Friday, January 30, 2009

The coaching controversy

Since I got a little crap the other day for suggesting that Mark Johnson might not be the best choice for the job of head coach of the women's national ice hockey team, I thought I would post today about mixed gender coaching.

I was actually going to do this anyway because I have come across two editorials recently that address the issue. Neither are particularly insightful--or even accurate--but mediocrity often inspires me.

In Oklahoma, in a piece focused on the Big 12, John Klein writes about how there has been a trend toward women coaching women in the last twenty years before which coaching was dominated by men. Well, not exactly. First, prior to the passage of Title IX, women dominated the coaching landscape--think over 90 percent of women as coaches of women's teams. When it became more lucrative men began filling the positions. And this is across the board. Part of the problem with Klein's statements is that they seem to refer only to basketball, where, yes, there are a lot of women coaching. But remember that the latest data show that women as head coaches comprise just less than 43 percent of head coaching positions. In basketball it's 59 percent. Still not a stunning majority and a number that is down from 1977 when women had nearly 80 percent of the head coaching positions in basketball.
Klein also offers us this curious statement:
The idea that men couldn't coach women, or vice versa, seems rather old-fashioned to say the least.
Well not so much if one considers that women are not coaching men and it doesn't seem like that trend is in danger of changing.
Which leads me to problematic editorial number 2 from the Bleacher Report. Not surprisingly this one is written by the same woman who wrote the very problematic piece on transgender athletes. And this one too engages in quite a lot of essentialism and thus makes her (quasi) conclusion that women should be allowed to coach men and might even be successful at it, a little bit less worthy of my enthusiasm.
The way she assigns characteristics to men and women (both as coaches and as athletes) make them seem innate. Women are nurturing, men are hard-asses. Men want to impress women all the time but have issues of taking orders from women. Her essentialist "reasoning" is part of the reason why we don't see women coaching men--because we rely on outdated and/or damaging stereotypes.


Diane said...

Until women coach men, the idea that the "best" coach must be hired is an idea tainted by sexism. I'm willing to put a lot of money on the theory that when men's teams are looking for the "best" coaches, they do not put any great female coaches on their lists. It is a given that women will accept men as authority figures (imagine that), and it also a given that men will not accept women as authority figures.

The people who commented on your last blog post conveniently overlook this fact when they accuse you of believing that a man should not be hired just because he is a man. Coaches of male teams are hired all the time on the basis of their genders.

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