An expert scholar and advocate of girls & women in sport, youth sport, and coach & sport parent education. Currently I teach sport psychology and sociology in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota where I am also the Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport. This blog reflects my critical eye and voice on all things sport.
POD:In October 2019, I visited Aotearoa New Zealand and was the keynote speaker at the Sport New Zealand Women + Girls Summit, delivered by WISPA and the Shift Foundation, while I there I did a podcast for LockerRoom and Radio New Zealand Fair Play. Have a listen! https://lnkd.in/f7k9XZT
POD: Listen to Tucker Center Talks, a monthly podcast I host, produced by WISP Sports. I’ll feature invited guests, timely critiques, the latest research, and dialogue around girls and women in sport.
In the last year I’ve been thinking about women can create and be part of changing the occupational landscape in coaching. Change can happen from the ground up, from women. Change can also happen from the top down, when those in power champion social change. For the 2018 Women Coaches Symposium I put together a keynote around many of the false narratives I hear about women coaches, and provided some data that can help all women and gender allies challenge those false narratives. To see the full video, click here.
While girls and women participation in sports since Title IX has exploded, only about 40% of them are coached by women. The film explores supporting research, dispels false narratives, celebrates female coaching pioneers at all levels of competition and highlights stories of success and hardship. Their stories are the universal stories of women coaches who fight many battles to pursue their passion to coach. Produced in collaboration between Twin Cities Public Television and the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
Share it widely to your networks and help be a part of changing the culture of sport for women coaches, where they feel safe, valued and supported.
The report includes eleven chapters written by leading multidisciplinary scholars. Evidence-based chapters include psychological, sociological, and physiological dimensions of girls’ physical activity participation, as well as chapters on sports medicine and the influence of mass media of girls’ health and well-being. Because “girls” are not a singular monolithic group, chapters focus on girls’ intersectional identities and include invisible, erased, and underserved populations such as immigrant girls, girls of color, girls who identify as lesbian, transgender and queer/questioning, and girls with cognitive and physical impairments. The report ends with a Best Practices chapter and a Positive Model for Developing Physically Active Girls to guide thought, program development, interventions and research.
To read and download the full report, Executive Summary or the Positive Model click here.
In my research I have interviewed Athletic Directors (ADs) on their best practices in recruiting, hiring and retaining women coaches. [to read the full report, click here.] Nearly all of them stated they want to hire “the best” for an open position. The best person, the best fit, the best qualified, the best (i.e., a winner, successful, track record of success), the best of the best! ADs are competitive people, and rightly so! “The best” is part of their everyday language, and not being the best means your job may be on the line.
However, what is not readily apparent in “the best” narrative is the underlying gender bias and gender stereotypes that affect how leadership is valued, perceived, and evaluated.
Stereotypes and gender bias are inherent in constructing and reinforcing what a real leader ‘looks like’ and ‘does.’ For example, what it means and has meant historically “to coach”—being assertive and in control, aggressive, ambitious, confident, competitive, powerful, dominant, forceful, self-reliant and individualistic—are characteristics typically associated with men and masculinity. This identity of the ideal/best coach is reinforced by society and the media, where coaches are constructed and held up as heroes and the male coach is a symbol and ultimate expression of the idealized form of masculine character.
Therefore when ADs state they want “the best” coach, this statement automatically privileges and favors male coaches over women, whether intended or not. However, “the best” might also be a coded way ADs can talk about hiring women without
putting themselves or the institution at risk for gender-based discrimination litigation by male applicants.
Clearly, a complex set of conscious and unconscious inferences are contained within persistent and common “hire the best” narratives among college Athletics Directors. The pervasive “best” narrative illuminates the need for bias training and awareness that bias has a potential impact on the perception, recruitment, evaluation and hiring (and firing) of women coaches.
I recently sat down the WCCO TV’s David McCoy to discuss the Women in College Coaching Report Card, false narratives about women coaches, and why women coaches matter. View our discussion here. View my 5 part blog series on false narratives here.