What do Online College Coach Biographies Tell Us About Inclusivity?

15 10 2009

See a guest column I wrote with graduate student Austin Stair Calhoun for the Women’s Sports Foundation, It Takes a Team newsletter titled: What Can Online Intercollegiate Coach Biographies Tell Us About Inclusivity and Tolerance of Diverse Sexual Orientations?

In a previous blog I posted our pilot study poster and results about this project. We’re currently finishing the data collection and analysis (with undergraduate Alicia Johnson, Minnesota State) for a full-scale national study which replicates the pilot. Stay tuned!





Where are the Photographs of Female Coaches?

14 10 2009

As part of my research and outreach I’m always trying to track down pictures of female coaches, specifically at the youth level, that don’t look “staged”. I’ve looked in most all the photo websites like IStock Photo, and when you type in “female coaches”…well just try it and see for yourself. The choices are really pathetic—similar to the  image you see here (not from IStock). coach-mom_baseballIn fact, if you only looked at the pictures you can find on these type of sites– or anywhere for that matter— you’d wonder if legitimate female coaches exist at youth or interscholastic levels.

I’ve had my colleagues and graduate students look as well, in case I was missing something or not searching correctly or in the right spots. Same result. When I needed images for the website of my new initiative to increase the number of female coaches, We Coach: Educating & Empowering Through Sport, I had to email female coaching friends  for images of themselves.

This blog was inspired when I got notice today from WordPress.com that I could have access to pictures on PicApp.com, a site I had not previously been aware of. I immediately went to their site and typed in “coaches” and 3,829 images on 64 pages came up. Here is an example of what you will see–male coaches in action, in uniform, on the field looking competent and in charge. [picapp src=”e/5/7/a/Georgia_Southern_v_69ab.jpg?adImageId=5443390&imageId=6769230″ width=”234″ height=”150″ /] [picapp src=”6/1/2/f/Pistons_vs_Hawks_f5db.JPG?adImageId=5556926&imageId=6783389″ width=”234″ height=”159″ /]What you will not see are pictures of female coaches. I gave up looking for a female coach after the 5th page of images (sigh). (NOTE: I wrote this blog last night, and when I went in today the first images are from the Women’s Sport Foundation Annual Salute to Women’s Sport, including a few of Pat Summitt, the most winning-est coach in collegiate basketball. However, the images of Summitt are not in action, on the court, or in coaching attire, which sends a very different message about coaching competence compared to the images of the male coaches on the page)

Next I typed in “female coaches” resulting in 475 images on 8 pages. The first image is picture of Nadal signing autographs—not sure what this picture has to do with female coaches? The second image is this woman, who in my opinion doesn’t exactly look like a coach.
[picapp src=”c/f/b/e/Rafael_Nadal_Pre_41d7.jpg?adImageId=5557660&imageId=5606384″ width=”234″ height=”316″ /] [picapp src=”9/0/3/e/PicImg_Sarah_Gronert_in_f773.JPG?adImageId=5558108&imageId=4527814″ width=”234″ height=”332″ /]
The ironic part is the search for “female coaches” elicited more pictures of male coaches than female coaches, but when you search for “coaches” only pictures of real male coaches in action show up. (Note: the pics of Summitt mentioned previously do NOT appear on the “female coaches” page)

If you have the skills, passion, and time…please take some high resolution, pictures of female coaches in uniform, and “in action”. When I say “in action” I mean in action while coaching. Take pictures of what it looks like to coach in a REAL game, match, meet, or practice. When you do, make them available somewhere and let me know where to find them! Or if you know of a site with good images of female coaches not at the collegiate level, please enlighten me.

The scarcity of images that portray athletic competence of female athletes is well documented and I’ve written about it previously, but the same portrayal pattern exists for female coaches. A lack of legitimate images virtually and literally erases female coaches which is not good for anyone. Where are the pictures of female coaches?





Happy Sport Parents?

6 10 2009

While most media attention focuses on the negative and angry behaviors of sport parents on youth sport sidelines–not all sport parents are angry and yelling. I have an ongoing research line on the emotional experiences of youth sport parents with some colleagues and students. Last summer we looked at what made sport parents happy; it was a nice change of pace from examining background anger in youth sports.

MCNAIR_Blankenship Poster_2009_Final

Kelli Blankenship, a member of the University of Minnesota Women’s Hockey Team and 2009 McNair Scholar, helped us  analyze the happy parent data. You can see a nice story about her on the U of MN website. We found that child-athlete performances and experiences more frequently made sport parents happy, than did athlete development.  You can see the full results of our poster by clicking on it. We’ll be analyzing the full data set soon, but this will give you a taste of what is to come.





Relational Expertise for Coaches

1 10 2009

Relational expertise for coaches is the capacity to create meaningful, close connections with others that leads to mutual growth and development. My work in this area has been greatly influenced by the Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) developed by Jean Baker Miller and colleagues at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) at Wellesley College. I was introduced to WCW and RCT when I has the head tennis coach at Wellesley from 1994-1998.

growthRelational-Cultural Theory (RCT) suggests that growth-fostering relationships are a central human necessity and disconnections are the source of psychological problems. According to RCT a close relationship is defined by four qualities: (a) authenticity (the process of acquiring knowledge of self and the other, feeling free to be genuine in the context of the relationship in an ongoing effort to represent one’s true self while assessing one’s own risk and gauging the impact of certain truths on the other and respecting the needs of the relationship), (b) engagement (perceived involvement, commitment, responsiveness and emotional availability), (c) empowerment/zest (the experience of feeling personally strengthened, encouraged and inspired to take action through connection in a relationship), and, (d) the ability to deal with difference and conflict (the process of expressing, working through and accepting differences in background, perspective and feeling leading to enlargement of the relationship, rather than disconnection)

We rarely and explicitly train coaches to become relational experts.

I wrote a guest column this month for the Minnesota Women’s Press LeaderVoice on my experiences and thoughts on the Relational Coach. I also have a published article in the International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching titled Expanding the Interpersonal Dimension: Closeness in the Coach-Athlete Relationship

picture from the401kconnection.com





The Case of the Pink Hockey Gloves

22 09 2009

pink glovesA couple years ago a student in my Psychology of Coaching class told me a story of a local youth hockey coach. This coach wanted to make his team of U12 boys “tougher.” To accomplish this goal, he decided to give the least tough skater on his team (in his opinion) a pair of pink gloves to wear for the next practice. He named this honor “the pussy gloves.” A majority of the time, the pink gloves were awarded to the same boy. I wish I were making this up.

There are so many reasons why this motivational tactic is the farthest thing from motivational, aside from the fact it is sexist and homophobic. Unfortunately this type of coaching behavior is not uncommon and often goes unchallenged as the status quo.





One Sport Voice Concluding Summer Thoughts About Sport

7 09 2009

Where did summer go? As a new school year begins tomorrow, I’d like to share a few things I’ve been thinking about over the summer.

1. After giving parent and coach workshops this summer, I’m more convinced that ALL coaches and ALL parents should attend research-based educational workshops that help them create a positive climate for youth athletes. Schools, athletic associations and club teams have to mandate attendance, otherwise the folks who show up are predominately the choir. Anything less than a mandatory attendance policy is not effective in creating the kind of change needed to ensure that sport is done right.

rural-road2. More research is needed on the issues that arise in sport for rural communities. Nearly all of our youth sport research includes suburban or urban communities. Very few researchers have focused on issues particular to rural communities and sport participation. I can only think of the Women’s Sport Foundation report Go Out And Play: Youth Sports in America by Sabo & Veliz (October, 2008) that includes data about rural kids and sports. After giving workshops in a small Minnesota community—with NO stoplights—I learned small rural communities have many of the same issues as their city counterparts, but I think unique issues exist. I talked with parents and coaches, many of whom approached me with stories of sport gone wrong and told me their stories with misty eyes, pain, frustration, and helplessness.

3. While in an antique store this summer I found James Michener’s book Sports in America written in 1976. He details the state of female, youth, collegiate and pro sport in the US (among other topics) just a few years after the passage of Title IX. It was a very interesting read and my take away was–The more things change, the more they stay the same, and some of the issues we think are “new”—such as the professionalization of youth sport—have been problematic for over 30 years.

So as I start the new school year, the focus of my work is ever sharper. Stay tuned for many new blogs that incorporate additional summer musings!





Women Leaders in the WNBA: Gaining Ground or Walking Onto the Glass Cliff?

31 07 2009

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) just released the 2009 Race and Gender Report Card for the WNBA. The WNBA is the only professional league to get an “A+” for both race and gender two years in a row, a feat that remains elusive to any other professional league.

In terms of gender here are some highlights:
+ In 2008, women made gains in terms of percentage as head and coaches, team vice presidents, senior administrators and professional administrators, but lost ground slightly in the League Office. In the 2009 season update, at the beginning of the season, women gained further ground with a 10% increase as head
coaches (46%), a 4% point increase as general managers (to 58%) and a 10% increase as CEO/President (to 43%).
+ Donna Orender remains the only woman president of a professional sports league.
+ The number of women in the CEO/Presidents role for WNBA teams increased from four to five at the start of the 2008 season, and from five to six in 2009.

The TIDES report ushers in good news for women leaders and the WNBA, during a summer in which the floundering economy has taken its toll on the league. The numbers are heartening, but after just reading a book chapter about the “glass cliff” for women in organizations, it left me wondering if the increase of women in all positions of power in the WNBA might not be all positive.

glasscliff_no titleMost everyone is familiar with the glass ceiling metaphor commonly used to describe the often subtle and unseen social-structural gendered barriers that prevent women from reaching the highest echelons of corporate leadership.

The glass cliff is a similar metaphor used to describe the phenomenon of women’s appointments to precarious leadership positions. The glass cliff illuminates the stress experienced by women who have made it through the glass ceiling (i.e., Head Coaches, CEOs, Presidents of WNBA teams) and find themselves in a more vulnerable and precarious position than their male counterparts. Women on the glass cliff often fight an uphill battle for success, without the support, information and resources needed to effectively execute the job.

Researchers have recently uncovered that when organizations are in crisis and have a high risk for failure, women are more often appointed to positions of leadership. Two explanations are offered: 1) women are perceived as particularly well-suited to manage the crisis, or 2) women are appointed to glass cliff positions because those who appoint them want to protect men (or expose women).

Are women being appointed to more positions of power in the WNBA, so failure of the league (if it happens…and I hope it doesn’t!) can in turn be attributed to women?

[photo credit to liikennevalo and knowhr.com]





A Coach Who Gets it Right

27 07 2009

WilkIn the media we more often hear horror stories than positive stories regarding coaches. Fortunately many coaches do get it right and positively affect the lives of countless others.

A wonderful example of just such a coach is Steve “Wilk” Wilkinson, Ph.D., former Head Men’s Tennis Coach of Gustavus Adolphus College. Wilk just retired after 39 years of coaching at Gustavus and is the winningest men’s collegiate tennis coach at any level. His teams competed in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) and achieved a record of 334-1 (.997) in his tenure (you can read more about Wilk’s many accomplishments here, here, and here.)

While his record is impressive, it is his legacy of using tennis as a vehicle to holistically develop young people that is to be most admired. Wilk is a true exemplar whose definition of success has nothing to do with winning. To hear him explain his “Three Crowns” philosophy of positive attitude, full effort, and sportsmanship, listen to these short videos (here and here)-it is well worth your time.

His philosophy is a real life example of how a primary focus on things that can be controlled—rather than on winning—can lead to simultaneous positive development and positive experiences and increase the likelihood of optimal performance. If only there were more Wilks in the world of sport and the world in general, it would surely be a better place for everyone.





A strange day in the world of sport media

23 07 2009

You know how people claim “bad things happen in threes” well after the last 24 hours of things I’ve seen and read in the sport media, I believe it!

1. “The Erin Andrews Peep Show” which if you haven’t heard about by now, then you’re not reading or watching the sport media (To read about what happened and the critical analysis “it” go to the Sports, Media, & Society blog, After Atlanta blog, or a post on Feministing.com titled “A long History of Objectifying Erin Andrews”.) Unfortunately as After Atlanta points out, nearly 20 years ago we had the Lisa Olson “incident” in the Patriots’ locker room, which documents a long history of sexual harassment and objectification of female sport journalists who dare to cover and/or write about male athletes. What I found almost as irksome is the public’s reaction to USA Today sport columnist Christine Brennan’s tweets (@cbrennansports) about the issue in which she said female sport journalists shouldn’t “play to the frat boys” but write or respond as if she were talking to a “12 year old girl sitting on her couch.” Brennan’s remarks were misconstrued and she herself was called “sexist”. Anyone who knows or has followed Christine Brennan knows this is ridiculous! But on the flip side, as Marie Hardin (one of the leading experts on media & gender) points out, female sport journalists in her research often play the blame game when a female colleague is discriminated against. However, which ever side you fall, I think much of the public response to Brennan was yet another example of the sanctioning of female sport journalists…in part, the the traffic over both these issues crashed the server at Women Talk Sports! Even that is sad…that BAD and icky news about women’s sport and female sport journalists have people searching those terms and THEN click upon Women Talk Sports.

2. Then I read on the @womentalksports Twitter an unedited USOC headline: “Can an Olympic athlete be a pimp?” The first line of the story reads, “A lot of women will need to have a lot of sex with a lot of men to get Logan Campbell to the 2012 Olympic Games.Yes, you read that right. Campbell, to cut a long story short, is a New Zealand taekwondo athlete who has opened a brothel to finance his ambition of winning an Olympic medal in London…He has more than a dozen women handing over half their earnings to him. It is, in his words, ‘a good moneymaking industry.’ ” I think this story speaks for itself, but the most disturbing part as it pertains to sport media is that the story was ON THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE U.S. OLYMPIC COMMITTEE.

3. And to round out the trifecta of sexist sport stories, an article about Bernadette Locke Mattox one of only three women in NCAA history to have coached in Division I men’s basketball. “Cool!”, I thought given my research on the dearth of female coaches at all levels….and then I read it. Rick Pitino hired Mattox because “he needed a woman to burnish the image of Kentucky basketball and to emphasize academics, career planning and integrity,” and the assistants reported she smelled good….but “she was just one of the guys.” You leave the article feeling like Pitino hired a pseudo-mother for “his boys” and her pioneering position and obvious skill as a coach were lost. This type of blatant gender bias in sport media is one of the many contributing factors as to why coaching men remains off limits to women at all levels (~2-4% of boys and men are coached by females at every level) and female coaches are routinely perceived as less competent than their male counterparts according to research.

Tomorrow is a new day….





Women Coaching Sports: A New Educational Series

8 07 2009

Currently I am working on developing the first Women Coaching Sports workshop. Research shows female athletes who have never been coached by a female often believe that male coaches are more competent than female coaches. In the absence of female coaches and role models, female athletes may devalue their own abilities, accept negative stereotypes, fail to realize their potential, or consider coaching as a viable career path. In addition, research indicates that coaches cite formalized mentoring as the most important factor in their acquisition and development of coaching knowledge and expertise. Less than 20% of all youth sport coaches are female, and many female coaches face personal, familial and structural barriers that prevent or impede them from entering and remaining in coaching.

U of M coachTo help address these barriers, I’m developing an educational series for women who coach sports at the youth and interscholastic levels. Some of the curriculum utilizes ideas from youth sport mother-coaches I interviewed as part of a research initiative. The series mirrors the NACWAA/HERS Institute for collegiate coaches and administrators.

The purpose of the Women Coaching Sports workshop series is threefold:
1. To provide cutting-edge, research-based educational workshops for females who coach at the interscholastic and youth levels
2. To provide an opportunity for female coaches to build community, network, and develop on-going support for each other throughout their coaching tenures
3. To attract, develop, retain and empower diverse female coaches

The series is a collaborative outreach project of two entities at the University of Minnesota—the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport and the Minnesota Youth Sport Research Consortium.

I would love to hear your ideas about content to include in the workshop series or ideas you may have. Stay tuned for more information about this exciting venture!