The women’s college basketball season is in full swing! The race to the Women’s Final Four has begun. Hopefully, the upcoming Final Four will be as exciting and as the last one. The 2018 Women’s Final Four was one of the most exciting college basketball has ever seen. It was groundbreaking in the way its unpredictable nature reinvigorated the excitement of women’s college basketball. Each game was a thriller. The 2018 Women’s Final Four made history by way of viewership and attendance. 7.62 million people watched the series on ESPN.[i] The total attendance was 36,123 fans (which was an increase from 2017).[ii] However, there was one area where the 2018 Final Four was not groundbreaking or progressive and that is in the area of women college coaches.
Even though it was the premier women’s college basketball tournament, only one out of the four coaches were female. The others were white males. UConn, Louisville, and Mississippi State all had male coaches, while the victor of the tournament Notre Dame, had a female coach. The makeup of the coaches in the tournament highlights an unfortunate reality in many women’s collegiate sports. It highlights the lack of women coaches in college athletics.
The Number of Female Coaches is Decreasing
A study conducted by the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota and the Alliance of Women Coaches found that only 20 percent of all college coaching positions are held by women.[iii] However, the percentage of head coaches in women’s Division 1 college basketball is roughly 56 percent.[iv] Unfortunately, the number of female head coaches in Division 1 women’s basketball is declining. In 2017, the data showed that for the past six years the number of female head basketball coaches decreased by 11 percent.[v] The number of male head coaches in women’s basketball increased by 33 percent.[vi]
Additionally, there is a lack of female head coaches in other sports as well. For example, in NCAA Division 1 track and field women only hold 10 head coaching positions compared to the 83 held by men.[vii] Similarly, in cross-country women hold only 17 head coaching positions compared the 86 held by men. The overall lack of female coaches in college athletics leads to two questions.[viii] First, why are there so few female college coaches? Second, what should be done to increase the number of female college coaches?
Why is There a Lack of Female College Coaches?
There are several factors that contribute to the lack of female college coaches.
The first factor and probably the most important is the nature of the job. Coaching is a very time intensive and demanding job. To effectively coach, one must be able to give adequate amounts of time to recruiting, mentoring, and actual coaching. Each of these aspects of the job is extremely time intensive. Furthermore, coaching requires an extensive amount of travel. The time and travel demands do not lend itself to a woman who may have just started a family or who wants to start a family. Though it is not impossible, it is very difficult to have young children and be fully immersed in coaching the way the job requires. Hence, this one factor has a trickle-down effect to the other factors.
Unfortunately, the nature of the job does not lend itself to women who have young children or to women who plan to have children. As a result, the field has been left to men and the majority of coaching jobs are filled by men. As previously stated, the decline of female head coaches in women’s basketball has led to an increase in male head coaches. Why are men better able to navigate the world of coaching? One reason is that in many cases it is easier for men to balance their family life with work. In many cases, women take on the brunt of family life and caring for children as society dictates. Due to this, men often have more time to dedicate to the profession. Hence, this reality leads to the next factor.
Men dominate the field. Therefore, young female athletes do not get to see themselves represented as a coach. As a result, not many former female athletes go into coaching because they do not see it as an option. Even at the youth sports level, there are not many female coaches. According to a study conducted by the Aspen Institute, only 22.5 percent of youth coaches were female.[ix] This number is down from the 28 percent in the previous study.[x] The lack of female coaches at the youth level is also likely low because women do not have the time to dedicate to it.
Increasing the Number of Female Coaches
Increasing the number of female collegiate coaches needs to start at the youth level. An increase of female coaches in youth sports will entice more women to go into coaching. Being coached by a woman at a young age will allow young female athletes to see themselves represented at the coaching level. It will make them believe that they can do it too. The resulting new interest in coaching that young female athletes will have will put more women in the pipeline for coaching positions.
Additionally, there are things that can be done administratively to help increase the number of female coaches. Those things include implementing the Eddie Robinson Rule and the Judy Sweet Rule. However, those measures would not mean much without increasing the number of youth female coaches. Therefore, increasing the number of youth female coaches is necessary to get future generations of women into coaching.
(Apr. 13, 2018),https://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-women/article/2018-04-13/2018-womens-final-four-makes-history-columbus.
[iii] Manie Robinson, Clemson, University of South Carolina get a C on Coaching Staff Gender Equality, Greenville News (July 13, 2018, 8:50 AM), https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/sports/2018/07/13/clemson-usc-sports-earn-average-grades-gender-equality/777088002/.
[iv] Layne Saliba, Female Head Women’s Basketball Coaches in NCAA on the Decline, The Red & Black (Apr. 25, 2017), https://www.redandblack.com/sports/female-head-women-s-basketball-coaches-in-ncaa-on-the/article_34e21388-29c2-11e7-a5ad-c7589fe72cce.html.
[ix] State of Play 2018 Trends and Developments (2018), available at https://assets.aspeninstitute.org/content/uploads/2018/10/StateofPlay2018_v4WEB_2-FINAL.pdf?_ga=2.30622070.81258157.1541265952-407175075.1523447928.