Creating a Culture of Valuing Women Coaches: Ten Ideas for Young Coaches

How does your alma mater stack up against others in your conference when it comes to hiring and retaining women coaches?

aRSKKtiF_400x400Each year, the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center assigns grades to college athletic departments based on the percentage of women head coaches of women’s teams. In 2017-18, Cincinnati and UCF rose to the top of schools in seven select NCAA DI conferences. Nine schools, however, received an “F” for having a truly dismal number of female head women’s coaches.

This summer, the Tucker Center went one (big) step further, and released a report funded by the NCAA to explore the best practices for recruiting, hiring, and retaining women collegiate coaches. Extensive interviews were conducted with 21 Athletic Directors (AD’s) from NCAA DI, DII, and DIII schools that received a grade of “A” or “B”.

Grades 17-18

Why was this needed?

Women coaches matter. First, girls and young women deserve to see themselves in their coaches; being able to do so elevates their self-perceptions and helps them see coaching as a viable career option.

Second, “diversity in the workforce is a business imperative, and athletic departments should not be the exception” (1). Our priority is serving our student-athletes, and having a diverse staff will help us to do this better.

The percentage of women’s teams that are coached by women has dropped precipitously since the 1970’s… Why?

“It is simply not possible that as each new generation of females comes increasingly involved in and shaped by their sport experiences, they simultaneously become less qualified to enter the coaching profession” (1).

What’s in the report?

AD’s spoke candidly and anonymously on the (very real) barriers to hiring and retaining female coaches. Many of the AD’s felt a strong personal conviction that “women should be coached by women”, but felt unable to express this desire during the hiring process.

Tucker Center Report

One AD points out “the paradox of wanting to hire women to coach women, but not being able to explicitly state it… as AD’s do not want to make themselves or their institutions vulnerable to litigation” (7). This AD goes on to explain that this barrier is unique to women, because the ingrained expectation that men’s teams will be coached by men is so strong that gender won’t even be a part of the conversation.

The challenge, then, is to “create a consistent and strong culture of valuing women without crossing the legal line” (7). The report sets out to help your athletic department do just that.

While this report is designed as a resource for AD’s and Senior Women Administrators (SWA’s), there are nuggets of wisdom that can guide any coach in their pursuit of an equitable work environment. Plus, this is an amazing resource to have in your pocket if you will one day be interested in pursuing a career athletic administration.

 

What can young, female coaches take away from this research?

ONE: Barriers do exist

In order to begin to combat the barriers that exist, we must understand them. There is a helpful figure on page 3 of the report of an Intersectional-Ecological Systems Model of potential barriers (Don’t worry: you don’t have to understand those words to understand the graph!)

TWO: You deserve the “three-C’s”

“If athletic administrators create a workplace climate where essential needs of care, competence, and choice of women coaches are met, the department will likely attract women” (5). A good workplace will demonstrate that they care about you, trust you, and give you autonomy. Learn more on page 5!

THREE: Be unapologetic

Do not be embarrassed to tout the benefits of women coaching women. Be confident that you have unique gifts that a man in the same role would not. See Appendix A for strategies to approach athletes who are not yet convinced.

FOUR: Find the veterans

Look within your program for highly successful, strong women. Reach out to her. Support her. Learn from her. Page 12 expands.

FIVE: Take on an unexpected role

Find a space where you are untested, and have the courage to ask for a chance. One day, when you are a head coach, these skills will be invaluable. This is especially true for women of color (see pages 12-14).

SIX: Bomb an interview? Don’t sweat… learn!

One AD promises that “the experience of explaining and knowing what questions are going to come is helpful for future interviews” (19). Keep moving forward.

SEVEN: “Draw a map, find a path, take a breath and run.”

“He is We” might as well have been singing about creating a career-development plan. Know where you’re headed. Share it with your AD or SWA.

EIGHT: Develop as a professional

Find and join relevant organizations. Be a student of the sport.

(Side note, read this article about The loss of the Black Coaches Association. Now, even their successor has gone out of business. Can any of you awesome young entrepreneurs re-start the movement?)

NINE: Be realistic about your resources

Be aware of whether your AD’s performance expectations for your program are possible considering the resources you are given. If they are not, do not immediately blame your own coaching. Work with your mentors to change your strategy or expectations. If this does not work, do not be afraid to move on to a program that can offer better support (like is described on page 15).

TEN: You have more leverage than you perceive

Don’t forget — If you demonstrate excellence at your craft, you WILL be highly sought after. See Appendix C for the Women Coaches’ Playbook for Being Hired and Retained (attached below).

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Networking: Know Yourself to Lead Yourself

1200x630bbWhen you think of a networking guru, what qualities do you imagine that they possess?

More than likely, you conjured up images of someone who is charismatic and chatty; confident and charming. BUT we have all met someone who fits this description on paper, but comes off as scripted or inauthentic… or downright aggressive.

The reality is, effective networking (and coaching) is about building relationships–and you don’t have to be extroverted to do that well.

Podcast Review: Sports Leadership Podcast #26 – Networking

My favorite part about exploring new podcasts is discovering hosts who display an unexpected combination of vulnerability and wisdom.

This episode focuses on the importance of the Delphic maxim, “know thyself” or, as hosts Kevin Deshazo and Mark Hodskin offer, “know yourself to lead yourself.” Deshazo is an extrovert and Hodgkin an introvert. Together, they compare experiences to offer a deeper exploration of effective, personalized networking in the world of athletic leadership.

The most unique networking tip offered in this episode was to spend some time seeking connection with those on the outskirts of the event. If someone looks shy or uncomfortable, approach them with a friendly question. Get them talking, and show them that their presence is valuable to you. You don’t have to spend an hour with them, but be willing to engage them for at least a few minutes.

It’s easy to get so caught up in seeking out the “big-wigs” that you forget to truly connect with those around you. It’s not hard to spot someone who is just looking to climb the ladder–at networking events and in life. Don’t be that person.

Deshazo and Hodskin might have different styles when it comes to networking, but they both agree on one thing: “Networking is crucial for growing your career, whether it comes naturally or not.”

Below are some of the tips that they offered for networking at conference events:

  1. Recognize that it’s exhausting!
  2. Recharge during the day — take a break to exercise, nap, breathe
  3. Ask questions: If you’re an introvert, it keeps you from having to talk! If you’re an extrovert, it keeps you from talking too much!
  4. Don’t feel sad if it doesn’t feel like it’s “working” — people are busy and conferences are crazy.
  5. Focus on relationships. DON’T talk business/sales.
  6. Make the networking event a good experience for others — help those on the outskirts feel valued.
  7. Be a “lobby person” — after a session, be available for conversation
  8. Don’t try to be something you’re not — just be the healthiest & best version of yourself.

If this list is intriguing to you, give this podcast a listen. You are bound to identify with some of the experiences of the hosts , and whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you will walk away from this podcast feeling both affirmed and challenged.

Also, check out Episode 25 (The Dangers of Comparison) and 24 (Leading Up) for more great leadership and self-care advice.

Find this podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud. Released July 25, 2018.

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Reviewed by: Hannah Chappell-Dick on August 29, 2018

Hannah Chappell-Dick is a volunteer assistant coach at Georgia Tech and run for Atlanta Track Club Elite in Atlanta, GA. She grew up in Bluffton, Ohio.

Read more here.

Book Review: Coaching for the Inner Edge

51VECP5QDCL._SX381_BO1,204,203,200_Coaching for the Inner Edge is a comprehensive text resource for coaches to better prepare athletes for success in competitive environments.

I became interested in sport psychology after several seasons of inconsistent performance from my teams.  We were doing good training and seeing improvement, but the athletes would often have difficulty in the biggest meets.  I wanted to improve my ability to prepare them mentally for competitions.

I was first recommended this text by Dr. Gloria Balague.  She is a former professor at the University of Illinois and has worked as a sport psychologist with the Chicago Bears, USA Gymnastics and USA Track and Field.  Dr. Balague was teaching the USTFCCCA 405 course on sport psychology and mentioned this text as a great resource.  When such a prominent figure recommends a book, I always try to pick up a copy.

Coaching for the Inner Edge is written by Dr. Vealey a professor at Miami University of Ohio, and a former collegiate basketball player and coach.  She has dedicated her professional career to understanding the mental side of athletic competition.

The book explains how sport psychology functions to improve performance. There is a focus on practical implementation techniques like goal mapping, imagery, and relaxation.

The book is separated into four parts.  The first part talks about foundational elements of sport psychology.  The second part takes the reader through the different types of mental training tools.  The third part addresses the primary mental skills the tools seek to improve, and the fourth part is about putting it all together.

I love that Dr. Vealey includes templates and exemplars in the text to help coaches and athletes actually apply the information in meaningful ways.

One example that I use with my athletes is the goal mapping template. Dr. Vealey differentiates object from process goals, and then provides a form to use with athletes to record and track goals. This format for providing concrete useful tools is repeated throughout the book.  There are many additional forms and tools provided in the Appendix, as well as numerous quotes and example scenarios to provide insight and guidance.

I have found her suggested reading at the end of the book under coaches resources, as well as her complete references list, to be a fantastic springboard into a larger wealth of knowledge within topics of sport psychology.  I highly recommend the book as a valuable addition to any coaching library.

 

You can purchase “Coaching for the Inner Edge” by Robin S. Vealy at Fit Publishing or Amazon. This book is out of print, but copies are available online. There is also a 2nd edition in the works!

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Reviewer: Kevin O’Grattan

Coach O’Grattan is the Assistant Head Cross Country and Distance Track Coach at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Kansas. He is currently working on his Masters Certification in Cross Country from USTFCCCA.

You can read more about Coach O’Grattan here in his coaching profile.