Women As Coaches Of the approximately 4. The reasons for the relative lack of women coaches are many. Some see it is the vestige of the sex-segregated sports system that existed before the passage of Title IX. Too many men still hew to the gender stereotype that males are more competent and authoritative when it comes to sports than women. Most women at the youth sports level simply "go with the flow," with the result being perpetuation of the sharp division of labor in youth sports along gender lines men as coaches and women as team parents.
The absence of woman coaches in youth sports has been termed by Scott Lancaster, former director of the National Football League's youth football development program and author of Fair Play: Women are natural teachers. Women tend to be less authoritarian leaders. Women tend to lead by consensus, a leadership style that even boys prefer, rather than employing a more authoritarian form of leadership.
Women tend to connect by empathizing and establishing relationships. A mother's instinct to be a calming influence and peacemaker and to want to emphasize how every player is the same, not different, serve her well as a youth sports coach, where playing favorites or allowing teammates to bully or tease other teammates can create a hostile psychological climate. Women are natural nurturers.
Science has proven that women are generally more adept than men at detecting mood from facial expression, body posture, and gestures, and thus knowing if a child is unhappy. Because they tend to be more emotionally open and have good communication skills, mothers are able to motivate and relate well to players, which is essential if a child is to have an enjoyable sports experience. Women tend to want to find a balance between competition and cooperation. A woman's focus is more on teamwork, arising out of her belief that the best result comes when everyone contributes and the most is gotten from everyone's individual talents.
Women tend to reject the common supposition that competition must consist of winning and losing and of displays of power, dominance, and control, for better or worse. This is what youth sports should be all about: Mothers want to protect children from the pressures of the adult world.
Many mothers are concerned about the "disappearance of childhood" as the late author, media critic, and NYU professor Neil Postman, called it, and see themselves, in a sense, as what Postman called the "overseers" of children. As coaches, mothers tend to resist the concept, increasingly prevalent in today's youth sports, that intentionally exposing children to the harsh realities of the adult world cut-throat competition, sorting out of winners and losers at ever earlier ages is somehow a good idea.
Women's Volleyball Team coach Terry Liskevych observes in Fair Play, "What moms bring [to youth sports] is a different and positive perspective and what's right and wrong in the area of a child's development. One of the most important lessons a youth sports coach can teach players is the value and importance of good sportsmanship.
A study by the Josephson Institute of Ethics found an ethical and moral gulf between female and male high school athletes in terms of their tolerance for poor sportsmanship. The authors of one study suggest that the ways in which girls are socialized may promote a lower tolerance for poor sports behavior.
Women are safety conscious and risk averse. Studies show that serotonin levels in the brain are inversely related to risk-taking behavior. Evolutionary biologists believe that a woman's higher levels of serotonin, combined with her instinct to survive by avoiding risk, prompt women to be more careful about safety so as to avoid exposing their children to an unreasonable risk of injury. Women are good at teaching boys healthy masculinity.
Female coaches can teach male athletes that they don't have to conform to society's male gender stereotype by hiding their emotions, pain and injuries; that it is possible to be emotionally open and still be a man. Canadian professor Alexis Peters, an expert on masculinity, violence and ethics in sports, argues in a February 19, article in the Calgary Herald, "the root of the problem is not men, athletes or sport themselves Critical Feminist Perspectives, "profound questions about male supremacy and directly challenges the patriarchal notion that maleness is a key prerequisite for coaching and for leadership.
Women coaches are role models for girls and teach them to celebrate being a female athlete. Women coaches break down gender stereotypes by proving that women can be just as competent and tough as men. As Professor Staurowsky told me recently, the presence of woman in large numbers as coaches at the youth sport level would help boys and girls see that "women can coach, thus affecting their vision of how sports systems operate.
Coaching their son or daughters team is one way to do that. One out of five mothers works part time. As more and more woman work part time or become stay-at-home moms, more and more are turning towards volunteerism. As the Motherhood Study revealed, others are already involved in their communities in groups working to improve the lives of mothers, children and families. Yet there is, as of yet, no glut of mothers volunteering in youth sports. Mothers either don't volunteer to coach, are told they aren't needed, or are only needed to fill traditional roles, like team administrator.
Any mother who wants to coach should be able to coach. It is that simple. Adapted from the book, Home Team Advantage: Updated June 5,