Gender games: Micro-competitions and a woman's sense of self as coach
As women's sports have grown and flourished over the last 30 years, the percentage of women coaching women has declined from above 90% to under 45%. This decline seems curious with so many new coaching opportunities in women's sports. In some cases, men applied for and got newly created jobs; in other cases, women decided to leave their coaching positions and were replaced by men. Why would women leave the coaching field in the midst of such great growth and opportunity? As past studies demonstrate, women coaches encounter gender issues that persist due to the inherently androcentric nature of sport.
This study took that research one step further. Using a voice-centered relational methodology to interview and analyze, I examined the intertwining aspects of gender, relationships, coaches' struggles, and their resultant senses of self. I call their struggles "micro-competitions," here defined as seemingly inconsequential, private struggles that female coaches have within the context their relational experiences.
This study found that while most female coaches enjoy equity of budgets and resources, all feel the effects of hidden gender issues that plague their athletic departments. Examples of these issues include the male-centered culture of sport, unequal power distribution, and pre-existing gender regimes. Women coaches do not feel the effects of the gender inequities on their fields and courts, but in the hallways and in staff meetings in their roles as colleagues. These issues force women into micro-competitions for reasons such as to gain respect, to stand their ground, to find voice, to survive inappropriate behavior, and to be accepted as part of the group. As colleagues, female coaches have feelings of low self-worth, low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and loss of voice.
The five female coaches in this study reveal that changes in the culture of sport are necessary to produce communities that are sustaining and enhancing for both the women and men of athletic departments. If we want our valued female coaches to remain in their present positions as athletic educators it is necessary to produce environments that enhance instead of denigrate their senses of self as coaches, colleagues, and teachers.
0453: Womens studies
0629: Labor relations