The lack of women coaching other women is at a critical stage. There are many many reasons for this, some controllable and others not. Women who want to be coaches, listen up, this is for you.
Every once in a while for the past few years, a few articles or studies come out around the same time talking about the lack of women in coaching. I read most of them, I don't read every single one. But every time I do, I'm left with the same feeling. It's a feeling that there's something missing in these statements of outrage.
Although I agree in part with many of the suspected reasons for the decline, I feel that at least in part some of the onus has to be on us - women in coaching. As a female coach that fought her way up the ladder for 21 years, I am passionate in my belief that we own some of the blame. No one will ever be as passionate about this cause than those that it directly affects. Since that is true, let's just take ownership of the problem so we can fix it.
I can't tell you how many times I have looked at coaching transaction websites with utter dismay at a hire that was in no way or shape ready for a position. I know, it sounds caddy, right? It's not. This is not professional jealousy. The eye roll is all too often prompted by a female coach who seems to have gotten a job that's over her head. Not just over her head, but WAY over her head, to the point that the end result of the hire is entirely predictable up to the number of years or months she'll hold the job. It happens and it happens a lot...many times with good intentions of administrators who mandate that either the department or their head coach 'MUST' hire a women. Cool, but the female coaching soroity would rather those well meaning administrators looked at qualifications first, gender second.
Gone are the days of past where a young and perhaps promising coach can get thrown into a head coaching job after her playing career, pat her on the back and let her work her way into the vast knowledge this job requires. The job is too big, it's too visible. It's a good problem. That means people - and a lot of them - are paying attention to our women's teams. But hey, it also means people are paying a lot of attention to our women's teams.
This is not to say that administrators shouldn't aim to try to find the most qualified females to coach their female teams. I think they should. However, there are administrators that have actually admitted to reopening searches after only finding men who were qualified for their coaching opening instead of hiring one of those qualified men. So what's the problem with that you ask... Why so down on females getting more of an opportunity?
#1: The scenerio has played out numerous times...coach gets in over their head, they fail, they leave coaching to never re-enter the profession - that school is scarred and is less likely to hire female coaches in the future (even highly qualified ones) and MOST IMPORTANTLY there is one less female building her skill to move forward in the sport. Perhaps this coach would have been great, we'll never know.
#2: That female fails and confirms some people's suspicions that males are just 'better coaches'. The female candidate pool has a harder time getting gigs in the future. Female athletes who played for this very under qualified woman have a bad role model, they themselves don't think for a second about coaching as a career and the pool loses future female coaching candidates.
So why is it worse when a female gets in over her head and fails? Because as it is well documented, there are fewer. If you count men's and women's teams in Division I, about a quarter of head coaching jobs are held by women. That 40% number you keep hearing, well that's only talking about coaches of female teams. Add the 100% of males coaching male teams and you drop the overall number from under half to under a quarter. The ripples of failure from female coaches are felt more fiercely than if a male coach fails. Unfair, perhaps, but it's reality. A seemingly outdated notion, maybe, so let me expand. There is an unspoken thought amoung many male coaches in the volleyball world, usually expressed with only an eye roll at the story of a woman that failed. 'Of course she failed, she wasn't as qualified or ready as so and so that applied for that job' is what that eyeroll seems to say. Perhaps it doesn't lower the glass ceiling for other women in coaching, but it does make it a bit harder for us to gain credibility with our male counterparts upon first glance. Since all coaches, regardless of gender, need assistant jobs to gain expereince and becuase male coaches hold the vast majority of head coaching jobs and therefore are doing the hiring, those eyerolls cannot and should not be ignored. Credibility in coaching is important for men and women, and I'm asserting that for females the importance of credibility is amplified and harder to come by when time and time again young female coaches get in too far over their head. Again, is that fair - NO. Is it reality, as someone who has seen a behind the scenes look at it, I'm here to tell you it is. Especially in the world of coaching.
My point? To all aspiring coaches, male and female: be smart, toil, work your way up, take your time to rise to the top, read more, study harder, learn from people before you, be responsible for your own mentorship, become an artist of your craft. There is no such thing as a super star fast riser...it takes hours, a lot of practice, and many failures to build the skill of a master coach. Learn the craft apprenticeship style so your failures aren't so large. Then, if you ware so fortunate to work with young women, build them day by day into confident women who will not be afraid to stand up to her boss for the raise she deserves or intimidated by the overzealous guy who thinks he can interrupt her every thought. Like I say to every young athlete I work with in gyms across this country, I need you to be awesome so that you can, in small and large moments, change the world.