Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Women and coaching: The case of skiing

The Women's World Cup held in Canada last weekend prompted this very good article addressing the lack of female coaches in the sport. With the 35th anniversary of Title IX and the continued work of scholars like Vivian Acosta and Linda Carpenter, we in the US hear about the lack of women coaching fairly often. I probably see at least one article on it a week these days.

But according to the reporting out of Canada, the situation in international women's skiing is far worse. There was only one female coach present at a meeting of coaches that took place during the World Cup. And most every skier the reporter spoke with said she preferred a male coach.

I had flashbacks to my master's degree research on gender and coaching in women's ice hockey where no player said she preferred a female coach and only a few said they had no preference. This was despite the fact that the majority of them had been coached by very successful women.
None of the skiers interviewed could give very good reasons why they preferred men. There were some pretty weak explanations such as feeling more "at ease" and having a difficult time being coached by women.
So besides the preferences of female skiers, the article mentioned a few other reasons women do not go into coaching. The first is not specific to skiing: families. The amount of travel and the demands of the job have been cited as reasons why women do not want to coach. The second is that it's tough work: standing in the cold, trucking up mountains with equipment, and drilling holes in ice.
These explanations suggest that women do not want to coach. But clearly that is not the case. Many women are pushed out of the sport by 1) beliefs like the above, 2) athletes like those cited in the article, and 3) a myriad of other factors including one of the least talked about, homophobia. Because if women want to coach other women and not raise a family and carry heavy equipment up mountains that must mean they are gay.
And of course sexism manifests in numerous ways. I found it most obvious while reading the article and hearing interviewees refer to female skiers and coaches as girls--more than once. Six times actually were athletes and/or coaches called girls, effectively making them inferior--as both athletes and coaches. This is somewhat ironic considering that many female athletes desire male coaches to legitimize them and their participation in sport to the larger (patriarchal) sport culture.

No comments: