Featured events

7-9 September 2012
Brussels Games

Brussels Gay Sports will offer a weekend of fun and fairplay in the capital of Europe, with volleyball, swimming, badminton, and tennis, as well as fitness and hiking.

Learn more HERE.
26-28 October 2012
Bern, Switzerland

The success of the first edition of the QueergamesBern proved the need for an LGBT multisport event in Switzerland. This year will be even bigger, with badminton, bowling, running, walking, floorball.

Learn more HERE.
17-20 January 2013
Sin City Shootout
Las Vegas
The 7th Sin City Shootout will feature softball, ice hockey, tennis, wrestling, basketball, dodgeball, bodybuilding and basketball.

Learn more HERE.

13-16 June 2013
IGLFA Euro Cup
After this year's edition in Budapest at the EuroGames, the IGLFA Euro Cup heads to Dublin for 2013, hosted by the Dublin Devils and the Dublin Phoenix Tigers.

Learn more HERE.

Friday, July 6, 2012

"Why women can't coach football": Title IX turns 40

We're pleased to share this essay by Equality Coaching Alliance member Charley Sullivan on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the US legislation ensuring gender equality in education, and in particular in sport:

Why Women Can’t Coach Football,
or Title IX Turns Forty

Forty years of Title IX is upon us, and with it has come a welcome review of the question of women and athletics. There is no question that this legislation was a game-changer. Women and girls participate in middle, high school and college sports in unprecedented numbers. The level of competition, skill and athleticism in women’s sports is significantly higher as well. In my own sport, rowing, Title IX has quite simply created a college rowing experience for women (and the junior levels that feed it,) that was completely unimaginable even twenty years ago. It has literally changed people’s lives, a point brought home to me over the past month as young women I know were named to the US Olympic Rowing Team, the vast majority of them from college programs that didn’t exist when I rowed in the mid-1980s.

But several recent reports in the media have pointed to an important “conundrum.” As women’s participation in sports has risen, the percentage of women among college coaches has fallen. The increase in athletic opportunity for women has resulted in an increased coaching opportunity for men, who are coaching on the "women’s side" of this nation’s Athletic Departments in larger numbers.

Numerous reasons for this are evident. Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi, Associate Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota, suggests that a complex set of personal, inter-personal, organizational and societal-cultural issues are at play. She notes, in the end, that this is a failure to see women as leaders. “The current structure of sport and male power,” she writes, “does not get challenged and females remain marginalized and in the minority, and because men continue to dominate the sport landscape and occupy the most important positions, society at large continues to believe that men are inherently more competent to coach.”

The answer to this is to make sure women do, in fact, coach. We must assure that qualified women get access to good coaching jobs where they can continue to both demonstrate and develop their leadership abilities.

The problem, however, is that roughly half of the jobs in intercollegiate athletics are not open to women. Because these jobs involve coaching men.

This gendered coaching apartheid is just simply wrong. Universities have, in all other areas, been on the forefront of making sure women as students and as members of faculty and staff have full opportunity and access to all programs and positions. Our lawyers include women, our physicists include women, and our university presidents include women. Even our physicians and athletic trainers, dealing with the intimate issues of male athletes’ bodies, include women. And some of our scholars in Women’s Studies are men.

But you can count the number of women coaching men at the Division I level on your fingers and toes. In rowing, there is only one that I know of currently, Linda Muri, an incredibly talented and successful Assistant Coach at Harvard. And as long as women are excluded, structurally and institutionally, from coaching where it “counts,” which unfortunately still means in men’s revenue sports, women coaching men will remain the rarest of birds.

So here’s a modest proposal to reverse this pattern of invidious discrimination. The NCAA should incentivize its member institutions to hire women to coach men. It should reduce the number of scholarships in men’s sports, and add scholarships back in as women are hired onto those teams’ coaching staffs. For instance, what if we were to reduce football’s 85 scholarships to 60? And for each of the 10 full-time coaching positions that go to women in any particular program, we could give back five scholarships to a maximum of the previous 85. And we'll add in a bonus 2 more if you hire a woman as a graduate assistant. Want all your scholarships? Half your coaching staff should be women.

Do the same thing in basketball with two scholarships per woman coaching. It would change the face of college coaching staffs, and women’s access to them, overnight.

I can hear the howls of male protest now. “But that’s discrimination against men,” and “But there aren’t any women who have the experience to coach football.” Allow me to disagree on both counts.

Addressing clear discrimination against women (the sum total of women coaching football at the college level is, as far as I can ascertain, zero) does not constitute discrimination against the 1440 men who hold each of the 10 full-time coaching positions and 2 graduate assistantships in the 120 teams in FBS Division I football. And while many of the men coaching football have strong college playing backgrounds themselves, they haven’t all come up into the coaching ranks as players. Enough male football coaches have started out with little to no experience on the football field itself to demonstrate that this is a possibility. They’re simply good coaches who know the game well. And I know a lot of good female coaches in other sports who know and love the game of football, and who wouldn’t mind the starting salaries that football coaches get.

In the end, though, the biggest barrier to this is going to be a sense that coaching men somehow belongs to men, like it’s a birthright. It’s wrapped in cultural ideologies that only men can teach younger men about masculinity in some importantly crucial ways, in ideas that young men won’t take coaching from women, or that being coached by women will somehow reduce the competitiveness of a team. Change “women” to “blacks” and “men” to “white men” in that last paragraph, go watch "Remember the Titans," and ask yourself if this isn’t both sexist and an inappropriate reason for keeping college football coaching all-male.

Beyond that though, men’s teams should hire women because they are often, quite simply, very good coaches. On my own team, we have mentored eight women, coaching men, over the past twenty years. The men on our team have not only accepted women as coaches, they’ve won medals and league and national championships with women as coaches. They’ve gone to the Olympics having had women as coaches. Having the increased variety of personalities and coaching approaches that has come from having women on our staff has been a great arrow in our competitive quiver.

Perhaps this is because, unusual in college athletics, men’s rowing teams often have women on them, and the men come to value the women as teammates. At Michigan, we’ve had women in the coxswain seat of our boats more often than we’ve had men. We’ve even had one woman win three national championships in a row as the coxswain of our Varsity Eight. On graduation, she won our “Maize and Blue Oar,” given for superior leadership on the team. She went on to be one of our assistant coaches, and she was as good in the coaching launch as she was in the coxswain’s seat.

This young women, who has left coaching, was clear that she would be a much better coach for men than for women. Given her personal style and approach to life, I agree. And shouldn’t that be part of the her options? Some coaches, male and female, deal better with the coaching dynamic on women’s teams. Some, male and female, would be better suited to coaching men. Coaches, including young women going into the profession, should be completely unfettered in finding their best fit. But the sign outside the NCAA men’s coaching club very clearly says “Women Need Not Apply.”

Women don’t coach football not because women can’t inherently coach football. Women don’t coach football because they aren’t hired, or even looked at, to coach football. They aren’t mentored by senior football coaches. They aren’t brought into the system. Despite the non-discrimination language attached to every Division I athletic department’s policies that says they will not discriminate on the basis of sex in hiring, they do.

And it’s not just football. Women don’t coach men’s swimming, and men’s track and field, and men’s hockey, and men’s wrestling, and baseball, and men’s basketball, and yes, men’s rowing, not because they can’t inherently coach those sports, but because they’re excluded from the possibility from the outset. From my own experience, I would argue that men’s teams, and the athletes and coaches on them, are limited by this exclusion.

Title IX has changed the face of women’s athletics in its first forty years. If some of those female university presidents, and the men who value them as colleagues take the appropriate actions within the NCAA, an institution they are in charge of, and within their own athletic departments, Title XI can change the face of men’s athletics, and our whole society, by the time it turns fifty.

Charley Sullivan is Associate Head Coach of Men’s Rowing and a doctoral candidate in History at the University of Michigan. His team is five-time defending American Collegiate Rowing Association national champions. His academic research focuses on the formation of gender and cultural identities in the 20th century.

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