Book Looks at Increase in Men Coaching Women's SportsWILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — As women's sports have grown in the last 30 years, the percentage of women coaching women has declined from above 90 percent to under 45 percent. A Williams College researcher has asked, why?
"Past studies demonstrated that women coaches encounter gender issues that persist due to the inherently male-centered nature of sport," said Christina Cruz, author of "Gender Games: Why Women Coaches are Losing the Field" (March 2009, VDM Verlag).
Cruz, a research analyst in the strategic planning and institutional diversity department at Williams College, examines the "intertwining aspects of gender, relationships, coaches' struggles, and the resultant sense of self as coach in her book.
"Women coaches do not feel the effects of the gender inequities on the fields and courts, but in the hallways and staff meetings, in their roles as 'colleagues,'" she writes. "These issues force women into 'micro-competitions' (seemingly inconsequential, private struggles that female coaches have within the context of their relationships) in an effort to gain respect, to stand their ground, to find voice, to survive inappropriate behavior, and to be accepted as part of the athletic department."
Today, women's collegiate sports have been absorbed by men's athletic departments and are coached by more men than women. In 2008, women directed only 21.3 percent of the programs and coached only 42.8 percent of women's teams as head coaches.
In her book, Cruz points out that female coaches endure a value system that puts men on top, the perception that men work harder than women, and the problems of juggling family and work. They constantly face comparisons to their male counterparts, and men's athletics often garner more attention than do women's athletics.
The book includes compelling stories from five female coaches, which shed light on the "strong sense of self as coaches and diminished sense of self as colleagues."
Cruz said, "When I began this study, I questioned what happens to a coach's sense of self. I hypothesized a linear movement from gender issues within the culture of sport to micro-competitions in female coaches that influence their relationships, which in turn influence their sense of self as coaches."
What she found is the importance of reaching beyond issues of gender to consider the culture of sport and its effects on relationships, micro-competitions, and sense of self in coaches and athletes.
She argues that instead of encouraging cutthroat competition, sport culture should encourage team spirit, sportsmanship, and camaraderie.
"Coaches need to move the culture of sport beyond its male-centered origins, to leave behind a masculinity that has long outgrown its usefulness in a culture that touts team spirit, sportsmanship and camaraderie," she writes. "Careful attention to leveling the playing field and enlivening the honorable elements of athletics will do much to enrich lives on college campuses and beyond."
Cruz was a member of 1980 U.S. Olympic Rowing Team. She served as head coach of women's crew at Williams College for 12 years before pursuing her doctorate in education at the State University of New York at Albany. She received her bachelor of science degree in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her awards include the Civilian Congressional Medal of Honor.