Women & Sport: There’s value in having more women in coaching roles
4 minute read
Every year, it seems more women are landing high-profile coaching jobs.
There’s Becky Hammon, the former WNBA star who left the San Antonio Spurs to lead the Las Vegas Aces to their first WNBA title in her inaugural season as a head coach. There’s Rachel Balkovec, who this year became the first woman to work as a full-time manager of an MLB-affiliated team.
Locally, Rutgers University was known for having the legendary Vivian Stringer at the helm of their women’s basketball program for decades before her retirement last year. And their women’s soccer program has Madison Tiernan, an assistant coach who is not only an alumna but also a former pro. The list goes on and on.
Though progress is being made, there remains a harsh reality: There is plenty of room to grow.
In professional women’s leagues, male head coaches sometimes outnumber the women. In the National Women’s Soccer League, there are only four female head coaches out of 12 teams.
The WNBA has done better, with six of the league’s 12 teams being coached by women. However, there are currently three head coaching vacancies in the W – if women fill any of them, then there will be more women than men coaching in that league. In the Premier Hockey Federation, formerly NWHL, four of the team’s seven are coached by women.
At the collegiate level, only 5 percent of all men’s college teams are coached by women, with most of those jobs being held in low-revenue, combined-gender sports like skiing, swimming and track and field, according to data published by the U.S. Department of Education. That wasn’t always the case, though.
In 1972, when Title IX was passed, more than 90% of collegiate women’s teams across all sports were led by women, according to FiveThirtyEight. By 1978, the first year that colleges were required to comply with Title IX, that number dropped to 58.2%, according to a study by R. Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter using self-reported data from athletic departments. That number has since fallen to less than 50%.
Having women in these positions has its advantages. Having someone like Tiernan, the former professional soccer player who coaches at Rutgers, coaching the program she once played for makes sense. She can relate on a personal level, having been through what players are experiencing in real time. Also, as Muffet McGraw made clear in her famous speech during a Final Four press conference in 2019, having women in visible positions of power like coaching staffs is about so much more than sports.
“How are these young women looking up and seeing someone that looks like them, preparing them for the future?” McGraw said in the viral speech. “We don’t have enough female role models. We don’t have enough visible women leaders. We don’t have enough women in power. Girls are socialized to know when they come out, gender roles are already set.”
Over the years, I’ve interviewed plenty of coaches across multiple sports and at various levels. Some of those interviews stand out, like when I met Becca Moros, who was an assistant coach with Sky Blue FC at the time. Moros has since been named head coach of the University of Arizona women’s soccer team.
When Moros and I spoke on March 12, 2020 – yes, right before the pandemic – I asked her what it was like making the jump from a player to coach in the NWSL. She told me: “I hope to see a lot more of it.” That’s something I hear a lot.
She continued, “It would be great for more women to be involved at every level of coaching – and [to] coach guys, too. If there’s nothing wrong with me being coached by men my whole career, then there really shouldn’t be anything wrong with men being coached by women and boys being coached by girls. I mean, it’s just a no-brainer. It should happen in both directions.”
This weekend, two men’s teams will be making history for doing just that.
When New York University and the University of Chicago men’s soccer teams face each other in the Bronx on Friday, the game is believed to be the first NCAA men’s game to be coached by two women, according to The New York Times. Kim Wyant is the head coach of New York University, which will host the University of Chicago, coached by Julianne Sitch,
Wyant, one of the original members of the U.S. women’s national team in 1985, is already a household name in soccer. She is considered the first woman to lead a men’s team to an NCAA tournament. To Sitch, a former professional player who was drafted by Sky Blue FC in 2009, Wyant was somewhat of a North Star for her, according to the article.
“Prior to her, there wasn’t any other women coaching and leading men’s teams,” Sitch told The Times. “She was obviously a positive influence and role model.”
And just how Wyant influenced Sitch, maybe together they can inspire another generation, too.
Women & Sport is a NorthJersey.com column devoted to female athletes from the rec league level to those in college and the pros. If you’ve got a tip on an athlete from North Jersey who should be noted in the column, no matter how young they are or how old, please drop me a line at [email protected].
Melanie Anzidei is a reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.