When we watch our favorite sports on television, whether it’s the Utah Jazz in the NBA, the San Francisco Giants in the MLB or the Pittsburgh Steelers from the NFL, there is one commonality between all of these games — there are no females present on the field or on the sidelines.
Although there has recently been a big push to get females into professional coaching positions, the movement has not been successful enough to see major change.
We can see faces such as Becky Hammon coaching with the San Antonio Spurs, Nancy Lieberman broadcasting with the New Orleans Pelicans, Kathryn Smith coaching with the Buffalo Bills and finally, Sarah Thomas, who is the first full-time female NFL referee.
These are just some of the women who are breaking down boundaries in men’s sports and they are paving the way for the next generation of females in sports.
Why do we see so few women coaching men’s sports, yet so many men coaching women’s sports?
Here at the University of Utah, we are home to 18 Division I Pac-12 conference teams. Of those 18, 11 are women’s teams while only seven are men’s teams. When you look on the rosters, only five of the teams have women in the head coach position.
Men hold either a head or assistant coaching position on every team at the U, and they are present throughout the coaching rosters as well. Women, on the other hand, are only on the rosters of women’s sports save for the operations and marketing manager on the baseball team and the students for the ski team (which is men’s and women’s combined).
It seems fascinating to me that men are allowed to coach women’s sports for a number of reasons. The biggest concern to me is that female and male body types are different and they sometimes require different coaching styles. Women know the female body better and women who have played the sport that they are coaching have the knowledge and tools to bring other women to success.
Men, however, do not have direct experience practicing and playing in women’s athletics, and, therefore, they technically should be put in the same category. If this is the way that we are hiring coaches, then the pool would not be as large, because not all former players are interested in coaching after their careers end.
This argument can be flipped the other way to address women coaching men’s sports, and while it is true that women have never played football or men’s basketball, you do not see women present in any form on men’s coaching rosters.
I am not looking for women to suddenly become head coaches of women’s teams. I feel as if the balance is uneven and sometimes unfair when a women’s team is being led by an all-male coaching staff. I think that women are discredited in the world of sports because female sports are seen as soft and “easier” than men’s sports. In most cases, however, women are working harder than men to get where they are because they are held to a higher standard.
There are women who are just as dedicated to their sports as men are, and although they have to fight more to be heard, they are opening up the sports world to be more accepting of them. I think that it is interesting to look through the differences in coaching styles in men and women and see how that affects kids growing up.
When I played sports growing up, I had a good mix of both male and female coaches in my sports. I think that I have fonder memories of my male coaches. However, I was always pushed harder by my female coaches. I think that the women that coached my teams carried more credibility in my mind, and they were the ones that were invested and dedicated to the game. I think that it is important for all kids growing up to be coached under both men and women because you learn different things from everyone. I have taken away something from each of my coaches and my male coaches never took away from my knowledge of the game in the same way that my female coaches never made me a “soft” player.
It is time for the sports world to become more accepting of women and the knowledge that they bring to the table whether it is through playing, coaching or even just viewing. Women are just as capable and knowledgeable in sports as men are, and now is the time to let the world know.