prompted some curiosity about why extra girls aren’t taking teaching positions—and the way the tradition and dynamics within the sport would possibly shift in the event that they did.

There are many interconnected causes for this gender disparity, however for starters, girls don’t have a lot of a pipeline into the career. According to a 2018 study by the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport and the Alliance of Women Coaches, within the 2017–2018 seasons, simply ten girls held head monitor and discipline teaching positions at NCAA Division 1 faculties, in comparison with 83 males. And the numbers aren’t a lot better for cross-country: 17 girls and 86 males. The examine graded every sport based mostly on the variety of girls in teaching positions—cross-country and monitor and discipline each earned Fs. (Field hockey scored the very best, with feminine coaches in 97.5 p.c of the roles).

Below the NCAA degree, the stats aren’t nice both. The “2017 State of Play” report from the Aspen Institute discovered that simply 28 p.c of youth coaches in all sports activities throughout the nation are girls. Since teaching is a male-dominated career on the decrease ranges, it’s no shock that it’s much more troublesome for ladies to interrupt into the higher tiers.

“Title IX has been around almost 46 years now, so if there aren’t a lot of women coaches in track and field, there’s no intentionality of creating opportunities,” says Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a three-time Olympic champion in swimming who’s now a civil rights lawyer and the CEO of Champion Women, a corporation that gives authorized advocacy for women and girls in sports activities. “Somebody dropped the ball—[track and field] is one of the most popular sports in the country. There’s no shortage of people with interest and expertise that should enable them to get into coaching.”

The downside begins with a scarcity of entry to open positions. Most of the hiring for these jobs is finished by males, which might be one other impediment for ladies who need to enter the sector, says Caryl Smith Gilbert, director of monitor and discipline on the University of Southern California, who in 2015 was the primary girl to win the Pac-12 Men’s Coach of the Year title.

“They fill [coaching roles] with who they’re comfortable with, and a lot of people don’t believe women are capable of the job,” she says. “It shouldn’t be a gender issue. Either you hire the best coach or you don’t. You have to be open-minded and you have to be forward thinking. We bring the same skills as men do. I also think we’re very attentive to detail. We talk through things to get to solutions. I don’t think there are that many things that separate us.”

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Caryl Smith Gilbert (Courtesy Dave Tuttle)

The sample can be self-perpetuating: Women have a scarcity of networking alternatives and fewer mentors, they expertise gender discrimination, and the calls for of the job (touring, night practices, recruiting, and 24/7 accessibility to athletes) usually aren’t conducive to having a household.

Smith Gilbert, whose girls’s staff not too long ago gained the 2018 NCAA out of doors title, is without doubt one of the solely feminine coaches within the highest place at a D1 program. She attributes a lot of her success to the help of her husband, former NFL linebacker Greg Gilbert, who holds down the fort at residence with their 3 sons when she is away—and who has additionally been keen to maneuver across the nation as she has taken on new jobs to advance her profession.

“A lot of men don’t believe a woman should have this role, so they don’t support their wives being the ones who travel while they’re the stay-at-home dads,” Smith Gilbert says. “Most of the reason women don’t last is because they’re not able to juggle personal life and professional life. You have to learn how to blend it. It’s not easy.”


Shayla Houlihan, head cross-country and assistant monitor coach at UC Berkeley, says that the lengthy hours, mixed with the decrease salaries monitor coaches earn in comparison with different sports activities, make it troublesome to entice extra girls to comply with her into the career. “Between three competitive seasons and a recruiting season in the summer, you have to find a way to manage that time,” Houlihan says. “You’re not getting paid very much, and you’re working 60 or 80 or more hours a week. You’ve really gotta love it.” (In 2016, the NCAA reported that high packages spent a mean of $103,000 on head monitor and discipline teaching salaries in comparison with greater than $2.2 million on head soccer coaches’ pay. The solely sports activities by which coaches earned lower than monitor and discipline had been fencing, rifle, and snowboarding.)

Houlihan acknowledged early on that she wished to pursue teaching. When she was an athlete on the University of Northern Iowa, her coach departed throughout her remaining yr of competitors, and she or he stepped in to assist lead the ladies’s staff whereas the college performed a search to fill the position. It modified the course of her profession.

“I was pursuing a business degree as an undergrad, and I thought about what I was going to need to set myself up for the future. I changed my major to exercise science and kept positioning myself to be able to pursue a coaching career path at the Division 1 level,” Houlihan says.

After finishing her grasp’s diploma, Houlihan competed as an expert runner for just a few years after which entered the job market in 2013. She landed an assistant teaching place at Cal, although she says it by no means occurred to her that she’d encounter extra challenges than her male counterparts. She realized shortly that may not be the case.

“Some people said that I didn’t deserve that job and the only reason I got it was because I’m female,” Houlihan says. “That was pretty hurtful, but at the end of the day, it didn’t stop me and it didn’t make me feel like less of a coach, because I was confident in what I was capable of doing.”

Houlihan now sees delicate methods by which she generally experiences the gender disparity in teaching. Like when individuals who don’t acknowledge her position in athletes’ accomplishments. “If I’m in a setting where Coach [Tony] Sandoval is with me, other coaches or spectators will come up and say congratulations to him but not me,” she says. “That happens quite often. Tony will say, ‘Those are Coach Houlihan’s athletes.’”

Houlihan credit her sturdy mentors as an instrumental a part of her success. Of course, all of the folks in place to play this position for her had been males—underscoring the significance of male coaches intentionally serving to girls advance within the career. Sandoval, director of monitor and discipline at Cal, promoted Houlihan after 3 years in an assistant place.

“Coach Sandoval has given me so much autonomy and let me create what I want to create with our program,” Houlihan says. “He has been a great proponent of females in coaching. Having a mentor is huge, especially navigating this male-dominated world.”

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Shayla Houlihan (Kelley Cox/KLC Fotos)

That’s additionally why Shalane Flanagan, the 2017 New York City Marathon champion, feels ready to show to full-time teaching for the Bowerman Track Club after she retires from skilled working. She says she by no means would have considered making the leap with out the help she’s obtained from Jerry Schumacher and Pascal Dobert, her different Bowerman coach.

“That’s a big factor in why I feel confident attacking this goal,” Flanagan says. “That might be limiting other women from coaching at the professional level—a lot of them may not feel like they have mentors. I’ve been taught throughout the years, specifically with Jerry, observing and asking questions, kind of grooming me toward this because I expressed interest in it.”

When the time comes, Flanagan can be among the many few feminine coaches guiding the careers of Olympic athletes. She’s additionally in a uncommon place—Nike is keen to pay her to educate. In monitor and discipline, many athletes not related to a coaching group just like the BTC choose their very own coaches and are accountable for understanding particular person cost agreements. Some professional coaches—who are sometimes additionally working as NCAA coaches—present providers free of charge or little cash in any respect, making it troublesome for anyone to make a residing.

Even a World Marathon Majors champion—and an Olympic silver medalist who’s been lauded for her position in creating the ladies’s BTC group—needed to forge her personal alternative to pursue a training profession path. “I don’t think there are a lot of companies out there recruiting women to these positions,” Flanagan says. “It’s not like Nike came to me with this job—I created it. I asked them to give it to me.”


Whether on the skilled or collegiate degree, Hogshead-Makar says that including extra feminine affect inside the sport is essential—not solely to advance gender fairness but in addition to offer a safer surroundings the place athletes can thrive. She says that in her analysis and consulting, she’s discovered that monitor and discipline has a big downside with male coaches getting romantically concerned with their feminine athletes, a violation of the Safe Sport Act that may usually harm girls’s careers.

Hogshead-Makar additionally believes that with extra feminine coaches, the game may higher address the excessive fee of disordered consuming and physique picture points, which are typically extra widespread on girls’s groups. In May, Greg Metcalf, former head coach of monitor and discipline on the University of Washington, left his job after 16 years amid allegations from female and male athletes that he verbally abused them and shamed them about their weight. Metcalf told the Seattle Times that he was “saddened” by the claims. As a results of Metcalf’s departure, Maurica Powell left her assistant teaching place on the University of Oregon to grow to be Washington’s director of monitor and discipline and cross-country.

“When you hit 30 percent of women in leadership, the whole conversation changes—the whole culture changes,” Hogshead-Makar says. “The conversations that men have among themselves are different than if a lot more of their peers were female.”

Besides, variety of every kind improves efficiency of a bunch. “Intentionally including women and making sure there’s a pipeline is critical. You wouldn’t have a staff of ten middle-distance coaches,” Hogshead-Makar says. “You need sprints, throws, and jumps, right? Similarly, you need women who have the skill sets to handle all kinds of issues—and it’s just doubly important that we have women in coaching to make it safer for everybody.”

As for Flanagan, her hopes are excessive that she will do her half when she makes the swap from athlete to educate of a bunch of Olympians. “With the two wins of Americans recently—myself in New York and [Linden] at the Boston Marathon—maybe more girls will realize that running and coaching are both professions,” Flanagan says. “We can start taking it to all levels, and maybe we’ll see an even bigger women’s running boom.”

(Editor references)

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