Part II: Changing the Narrative for Women Sport Coaches

In Part I of this series I outlined why the way women sport framescoaches are framed is often problematic.  For example there are many popular narratives about why the percentage of women coaches remains stagnant, and many of them blame women. When women are blamed, the system AROUND the women does not have to change.

Below is a list of common “blame the women” narratives I have compiled over the last 10+ years in doing research, advocacy and education for women sport coaches. Through my research I, and others, collect data that dispels or supports these narratives. Based on existing data, I can tell you very little data exists to support these narratives (although there is a LOT of anecdotal evidence and individual opinions, but that doesn’t mean the narrative(s) is true).BLAME THE WOMAN slide

If you know of data the helps dispel or support any of these narratives, please let me know! (nmlavoi@gmail.com). In my next blogs I will provide counter narratives to this list above.  #SHECANCOACH

 

Changing the Narrative for Women Sport Coaches: Part I

dorothy_webb
Dorothy Webb, Head Volleyball Coach, Wellesley College

The under representation of women coaches within the institution of sport has been framed in many ways–from a historic decline since the passage of Title IX, to scarcity, to the more current narrative of stagnation.

OK if you are new to this topic, let me give you the data to get you up to speed. In 1972 prior to the passing of Title IX, 90% of girls and women were coached by women–today that number is only ~40%, a number that has been stagnant for the last decade (see graph below).

stagnation

If you are asking why this matters or women coaches matter, please watch this video [forward to 22:00-25:00mn in].

Women coaches exist within an occupational landscape and sport system that is dominated by men at every level, in every position, and in nearly in every sport and institution (see here if you need the data!).

Within this system, many women coaches do not feel supported, valued, or connected to the athletics administration in ways that help them be successful. Ironically, women are often blamed for the lack of, or stagnation, of women coaches. By blaming women (the people in the system with the least power) the systemic changes that need to occur to create change and unstick the stagnation fail to happen. “Women just don’t apply” is an oft heard narrative, which places blame on women. Instead of figuring out why women don’t apply or spending time and energy to actively recruit women into the candidate pool, the buck stops at the individual level–the woman or women who CHOOSE not to apply. The End.

A lack of women applicants then provides proof that women aren’t interested in coaching, and the decision maker doing the hiring is off the hook and the system in which women make choices remains unchallenged. Choices are not made in a vacuum. Choices are influenced by the people, communities, networks, family, organizational culture, and socio-cultural factors around the individual [if you want the data pertaining to the numerous barriers women coaches face in the system, see Women in Sports Coaching, watch this video, or read these blogs].

How the issue of women coaches is framed matters!  Narratives matter!

framesFraming is how something, someone or a group of people are presented to the audience which influences the choices people make about how to process that information. Frames are powerful communication schemas (i.e., narratives) in which meaning assigned to an individual, in this case women coaches, is constructed. Framing is the selection, omission, and organization of the issue by individuals (i.e., the media, ADs) to explain the phenomena. Often dominant frames, whether true or not or whether based on empirical data or not, get taken up as “the truth” and uncritically accepted, like the example above that “women just aren’t interested in coaching.”

Leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018 I am going to be writing a series blogs to help shift the narratives around women sport coaches that might help us unstick stagnation.

New data on women college coaches!

2017-18 Select 7 cover
Jamelle Elliott, Head Women’s Basketball Coach, at U of Cincinnati, Alliance of Women Coaches member, NCAA Women Coaches Academy graduate

To celebrate National Girls & Women in Sport Day, the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport (where I am the co-director) released its annual Women in College Coaching Report Card. Produced in collaboration with the Alliance of Women Coaches, the report documents the percentage of women in head coaching positions at institutions in seven select NCAA Division-I conferences (AAC, ACC, Big East, B1G Ten, Big 12, PAC-12, SEC) for 2017-18.

Key Findings:

  • The percentage of women head coaches of women’s teams went up for the 5th year in a row and is now at 41.5% (the bad news is that number is stagnant!, works remains to be done!)

  • In 60% of vacant head coach positions, a male was hired

  • Cincinnati and University of Central Florida were the only institutions to be awarded an A grade.

  • Nine institutions earned F grades

  • None of the select 7 NCAA D-I conferences received above a C grade

  • NCAA D-III institutions have the highest percentage of women head coaches at 45.7%

To read the full report, download the infographic, discover how the report is making a 2017-18 Select 7 infographicdifference, learn about interesting trends (including insight into which of the 86 select “big time” NCAA Division-I institutions, sports and conferences receive passing and failing grades, and see our NCAA D-III and D-II Report Cards visit : http://www.TuckerCenter.org

Podcast: Tips for Character Development Through Sport & More!

sidelineI visited Marti Erickson on MomEnough to do a second podcast on sport parents where we discussed youth sports, questioned many assumptions, called out unhelpful parental behavior and challenged parents to step up and use proven approaches to help children reap optimal benefits of organized sports. Listen to the podcast here.

Did you recognize any of your own parenting behaviors in what parents should not do? What were the most important things parents should do?

My first podcast “Being a Good Sport Parent: Practical Guidance on Bringing Out the Best in Your Young Athlete” with MomEnough is here.

Tips for sport parents & encouraging mothers to coach

Recently had the privilege of talking to Erin & Marti Erickson of MomEnough.com about some of my work pertaining to youth sport parents. It was really fun and we talked about many practical tips related to being a good sport parent and how to recruit and encourage more moms to coach their children.

Listen to this 30mn radio show, you won’t be disappointed: Being a Good Sport Parent: Practical Guidance on Bringing Out the Best in Your Young Athlete

Tools, Research and Guidelines for Mother-Coaches

  • For research on working mother-coaches in youth sports, click here.
  • For A Rationale for Encouraging Mothers to Coach Youth Sport, click here.
  • For Mother-Coach Generated Strategies for Increasing Female Coaches in Youth Sport, click here.
  • For Policy Recommendations for Increasing Women Coaches in Youth Sport, click here.

LaVoi gives Distinguished Lecture on Women in Sports Coaching

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Nicole M. LaVoi, Ph.D., Co-Director of the Tucker Center

I recently had the opportunity to give the Tucker Center’s Distinguished Lecture where I laid our current and historical data on the Paradox, Pitfalls & Parity: Where Have all the Women Coaches Gone?  You can watch the lecture here (I start about 14mns in, so fast forward!!)

A puzzling paradox exists when it comes to women occupying sport leadership positions—particularly coaches. Two generations removed from Title IX, female sports participation is at an all-time high, yet the number of women coaches is near an all-time low. At the college level alone, female coaches are in the minority, representing just 43% of all head coaching positions in women’s sports nationwide. It is simply not possible that as each new generation of females becomes increasingly involved in and shaped by their sport experience—especially at the most elite levels of competition as evidenced by the dominance of the U.S. female athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics—they simultaneously become less qualified to enter the coaching profession.

In this lecture I answered three questions I frequently get about women in sports coaching:

1. Why do women coaches matter? Why should we care?

2. Why is there a stagnation in the under-representation of women coaches?

3. What can we do about it?

 

New Report on the Dangers of Early Sport Specialization

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Sports Specialization and Intensive Training in Young Athletes; ©2016 by American Academy of Pediatrics

I am a long time advocate of late specialization-early diversification in youth sport, and this research report by the American Academy of Pediatrics “Sports Specialization and Intensive Training in Young Athletes” in the September 2016 issue of Pediatrics hits the mark and provides concrete evidence that early specialization in NOT the optimal pathway to either elite performance or health and well being.

The AAP report along with the Aspen Institute’s Project Play, I “hope” will begin to shift the discussion and beliefs about youth sport participation and structure 180 degrees away from winning/performance to fun and enjoyment and development.  In January 2015, the Aspen Institute released “Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game,” a 48-page report that offers a new model for youth sports in America, with eight strategies for the eight sectors that touch the lives of children.

The cultural shift has to start with sport parent and coach education.

 

Thank You Pat

Pat with 8 trophiesMuch of what I have done athletically and now do professionally would not look the same without Pat Summitt. We have lost a pioneer for women’s sports and a legacy coach. While she holds the record for most wins in college basketball, her legacy is about so much more than winning and National Championships. While I only met Pat once very briefly, I feel compelled to honor and thank her. Pat, I and so many others, are grateful for how you made a difference, particularly for girls and women in sport. RIP

 

Shameful & Inaccurate Media Coverage of MN Lynx

I feel compelled to write yet ANOTHER blog about how the sport media shamefully covers women’s sports in general and the Minnesota Lynx specifically. Currently, the Lynx are the reigning WNBA Champions and until yesterday (June 24, 2016) were undefeated, notching a record-breaking 13-0 start, the best start in the history of the 20 year old WBNA league.

Shot from Lynx 2016 home opener. Full arena!
Shot from Lynx 2016 home opener. Full arena!

For the last 10 years, and more specifically the last 5 years, I and many others–including Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve, have educated, implored, asked, cajoled and tried to shame the sport media into respectfully and fairly covering the Lynx.

Why cover the Lynx? I’ll give you 5 reasons.

 

1. Because they are amazing athletes that deserve the coverage of their males counterparts.

2. The Media constantly states they cover teams that win. People like to read about winners!…yet despite being the MOST winning team in Minnesota (maybe except for the Gopher Women’s Hockey Team who get nearly NO coverage as 2016 and 7 time NCAA D-I National Champions) the Lynx get less coverage than the Twins, who currently are having a miserable season and started their season 0-9 or the MN Vikings and MN Wild who are currently NOT in season. The Lynx are the most winning pro team in Minnesota. They have been in the WNBA finals 4 of the last 5 years, and have won it 3 times (2013, ’15, ’16).

Despite this amazing and dominant franchise, The Media continue to ignore and marginalize the Lynx accomplishments (see the New York Times piece “Cleveland Finally Won a Title. What’s the Most Cursed Sports City Now?”) which ranks Minneapolis as the 5th most cursed city without a pro championship, which erases and dismisses the accomplishments of the Lynx (see screen shot below).

NYT dismisses Lynx Championships
NYT dismisses Lynx Championships

3. The Media states they cover teams people are interested in, but take no responsibility in CREATING that interest. People ARE interested in the Lynx, despite the fact The Media doesn’t give them fair or equal coverage. If you have attended a Lynx game, you can’t deny the energy or interest in the Lynx that is palpable in the Target Center where the Lynx play their home games.

If you haven’t been or tuned into a game on ESPN, you are missing out. If you are The Media trying to write a positive story about the Lynx, don’t title it “Despite winning streak, Lynx fan base remains small.”

Shame on MPR, you should know better! If I don’t know or follow the Lynx, this title does not make me want to tune in or attend. It does not increase my interest in the team. And the truth is, the arena is full! (see picture below from the June 24, 2016 Lynx v. Sparks game).

Small fan base? Limited interest? What team are you reporting on MPR?
Small fan base? Limited interest? What team are you reporting on MPR?

4. The Lynx are positive role models for girls, but also for boys…as good people AND as great athletes. They are good people, care about each other, play unselfishly, are engaged in the community, always give full effort, are gritty & tough competitors, have good sportsmanship, and are the epitome of what champions look and act like.

5. The amount of coverage the Lynx get is disproportionate to their talent and reflects a false reality of participation trends in the US. Female athletes make up 43% of all sport participants, but get < 4% of all sport media coverage (if you want more info, watch “Media Coverage & Female Athletes”  an Emmy-winning documentary on this topic).

If you agree, share, tweet, and/or post this. Your voice matters. Join the #HERESPROOF campaign to prove the the media that people ARE interested in women’s sport.

Shot from Lynx 2013 playoff game. Full arena!
Shot from Lynx 2013 playoff game. Full arena!