Interesting news release.

Why Have Men Taken Over Coaching Women’s Sports? New Research Offered in “Gender Games”

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., May 29, 2009 — As women’s sports have grown in the last 30 years, the percentage of women coaching women has declined from above 90 percent to under 45 percent. Why?

“Past studies demonstrated that women coaches encounter gender issues that persist due to the inherently male-centered nature of sport,” said Christina Cruz, author of “Gender Games: Why Women Coaches are Losing the Field” (March 2009, VDM Verlag).

Cruz’s book examines the “intertwining aspects of gender, relationships, coaches’ struggles, and the resultant sense of self as coach.

“Women coaches do not feel the effects of the gender inequities on the fields and courts, but in the hallways and staff meetings, in their roles as ‘colleagues’,” she writes. “These issues force women into ‘micro-competitions’ (seemingly inconsequential, private struggles that female coaches have within the context of their relationships) in an effort to gain respect, to stand their ground, to find voice, to survive inappropriate behavior, and to be accepted as part of the athletic department.”

Today, women’s collegiate sports have been absorbed by men’s athletic departments and are coached by more men than women. In 2008, women directed only 21.3 percent of the programs and coached only 42.8 percent of women’s teams as head coaches.

In her book, Cruz points out that female coaches endure a value system that puts men on top, the perception that men work harder than women, and the problems of juggling family and work. They constantly face comparisons to their male counterparts, and men’s athletics often garner more attention than do women’s athletics.

The book includes compelling stories from five female coaches, which shed light on the “strong sense of self as coaches and diminished sense of self as colleagues.”


1) I think that the College should do a better job of having academically-inclined non-faculty give tutorials. This would not involve placing them on the faculty or even paying them extra. It would just be a way of expanding the academic offerings of Williams and involving administrators more directly in the intellectual life of the community. Cruz would probably teach an amazing tutorial in her areas of interest. Why not have her do it? Other administrators who should also be given the opportunity to teach tutorials include Dean Dave Johnson, Gail Bouknight-Davis, Stephanie Boyd, and many others. This is a larger topic, of course, but the more tutorials that Williams offers, the better.

2) For those interested, see here (pdf) for Cruz’s dissertation. This book is clearly based on this work, especially the interviews with 5 coaches. (Quiz: Although the coaches are anonymous, insiders can figure out which is an Eph. Can you? Bonus question: Tell the story of how her troubles were the unseen cause of Hank Payne’s departure.)

3) Does this book come anywhere near providing an explanation for men coach so many womens teams? Not that I can see. (And not that I am willing to pay $76 (for a paperback!) to find out.) Cruz’s dissertation provides 5 interesting stories about the struggles that these specific coaches have faced, but it does little to address why women coach a “low” percentage of womens teams. (In a gender-perfect world, what percentage would they coach?) But perhaps the book has a lot of new material . . .

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