Why are there so few moms coaching their daughters’ teams? There isn’t a shortage of moms with an athletic background, or who are great at herding and organizing kids’ activities, or who can get to practice. So why aren’t more women stepping into this role? I was thinking over my own personal struggles in coaching youth sports and wondered if I was alone or if perhaps, maybe, more moms were hitting the same road blocks I have been hitting for years. In an effort to find answers in the modern ways of science…I put out a casual facebook poll asking moms to message me about their youth coaching experience, or their reasons for not coaching their kids, and what I got in return were messages that were almost identical from women who have never met. Houston, hold on tight, because I think we have a problem!
Not only did messages pour in from moms about their experiences, but dads as well had their own perspective on why there aren’t more women coaches. The two insights couldn’t be more different. We have a serious disconnect on our hands and if we want to get more moms involved, there’s going to have to be a real effort to make the shift.
My own personal list of difficulties in trying to keep up in a predominantly male owned role is it’s own story. In over 16 years of coaching and private teaching sports such as swimming, boys and girls basketball, fitness training, boys travel soccer, and of course -boys and girls lacrosse I’ve seen it all, the good and the ugly. While some experiences have been wonderful, more often than not I’m reminded that this isn’t exactly a female dominated role to take on. I’ve repeatedly had to give my resume to prove my worthiness for a volunteer youth coaching position, and despite being a career coach, trainer and degreed exercise science professional -often was placed as an assistant to dads who are new to the sport and have no coaching experience. In these roles I struggled to have any say at all, squirmed as I disagreed with coaching styles that I felt were not beneficial to the growth of the girls, and often was disregarded completely when I tried to speak up. In case you don’t know me, I’m not exactly a push over so it wasn’t because I wasn’t expressing myself. I started coaching with my husband eventually because I knew I would have an ally for once on the sideline who respected my knowledge and my opinion and who would share my coaching philosophies. But there were many times I knew it would be easier to just give up and walk away.
The messages I received were the same story as mine, actually many of the stories were far worse, but the frustration was the same. And I don’t mean one or two messages, I’m talking mounds of responses telling the SAME kind of story. Women who volunteered to coach, paired as an assistant, with a dominant male figure who disregarded them repeatedly throughout the season until many of them just left coaching all together. Many of the ones attempting to coach their sons rather than their daughters were basically ignored as though they never volunteered at all. One mom spoke about how she was told to bring team snacks and take kids to the bathroom in her role as an assistant soccer coach, while the dad head coach who had never played an organized team sport himself, had the girls running laps for most of practice and didn’t know the rules. Her offers to run a drill were turned down repeatedly. She coached two seasons and then quit.
Here’s the interesting thing, the guys who responded to my quest for info (and I know these guys – they are awesome coaches) were hopeful to have more moms coaching, but felt that despite doing all calls, only dads would respond. They also saw that many of the moms would not speak up much, tended to stay in the background and weren’t overall super helpful because they wouldn’t step forward and lead. Perhaps they aren’t seeing the intimidation factor in action, sounds like there’s a definite disconnect to what struggles mom are facing in a coaching role.
See the problem? Moms having a bad experience and then not wanting to volunteer, or afraid to speak up, or perhaps just used to being ignored and giving up, makes for a cycle that just isn’t good for the future of our girls sports experience.
Let’s close the gap! I love dads, heck I have a dad! My husband is an awesome dad, my brother is an amazing dad, and they all three have been great coaches of their daughters as well! BUT in honor of mothers day, lets look at how to bring in more moms and celebrate what moms bring to our kids sports experience! Girls need more female role models in their lives and youth sports is the perfect place for them to get just that.
- We need to acknowledge that many women are going to be intimidated in a typically male predominated area (sports and coaching) even under the best circumstances. They may need more encouragement to switch roles to a coach rather than a team mom where they’ve been put for years bringing team snacks.
- If programs really believe that moms serve an integral role in coaching young girls, then they have to live by that and make the moms head coaches of their girls teams instead of automatically placing them as the assistants if a dad steps up.
- Moms work great with other moms, it takes some of the intimidation out and lets them work along someone else who has similar approaches to coaching.
- Offer training. Moms are different than dads in that they want to be fully prepared for everything, with every detail, in order to feel confident. A dad will more easily jump into a new role and “wing it” on their past athletic experience than a mom will. Provide opportunities for moms to train (US Lacrosse CEP course anyone???)
- Empower mom coaches by building confidence in them. Let their voices be heard, acknowledged and respected. Trust them, moms have incredible instincts.
- Ever see a mom go through a grocery store with a pile of kids vs a dad with a bunch of kids. Which one do you want running your kids practice? Just sayin..
- Moms get it. Girls like to play princess pony rider and the stick game at the end of practice. Bonding is what girls do on teams, and no one gets that quite like mom does.
- Athletic moms help girls see that they can grow up athletic also. It’s a powerful role model position, something that even the best dad coaches can’t quite give them.
- Moms have nurturing down to a science and they make personal connections. Kids thrive from these connections and it makes moms the ideal leader for growing athletes.
- Mom’s have a great sense of priorities. While they are incredibly tough and driven to compete, they also have the innate ability to switch gears and reward effort when things aren’t going well. Moms do this on a daily basis at home, so it transfers to the field really well!
Do you have a strategy to get more moms coaching in your programs? Perhaps try my insanely scientific method of an anonymous poll to see why moms aren’t volunteering, or what their experience was in past seasons if they did step up. You might be surprised at what you find out! We’ve got some great dad coaches, but I think it’s overdue that we reconnect our moms and our girls on the fields!
Happy Mothers Day and PLAY ON!