What Makes Sport Parents “Angry”?

angry-man_istock_000005831286xsmall_croppedToday I spent the day finishing up (well almost) a paper on what makes sport parents angry during their child’s sport events. I alluded in my last blog that snacks cause a fair amount of parent anger…now to the main finding. What percentage of sport parents claim they “never get angry”? If you guessed about one third, you would be correct! Now you might be thinking that seems a bit high…I do. I think that almost all sport parents get angry at something at some point during their child’s sporting endeavors. The other two thirds of (honest) parents that do report getting angry have a variety of things that set them off. What or who do you think is the #1 Anger Culprit? If you guessed the Incompetence of the Referee, you would be correct!Football referee blowing whistle Remember though, it is the parent’s perception of incompetence that makes them angry…we don’t know in reality if the referee is truly incompetent or not.

Given that retaining and recruiting youth sport referees is a MAJOR issue—just ask NASO which estimates a ~35% attrition rate each year—could parental anger over referee incompetence be a contributing factor in the high attrition rate? Needless to say that many youth sport referees are adolescents who take on the “job” for the love of the game and quit in part because of the abuse they take from adults on the sidelines. Obviously, yelling at the referee is not unique to youth sports but it does become a more important issue when children and youth are the indirect (as athletes) and direct (as the referee) recipients of angry yelling. Yelling at the referee is also the #1 most frequent “bad” or “poor” sport behavior on youth sport sidelines reported from the perspective of youth athletes, parents, and coaches alike. What I’ve found interesting in the 4-5 studies I’ve done in the context of youth sport is that the referee ALWAYS comes up as a source of contention. There is a future research question in here somewhere…..but you’d be surprised at how little research has been done on referees or taken the referee perspective into account. More to come in the future on “what makes sport parents angry”…..

Snacks & Youth Sport: What message does this send youth athletes?

snacksI’ve been thinking about snacks at youth sport events since last summer. Why?—primarily because when I asked youth sport parents what made them “angry” at their child’s sport events, snacks came up with some frequency. We thought, “Snacks? Anger? Really?” At one point we dubbed it “Snack Wars”….too many snacks, not enough snacks, the wrong snacks, who is bringing the snacks?, and who is in charge of organizing the snacks? We were quite surprised (and amused) by this emergent finding. I need your help in thinking through this issue. Why have snacks become such a common and ubiquitous part of youth sports? When did this start and why? What is your opinion about snacks at youth sport events? Leave me a comment and enlighten me. In the meantime, watch this “McDonald’s Victory” commercial on YouTube…this is what I’m talking about! What message does this send youth athletes?

Equal Pay Day…not for female youth sport coaches!

fair-payThe following information is taken from the National Women’s Law Center’s Campaign for Fair Pay. April 28, Equal Pay Day, marks the day in 2009 when the average woman’s wages will finally catch up with those paid to the average man in 2008. In the United States, women are paid only 78¢ on average for every dollar paid to men. More than 45 years ago, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, making it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform substantially equal work. The following year, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted, making it illegal to discriminate, including in compensation, on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, and national origin. At the time of the Equal Pay Act’s passage in 1963, women were paid merely 59 cents to every dollar earned by men. Although enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII has helped to narrow the wage gap, significant disparities remain and must be addressed.

In Minnesota, my home state, in 2007 on average, women in Minnesota working full-time, year-round earned only 77% of what men working full-time, year-round earned — one percentage point below the nationwide average of 78%.

Since I’ve been writing about youth sport coaches in the last week, just a little data about this group as it pertains to being paid….or in this case, NOT being paid. In study being conducted by one of my graduate students, male youth sport coaches are twice as likely to be paid than their female counterparts in Minnesota youth soccer clubs. She didn’t collect how much pay disparity exists, which I think would be an interesting follow up study! I’ll share more of these research findings when we finish the full analysis.

“You Gotta Be Tough”

3-fingers1I thought a triad of blogs about female coaches in youth sport was appropriate given the amount of emails I received and blogs written in response to this topic. It seems like there is a need to continue the conversation.

To that end, the video of Michael Messner’s talk delivered on April 22, 2009 for the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport 2009 Spring Distinguished Lecture, “You Gotta Be Tough”: Challenges & Strategies of Female Coaches in Youth Sport, is now available to view free of charge. Messner is a professor of sociology and gender studies at the University of Southern California.

Women “On the Field”: Strategies for Increasing Female Youth Sport Coaches

Given that less than 20% of youth coaches are female, which I wrote about in my last blog I wanted to post some strategies that developed from the voices of mother-coaches that I interviewed with colleague Sarah Leberman (Massey U, NZ). The women identified many creative ways to increase the number of female coaches in youth sport.

To achieve this goal is much more complicated than convincing women they should coach or throwing up our hands and claiming “women just don’t WANT to coach” as the person below suggests in a letter to the editor in the StarTribune He states, “If a woman wanted to coach she would seek a coaching job. It is wrong to assume because there are not a lot of women coaches that there is some conspiracy to not have them coach. A more common-sense assumption is that they don’t want to coach. Just as not many men go into nursing or shop because they would prefer to do something else. Is there a conspiracy among women to keep us from shopping? Ridiculous.”

Yes women have “choices” but their choices are shaped by the gendered context of youth sport in which men hold most of the positions of power (i.e., club directors, youth sport organization Presidents, Head Coaches). Many women want to coach but they encounter what sociologist Mike Messner (USC) calls in his book a glass ceiling and “chilly climate”, due in part to the existing “old boy’s club” that controls youth sport.

Increasing the number of female coaches will take a variety of strategies at the individual, family, organizational and societal level. Arguably, the hardest levels to change are family and societal norms. A majority of women are still the primary caretakers of children and responsible for household organization which makes taking on coaching a “third shift”. The juggling of the worker-mother/wife-coach roles is exhausting and makes it challenging and/or overwhelming for many women to continue to coach or to agree to begin coaching. Changing societal gender norms and family division of labor is out of my control(!), but implementing some “easier” strategies at the youth sport organizational level might result in more women “on the field”.

Click here to see the handout I made on Strategies for Increasing Female Youth Sport Coaches

If you have other suggestions or strategies to increase female youth sport coaches, I would love to hear from you.

Youth Sport Needs More Female Coaches

swim-girl-under-water_istock_000006357654xsmallA lot of my research is done in youth sport contexts, including examining the barriers that prevent females from entering into youth sport coaching. While the under representation of female coaches at the collegiate level is given attention (See Acosta & Carpenter’s longitudinal report and the 2009 NCAA Report on Gender Equity in College Coaching and Administration:Perceived Barriers), less is known about the youth level.

In some recent research I’ve done combined with that of colleague Michael Messner (Professor of Gender Studies and Sociology at USC) we found that less than 20% of all youth sport coaches are female. Messner’s new book It’s All for the Kids: Gender, Families, and Youth Sport is a must read on the many barriers female coaches face and how gender hierarchies and inequalities are reproduced in one of our most popular social institutions—youth sport. Messner recently wrote a great op-ed in a So-Cal newspaper titled “Let’s have more crying in baseball” which is also a must read.

How is it that despite record participation numbers for girls and women across all levels of sport, that females are not entering into youth sport coaching? (look for a future blog on barriers..it is a complex issue!) The vast numbers of Post-Title IX women and former female collegiate athletes who clearly have experience and expertise to offer youth athletes are not translating into more coaches. Both Messner and I discovered that when women do coach youth sport, they are often relegated to “less prestigious” teams—recreational level, girls’ teams, or younger age groups.

Why does it matter if less than 1 in 5 youth sport coaches are female?

istock__mom-coach-soccer_xsmall Female coaches provide a rich opportunity to influence social change, challenge stereotypical beliefs pertaining to gender and leadership, and provide visible, active role models for children and youth—especially for girls. Access and exposure to female role models in positions of leadership (i.e., a coach) is particularly important to girls, as they have fewer such role models in their lives than do boys—and this is especially true in sport contexts. Girls are more likely to emulate and identify with a matched-gender role model (i.e., daughter-mother rather than daughter-father)—therefore the visibility of female coaches may have a positive impact on girls’ motivation and self-perceptions. In the absence of female coaches and role models, female athletes may devalue their own abilities, accept negative stereotypes, fail to realize their potential, and limit their own sport career aspirations.

In order for youth sport to be realized as a mechanism for social change, females must be seen in equal numbers in all positions of power within this important social institution. Much work remains to achieve this important goal that will benefit all children.

If you are in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Area and want to hear Professor Messner talk about “You Gotta Be Tough”:Challenges & Strategies of Female Coaches in Youth Sport on Wednesday, April 22, 2009 7-9pm, visit this website for more information. You can also read Rachel Blount’s column Studies blow the whistle on lack of women coaches in the StarTribune.