Athletics program lacks female head coaches


Eloise Duncan

Head girls varsity basketball coach Nick Novak instructs players through a drill

Every student at St. Paul Academy is given the opportunity to participate in athletics, no matter their gender. However, it has not always been that way. Until around half a century ago, females were not given nearly as many opportunities to participate in sports as their male counterparts were given. More girls in athletics leads to more girls being able to coach, but, instead of the number of female coaches increasing across the globe, it has steadily decreased.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, before 1972, one in 27 girls participated in a sport. Since then the number has changed. Now, two out of every five girls participate in a sport. Why was 1972 such an important year? In 1972, Title IX was passed. It states that no person, no matter their sex, will be denied the ability to participate or have the benefits of any program or activity that has Federal financial help. This meant that legally, schools had to give girls and boys an equal opportunity to participate in school sports. After it was passed, the number of girls playing a sport quickly and majorly increased.

Logically, more girls playing sports would lead to more girls coaching sports. However, that is not the case. According to the NCAA, in 1972 over 90 percent of the coaches for women’s college teams were female. Today, less than half of the coaches for those women’s teams are female, and close to zero of the coaches for men’s teams are female. Across Minnesota, a study conducted in 2015 by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association found that 27 percent of high school head coaches were female, and 28 percent of their assistant coaches were female. At St. Paul Academy, all of the head varsity sport coaches for the male teams are male. All of the head varsity sport coaches for the female teams are male, except for one. That exception is the head coach for the softball team.

SPA does have female coaches, but, besides the softball head coach, they hold positions underneath the head coach, such as junior varsity coach, or assistant coach. Sophomore Rashmi Raveendran plays soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and runs track in the spring, and has noticed this discrepancy.

“For basketball, one of the coaches that a lot of the girls connect with is the one girl coach that we have. She is the assistant junior varsity coach,” she said.

Junior Kathleen Bishop, who plays volleyball in the fall, hockey in the winter, and softball in the spring, also notices this, but partially credits their connection with the job of the assistant coaches.

I think that especially for girl sports, it would be nice to have another female that is in a head coach position, especially for things that are personal that females could need to talk to someone about”

— Sophomore Rashmi Raveendran

“One of the bigger jobs of the assistant coaches is to connect with the players while the head coach runs the practices, so part of females connecting more with the assistant coaches could also be due to the difference in general relationships with assistant coaches,” she said.

Raveendran also is aware of the differences that a female coach versus a male coach have on female athletes.

“I think that especially for girl sports, it would be nice to have another female that is in a head coach position, especially for things that are personal that females could need to talk to someone about. [More female coaches] could make the sport experience better for a lot of athletes,” she said.

Since Bishop plays on the softball team, the only team to have a female head coach, and the volleyball and girls hockey team, which both have a male head coaches, she can see the different effects different coaches have on female teams.

“I think that having a female coach for female teams could be an advantage because they are able to connect and have a sense of trust faster, you definitely have to still earn and work for it, but I do feel like in some ways you have to get to know male coaches better before you are able to have the same connection,” she said.

Both athletes agree that having more female coaches would be beneficial. Raveendran reflected on how having a female coach would affect the relationship and openness between female players and their coach.

“I think that especially for girl sports, it would be nice to have another female that is in a head coach position, especially for things that are personal that females could need to talk to someone about,” she said.

Bishop, however, thought that having more female coaches would be beneficial to female athletes because it would show them a strong leader that looks like them.

“Having strong female role models is super important, because when I do see more females coaching and in leadership roles, I definitely think it would be possible for me to be in one of those roles as well. Especially when you’re younger, there are a lot of girls, and boys, who try sports but decide that it isn’t for them, partially because they don’t see anyone like them in the leadership roles. I do think that [having more female coaches] could be something that would be helpful to younger girls,” she said.

Across the globe there is a shortage of female coaches, and that affects athletes right inside the St. Paul Academy campus. Any person can work towards being a great athlete, and gender doesn’t determine a great coach, but there are advantages to having a coach that is the same gender as the team. One advantage being that they are able to connect faster and easier, which can help the team have a stronger bond both inside and outside of practice and games. A lack of female coaches also gives the idea to girls that they can’t become a coach or sports influencer, because they do not see people that look like them in the coaching world. The amount of female coaches may not directly impact the amount of female athletes, but it does impact the attitude females have towards becoming a leader in athletic and the relationships within female teams.

This piece was originally published in the February print edition of The Rubicon.