Gender & Coaching Part I: College Athletics’ War on Women Coaches

While “College Athletics’ War on Women Coaches” is an essay that exclusively focuses on sports, gender and coaching in the USA, in many respects it represents the pervasiveness of sexism and misogyny throughout North America. Pat Griffin, who is a leading expert on this topic and the founder of Changing the Game: The GLSEN Sports Project (an education and advocacy program focused on addressing LGBT issues in K-12 school-based athletic and physical education programs), documents in her essay how funding has been diverted away from women’s programs, and women coaches have been systematically dismissed from various sport programs throughout the USA.

After reading the article, it becomes clear that the backlash women coaches are experiencing is also influenced by homophobia, and a clear discomfort with sexuality in general. As Griffin notes:

I believe that the public rationale offered by athletic administrators for their decisions in each of these cases masks a deeper and more fundamental problem in college athletics: misogyny, sexism and homophobia. This trifecta of hostility towards women in athletics is made more threatening in an athletic climate in which financial resources are strained to the max and athletic administrators in schools large and small buy into the pipe dream of cultivating big time football (and men’s basketball) as the salvation of cash strapped athletic departments.

When one starts to delve deeper into this subject matter, it’s easy to see that for many men having strong women in charge of sport programs, particularly those who are openly queer, is difficult to accept. The lack of funding for women’s programs and/or the hiring of women, heterosexual or otherwise, to positions of power and leadership is a challenge to the norm. And when you add other layers of discrimination such as racism and classism to the mix, it becomes an almost impossible set of circumstances for women to overcome.

So what to do about it? This is a complex question. For many women coaches who are featured in the essay, they have taken their former employer to court and sought to remedy things legally, while others have taken their severance package and moved on. There is no one way to go about addressing this, and individuals need to always determine what is best for them in circumstances like these. Yet, for those of us who are not in the thick of elite level sports, what can we do to support and/or advocate for change? Part II of this thread will address this … look out for it later this week.