Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

An authority tells me she’s looking for where the women coaches at

with 5 comments

None other Nicole LaVoi (pronounced La Vwah — like Stephen Colbert would say, it’s French, bitch) responded to my post the other day, “Where the women coaches at?” That was the name of the post, not her response.

nicolelavoiheadshot_2006_21LaVoi (left) is associate director of the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, and as such has done a lot of work on answering the grammatically challenged question posed in the previous paragraph. The center recently hosted University of Southern California professor of sociology and gender studies Michael Messner, who has done some work on the subject himself.

You might remember my previous post for its frequent, sardonic use of “soft essentialism,” Messner’s term for women thinking they are making a choice not to coach when it’s really the Man (or, in fact, the old boys running the coaching network) who have unconsciously made that choice for them. I responded that while that might be true in some cases, at least among the moms that I know, their choice not to coach has more to do with either a lack of interest in sports or a desire not to add one more goddamn thing to their schedule after work and chores.

I have come to learn two things since my previous post. One is that “The Soft Essentialism” is a great name for a band, and with that name I am totally gonna open for Radiohead within three years. The other, as Professor LaVoi pointed out, is that while I have my differences with her and Messner, we have more in common than I might have believed.

Thank you for your blog in raising more awareness on this issue and providing additional insights and opinions. In Messner’s book he actually does talk about how many men also feel left out of the “old boy’s network” and face many of the same barriers to coaching that women perceive and face. Neither Messner nor I are making the claim that men are overtly scheming to keep women out of coaching, but there are many subtle ways in which this happens that are much more complex than merely saying “women don’t want to coach”.

I wrote  two blogs about the lack of female coaches in youth sport and why it matters and how to help increase the number of female coaches in youth sport. I agree with you that many women are just too busy to even think about coaching and are juggling many roles. I don’t think we disagree…not that much anyway! I also agree that implementing the strategies is much more difficult than writing about it, but if one thinks it is an important issue…it is a starting point!

I would heartily agree with you, professor. Whatever we think the reason, I think we all like the idea of having more women coaching.

I’m not sure I buy Brooke de Lench’s (of Momsteam fame) contention that, and I paraphrase, that women coaches are needed because they tend to bring unicorns and sunshine while, by contrast, male coaches tend to be overcompetitive assholes. However, different people bring different talents, and leagues should make it abundantly clear they want and encourage women among the coaching ranks.

While it seems like there should be a lot more female coaches nearly 40 years into the Title IX era, perhaps this problem will solved by a future generation — the so-called second wave of feminism, if you will. I eagerly await watching my 9-year-old and 3-year-old daughters someday coaching their kids.

Written by rkcookjr

April 27, 2009 at 8:07 pm

5 Responses

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  1. I recently finished Messner’s Book as part of our book club. As a HS varsity coach (2 sports)it was my idea to read all the various books to seehow we could become better at communicating with parents, kids, etc. One concern we all have is that at our HS (Arizona) 90% of the coaches are guys. This (as my girls) point out really sucks. I think Messner is spot on and thank you for introducing me to Brooke de Lench at MomsTeam. Just spent 30 mins reading the article you shared in your blog and ten others. my take away from her article was so different than yours. Seems she is shining a lite on the potential of women as coaches, backing it up with good research, and not taking anything away from us men. Her Book will be on our list as a must read. Why not do a blog on the swine flu and how it may ruin our spring baseball season/ We are close to Mex and pretty concerned.

    George Brewster

    April 28, 2009 at 10:40 am

  2. Thanks for your comment. I can see why different people would have different takes on Brooke da Lench’s article. I think she does great work, but I also think it’s a disservice to everyone to say men are this and women are that when it comes to coaching. Especially when you hear some of those moms in the stands! 🙂 As Nicole LaVoi commented on this site, we all agree that we need more female coaches, and that it is a shame if any women refuse to coach because they feel like they’re getting squeezed out by some sort of old boys’ network.

    Coach Brewster, if you have info about how the swine flu is affecting your season, please shoot me a note at rkcookjr In fact, any coach or parent who has heard anything about swine flu affecting spring sports, please send me a note. I’m interested to hear what’s going on.


    April 28, 2009 at 10:52 am

  3. […] coaches in youth sport was appropriate given the amount of emails I received about this topic and blogs written in response to this topic. It seems like there is a need to continue the […]

  4. Your characterization of my argument about the qualities that most women naturally bring to coaching as saying that women should be coaches “because they tend to bring unicorns and sunshine” and your suggestion that I view male coaches as tending to be “over-competitive assholes” isn’t a fair one and ignores the fact that not only is my argument based on personal experience but it is supported by research from Professor Lavoie, Dr. Leonard Sax, Professor Ellen Staurowsky, evolutionary biologists, other many other researchers, communications expert Deborah Tannen, and from thousands of visitors from the past ten years, both men and women. Men and women are different, and it is very well documented that these characteristics show up on the playing fields. Like it or leave it; it is a fact.

    I think it is also curious that you would read my article as being about “unicorns and sunshine.” And, that you have put words in my mouth about male coaches tending to be “over competitive assholes.” This very flippant characterization of me is perhaps at the root of what just may be going on beneath the surface of the serious youth sports conversations amongst youth sports experts like myself in this country. Youth sports have become far too serious and competitive, and when females (and some men) point this out, the knee-jerk reaction of many men is the “best defense is a good offense” strategy: accuse women of advocating that youth sports should be about fun and only fun. I don’t say that: I advocate for more balance between fun and winning, between competition and cooperation.

    Why would you chose to make sarcastic comments about me and put words in my mouth instead of taking my comments seriously? People who know me will tell you that I have many wonderful and close male friends-many of whom are coaches and league administrators from around the country. Many are working as hard as I have been to make sports safer, saner, less stressful and more inclusive for the past twenty years.

    I do agree that real change may have to wait for the second wave of feminism, but that doesn’t mean those women, primarily mothers, who may have the time and energy to devote to coaching shouldn’t be given more of an opportunity now to be coaches than the prevailing culture and good ol’ boy network allows. I also agree that many men feel excluded by the good ol’ boy network: over the past ten years as the editor-in-chief of I have heard from hundreds who feel this way—even men who were on the board of directors of their local Little League or youth soccer club who have told me they always felt like outsiders looking in and voices crying in the wilderness when they argued for less of an emphasis on winning.

    I urge anyone who really wants to know who runs youth sports in this country to turn to page 232 in my book Home Team Advantage to review the chart I compiled and titled: Who Is Running Our Youth Sports Organizations. The chart lists the total of Board of Director members for over twenty of the leading organizations. Less than 5% of the board members are women.

    Brooke de Lench

    April 28, 2009 at 4:58 pm

  5. […] While LaVoi and I have some slight differences on why that number is low, we would be in agreement that it would be great to see that number go up. I’m disappointed that this year, for my 7-year-old son’s baseball team, I will not have a female assistant, as I did last year. It was disappointing that when I managed by 10-year-old daughter’s softball teams, I never had a female assistant, even though I begged one ex-softball playing mom to come aboard. (Claiming she was too busy — a pretty legitimate claim, and a common reason in my experience why moms haven’t coached — she instead sent her husband.) I was heartened that one the assistants of my 10-year-old daughters’ co-ed basketball team was (well, still is) a woman. […]

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