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Working To Increase Number of Women Coaches: Why It Matters

Untapped resource, good for families, boys and girls

Working to recruit and retain more women coaches in youth sports is important because:

  • Athletic women are a largely untapped community resource Today’s generation of mothers is rich with athletic experience and talent.  Many women, I have found, want to coach their kids’ teams. But all too often they are channeled away from coaching, into non-coaching support roles like “team mom.” Tapping in to this growing talent pool of athletic women will benefit our communities and our kids.
  • It’s good for families.What adults do in youth sports is linked to what we do in other realms — especially families. There is currently what many have called an “unfinished gender revolution” in work and family life.For instance when dual-career families start to have children, it is a common practice to shift the burden of breadwinning on to the shoulders of the father, and housework, childcare and community volunteer work on to the shoulders of the mother. While this choice is often made because of the inflexibility of workplaces and occupations, it is further reinforced by a skewed gender division in youth sports coaching, one that symbolically positions the man as the team’s leader, and the women as the supportive “team mom.” Greater gender equity among parents in youth sports coaching will reverberate into family life.
  • It’s good for boys.Today’s boys are moving into a world where they will be working with women co-workers, and even women bosses. In preparation for the world they will inhabit as adults, boys need to see and experience the full range of women’s leadership and physical abilities.
  • It’s good for girls.Women coaches can be in inspiration to today’s girls, giving them a vision of what they can do when they are adults. As one coach told the girls on her softball team, “Someday, most of you girls are going to be moms. You don’t want to just let Dad do all that stuff. Not when you’ve got this kind of experience. You want to do it too.”

Michael A. Messner is professor of sociology and gender studies at the University of Southern California. His latest book is It’s all for the kids: Gender, families and youth sports (University of California Press, 2009).

Posted August 2, 2011