Sunday, April 15, 2007

Let's talk about climate

Not the weather (though it is snowing here in MA on April 15 so climate change is on my mind!!) but the climate in athletic departments that can make it more or less welcoming for female coaches.
The student newspaper at Texas Christian University recently reported on the lack of female head coaches in intercollegiate athletics, using Carpenter and Acosta's data and their own school as an example. There are ten women's sports at TCU--seven are (head) coached by men.
The writer was fairly thorough getting comments from coaches on the differences between coaching men and women; a sport psychologist on the needs of male and female athletes; and female athletes on whether they prefer male and female head coaches. Two of the most common threads in the gender and coaching discourse are present: 1) the most qualified coach should get the job regardless of sex; 2) there are differences in how male and female head coaches relate to male and female athletes in terms of motivation and dealing with personal issues.
There are two conspicuous absences in this discussion, though. The first is the data from Carpenter and Acosta that notes that greater numbers of female coaches are found in departments where there is a female athletic director and/or another high-ranking department administrator.
Second, there is no discussion of the L-word: lesbians. I saw TCU play in the first round of the NCAA tournament this year and I thought, "a Fort Worth, Texas, Christian institution; not a place lesbians probably flock to." And never mind if you are a lesbian or not or whether you are out of not; any single woman applying for a coaching job at TCU must raise a red flag among administrators. Profiles of the three women's head coaches include the fact that the golf coach is a mother to two young children and her husband manages the local country club; the rifle coach is married--her husband's name in mentioned; and the date of the volleyball coach's wedding is published as part of her bio.
What the combination of the lack of females in the department (of the six associate ADs, only two are women) and the stress on married females says is "lesbians or lesbian-looking types need not apply."
Both of these absences speak to the climate athletic departments set for gender equity and it seems at TCU--and many other schools throughout the country--there's a rather chilly climate.

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