No Fancy Name
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
women, men, coaching...a response
This was originally intended as a comment to Hugo's post "Women, men, coaching" but as you can see it got really long and I didn't want to take over the poor man's comments.

First, I had to pick a few nits with something he wrote, which are completely unrelated to his point but I am compelled to do it. Anne Donovan wasn't the first female head coach of a professional championship team, because Marcia McDermott coached the 2002 WUSA champions, the Carolina Courage. Hey, it was a professional league, they had tons of money (that they spent inappropriately), so it should count. I didn't check other leagues' history, so I'm not saying that McDermott was the first, just that Donovan wasn't. :) Also, to the "recent success in amateur athletics" point, as someone in the "I Hate UConn" camp, I could cite plenty of numbers regarding the prevalence of female coaches of D-I basketball champions (and consistent top-25 programs) but I'll spare you all from that.

But to Hugo's question: "Should the sex of the head coach matter in women's athletics?" my answer is "of course not—hire whomever is most qualified," and that goes for both men's and women's teams. When Ashley McElhiney was hired to coach the ABA team, the Nashville Rhythm, I was suitably disgusted not because she's a woman (I am, too!), but because she has no coaching experience at all, let alone coaching men. Stephanie Ready, however, had D-I men's coaching experience and thus I had no objections to her being named head coach of the NBDL Greenville Groove. There are more female assistants for men's D-I teams than people think, and that's not to mention the number of successful female ADs around. I have the same requirements for men coaching women. If they're good coaches, and understand that there's a difference between coaching men and coaching women, then I don't care if they're male. I also don't think anyone would suggest Bill Laimbeer "tried and failed" before ending up coaching the Detroit Shock to last year's WNBA championship. :) But I do think that "we know it's a serious sport because a man coaches it!" does play a part, at least in the selection of WNBA coaches...what with their inability to market summer-league basketball and all.

I don't agree with the NCAA "encouraging" institutions to hire women for women's teams. If there's a qualified female candidate, great. Just as Hugo said, "women coaches clearly have the talent to lead," and there are plenty of them out there, who should get the jobs that they are qualified for. Gaining these coaching skills does start early, again as Hugo suggested, and that's where the "encouragement" should be. How many male coaches worked their way through the junior high, high school and college ranks before landing a pro gig? A ton.

I've known my fair share of the more well-known professional female athletes, and a particular basketball player and myself were talking about this very subject one day. She, having played the sport since she was a wee lass and having won a few championships and gold medals at various levels, expressed regret/sadness/bad feeling over her male coach having been fired. He was the coach who had a style that she preferred over all others. His directness, lack of coddling, analytical style—things that are generally "masculine" traits—are what she felt made him a better coach than many of her others, and was something that she missed when he was axed. Of course, he was axed because as a whole the team did not respond to this style, which goes back to the differences between coaching men and coaching women, and that the coach, regardless of gender, absolutely must know how that works and be willing to change their style if necessary.


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