The world needs more women coaching athletic teams

Females coaching sports could have a positive impact on teams and society.

Opinion By Emily Faith Grodin, Staff Writer

Simon Biles, Aly Raisman, Maggie Nichols and Mckayla Maroney bravely shared their stories. It is clear that the abuse suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar have caused a ripple effect in the athletic community.

While the 2021 Tokyo Olympics have come to a close for the year, the USA Women's Gymnastics Team continues to hold the spotlight in the media, as a result of a Senate hearing last week involving four female gymnasts. After years of direct access to the young women and girls on the team, Nassar received a jail sentence that is so long, it is equal to a death sentence. Aside from the sexual abuse charges, Nassar also faces time on a separate charge of child pornography.

The natural thing to do is look at the people around these young women in positions that could have protected them. The USA Women’s Gymnastics Team has four senior positions, three of those are held by women. However, the top position of head coach is held by Tom Forster who has held the position of team coordinator for the USA women’ national gymnastics team since 2018. In fact, a woman has never coached the women’s team.

This is just one example in a much larger theme among athletic teams. Previously, Becky Hammon was a force to be reckoned with in the years she served as the assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. Kathryn Smith held her own on the field as the first female coach of the New York Jets, and the first woman to coach an NFL team.

The answer to why there are more men in coaching may be more simple than it appears. In 1972, 90 percent of head-coaching positions were held by women. This changed with the introduction of Title IX, which was created to ensure that men’s and women’s teams received equal funding according to the NCAA. The salary increase that women's-team coaches received suddenly attracted men, and the men were hired.

Some may say that it is something to be culturally expected, seeing a male in a leadership role, but perhaps it is time to put an end to this thinking. There are several reasons why more women coaching would have a positive impact among teams and society.

The qualities that make a great coach — empathy, strong communication skills, ability to understand and know players and the ability to motivate — tend to be traits dominant in females. While a coach should be confident, they must not be so intimidating that players feel they are unapproachable.

In an age where society works towards gender equality, women coaching could have incredible influence on athletes and young women who aspire to make a name for themselves in sports. The reality is that sports are one of the most widely consumed forms of entertainment on the planet. Men are not the only fans watching.

History has not provided many opportunities to observe women in leadership roles in the sports community. The truth of the matter is that until that happens, the world may never know the full potential that women have in coaching. In the case of the USA gymnastics team, only hindsight is left. Rather than ask if a female coach could better protect young women from abuse after the fact, it is time to rethink what kind of coach truly has the skills and ability to meet all needs of the team and individual players.

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