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A study was recently conducted about the perceived gender-equity barriers in college coaching and administration. In this study, which will be available on the NCAA website in November, it was found that 51.7 percent of female student-athletes said they would prefer their coach to be a male, with only 40.7 percent preferring their coach to be a female.

In a blog posted on the Double-a Zone, the writer skims the surface for what may be the cause of this, (at first glance), alarming finding:

“Before Title IX, sports were the jurisdiction of men and boys.  … Without early encouragement, which often came from fathers, many women may never have picked up a glove or shot a basket.”

Good point, Marta!  If it weren’t for my dad and the competition and influence of my male cousins, I probably never would’ve been as interested in sports as I eventually became.  By the age of 10, I was playing basketball, soccer, softball, and swimming all year round.  As many of my coaches as I can remember were male.  The only female influences I had as an athlete were my teammates, an assistant high school softball coach, and the men’s high school swim coach.  (Yes – the men’s team had a female coach, and the women’s team had a male coach, in 1996 nonetheless!)

It wasn’t until I got to the college level that I had my own personal experience with a female coach.  As a competitive, enthusiastic, and athletic female I was starving for female leadership.  The little interaction that I had with female coaches in high school was enough for those women to become my mentors and people that I idolized, not only as women, but as coaches, and leaders.  It is the lack of female leadership and mentoring that I had growing-up that has driven me to coaching and teaching.  To be able to influence a females life through athletics can provide one with great confidence, opportunity, self-esteem, and the strength to carry that female athlete through the rest of their life.

As a collegiate assistant coach of females and males, what is alarming to me is the low number of representation of females as coaches of women’s team.

In a study titled Women in Intercollegiate Sport, Linda Jean Carpenter, and R. Vivian Acosta, update an ongoing their longitudinal national survey, spanning 31 years.  The website also includes a one page synosis of Title IX, and other interesting information.

The two women, both professors emerita of Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, have been involved in Title IX and gender equity issues for over the last 30 years, and have also published a book titled, Title IX.

Now for the findings …

“42.8% of women’s teams are coached by a female head coach.
57.2% of women’s teams are coached by a male head coach.
2 to 3% of men’s teams are coached by a female head coach.
20.6% of all teams (men’s and women’s) are coached by a female head coach
WHEN TITLE IX WAS ENACTED IN 1972, OVER 90% OF THE HEAD COACHES FOR WOMEN’S TEAMS AND ABOUT 2% OF THE COACHES OF MEN’S TEAMS WERE FEMALES”

Don’t get me wrong, there were favorable findings to this study.

For example, participation of female athletes is at it’s highest ever, with 9101 teams across the board.  Also at an all-time high are the number of paid assistant coaches of women’s teams, the highest representation of female athletic directors since the mid 70s, and the highest ever number of females employed in intercollegiate athletics.

The study goes on to research the difference in number of female coaches per division, and the impact the sex of the athletic director has on the percentage of female coaches.

This study was reported on in Time magazine and the Associated Press in the summer of 2007.  The article in the Time’s, Where are the Women Coaches?, provides some answers.  There has been an increase in the attractiveness of coaching women’s teams with the increase in funding, publicity, and prestige, these jobs have become much more desirable to men.

Because of 80% of college athletic directors are men, this leaves these men, who decide to entire the world of coaching women, with a clear advantage over women.  When we fill these roles with men, we are not showing women that they can do anything.  We are showing women that they can succeed and excel in a male dominated world.  As a result:

“Their own expectations, their own aspirations are limited and distorted as a result,” says Marcia Greenberger, a co-president of the National Women’s Law Center.

In the Associated Press article, Deborah Rhode, a Stanford University law professor states: “Title IX opened so many more opportunities for women athletes, but it also made positions coaching women’s teams much more attractive to men.  Often women are facing barriers to getting those jobs that weren’t there when they were competing with other women and running those programs.”

From Where Are the Women Coaches?:  When the WNBA started in 1997, seven of its eight head coaches were women.  Now nine of its 13 coaches are MEN.  “Just as opportunities are opening up for women coaches, [these jobs] seem to be escaping them,” says NCAA president Myles Brand. “It’s ironic, even a bit cruel.”

Why is this happening?  Is this because the female athletes PREFER male coaches, or because the administration and the corporate offices PREFER male coaches?

I will be interested to read the complete findings of the NCAA gender equity survey, and you can be sure to read a blog here when those results are released to the public!

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Sunday night in Indianapolis the NCAA announced Nkolika “Nicky” Anosike 2008 Woman of the Year.  Anosike led the Lady Vols of Tennessee to back-to-back Women’s Basketball National Championships.  Being an avid watcher of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament and regular season play, I could not be happier with the NCAA’s decision!  Not only is Anosike a household name, at least in my house, but a woman with tremendous talent, who carries herself with such pride and confidence!

Anosike’s success spans across much more than the basketball court.  Anosike has many noteworthy achievements.  Her academic and athletic success combined is incomparable to most, and I do not think anyone will disagree on how deserving she is of this award.

Academic achievements: Graduated in May 2008 with a triple major in political science, legal studies and sociology. SEC Academic Honor Roll, 2005-08. ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American second-team, 2007-08. Boyd McWhorter Postgraduate Scholarship winner for Tennessee, 2008.

The recipe for determining the winner: “The annual Woman of the Year award recognizes outstanding female student-athletes who have excelled in academics, athletics, leadership and service. A committee composed of representatives from NCAA member schools and conferences selected the top 30 – 10 from each division – from 130 conference and independent nominees. From the 30 honorees, nine finalists – three from each division – were chosen.”

The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics selected Anosike from nine finalists:

“1.  Susan Ackermann, Salisbury (lacrosse), Capital Athletic Conference
2.  Nkolika Anosike, Tennessee (basketball),Southeastern Conference
3.  Jennifer Artichuk, Delta State (swimming and diving), Independent
4.  Shanti Freitas, Smith (swimming and diving), New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference
5.  Arianna Lambie, Stanford (cross country, track and field), Pacific-10 Conference
6.  Samantha Mitchell, Mount Olive (volleyball, track and field), Conference Carolinas
7.  Lindsey Ozimek, Charlotte (soccer), Atlantic 10 Conference
8.  Sarah Schettle, Wisconsin-Oshkosh (track and field, cross country, swimming), Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
9.  Heather Walker, Georgian Court (volleyball, softball), Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference”

I think that this is an amazing award and a great way to showcase female athletes.  Only ONE winner of this award has been a Division III Athlete.  EVERY other winner competed at the Division I level.  Now, I understand Division I is the highest level of competition, thus you are going to find the most successful and talented women competing for Divisioin I.  HOWEVER, having been a: 4 year varsity athlete, 2 time NCAA All-American, team captain, 4 time All-Conference, and a 4 time NCAA qualifier, in Division III swimming, something is to be said for the Division III student-athlete.  Where is the recognition for non-scholarship athletes?  The athletes that compete simply for the love of the game.

The athlete that gets out of bed every morning at 5:30am for swim practice, goes to class all morning, comes back to the pool to swim again, and then hits the weightroom, just to go home, eat dinner, do some homework, and wake up to do it all again.  All the meanwhile, maintaining a 3.95, still finding time to volunteer for various activities and programs, not to mention being a darn talented swimmer!!  This swimmer I am referring to was one of the 30 finalists in attendance Sunday night, Michelle Coombs.  Coombs, a 2008 graduate of SUNY New Paltz, was the 2007 NCAA Division III National Champion for Women’s Swimming in the 100 freestyle, and the first female National Champion at SUNY New Paltz.  As an assistant coach at SUNY New Paltz, I had the pleasure of coaching Coombs for the 2007-2008 swim season!  Much like all of the candidates for Woman of the Year, Coombs excels in academics, athletics, and in the area of service and leadership.  Congratulations to Coombs and all of the other finalists on their amazing honor to be nominated.  Most importantly, congratulations to Anosike for winning the title of Woman of the Year, and best of luck as you all go forward in your lives and look to excel outside of your specific sports arenas.

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According to the NCAA, on Sunday, Kelcy McKenna of Arizona State defeated  Auburn’s Fani Chifchieva to become the ITA All-American Champion for women’s tennis. McKenna beat Chifchieva 6-4, 6-3 in a straight-set win.

This is McKenna’s second season with the Sun Devils. The 5-9 sophomore from North Bend, Oregon had a stellar first season with the Sun Devils… was ranked #27 this season… recorded a total of 33 wins in singles play, most on the team.

McKenna is ASU’s third ITA All-American in two years.

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I came across this podcast on the WBCA Web site. Beth Mowins and Debbie Antonelli were at Nike Nationals in South Carolina this summer, one of biggest AAU recruiting event of the year. This is a great overall outline of what we’re looking at for women’s basketball on multiple talent levls.

They talk about the recruiting process, how AAU influences a girls’ ability to get into college and what a high-level AAU tournament is like. They also discussed the WNBA fight and USA’s preparation for the Olympics.

On the high school level, the topic of conversation was Brittney Griener, the AAU star I wrote about earlier. Other players mentioned were Destiny and Tamika Williams. They said you can go down the list from every team there and find a girl who is going to “play major basketball.”

As I mentioned earlier, Beth and Debbie also touched on other subjects such as the WNBA fight (it was the most publicity the league has ever gotten), and preparing for the Olympics (this podcast was recorded before the Olympics) and some highlights from college basketball (top paid coaches).

They also talked to Mark Lewis, the columnist for women’s basketball at ESPN.com’s Hoopgurlz. Mark discussed how attention is drawn to younger girls who might progress to be stop stars, and “hot spots” around the country (highlight on Texas).  Mark also provided some advice on what girls should be working on, including emphasis upon skill work.

Mark was right when he said we need to “give hats off” to Nike, who sponsors multiple tournaments and camps to work on girls’ skills. Their sponsorship is certainly important for the future of women’s basketball.

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This June, Nike opened the doors to The Stringer Center for Child Development at its 177-acre campus in Beaverton, Ore.

I tired to find pictures online, but unfortunatley had no such luck (the picture on this post is of the front of Nike headquarters).

The Stringer Center is a 35,000-square-foot facility that houses 26 classrooms, providing care, learning and development for approximately 300 children between the ages of six months and 5 years old.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, Stringer is the third woman, the second coach, and the first African-American woman to have a building named after her on Nike’s campus. She has directed Rutgers to two Final Four appearances during her 13-year tenure. In 2000, she became the first coach, male or female, to take three different programs to the Final Four. This past season, Stringer became just the third women’s coach and the ninth coach overall to record 800 wins.

Wooo Hoo! Go Vivian, Nike, and Rutgers!

I bet Nike’s campus is something incredible. I’d love to go see it someday.

Nike is a strong supporter of women in sport. The commercials often say women will be stronger, healthier and more independent if they are allowed to play sports.

These are messages that need to be ingrained in the minds of our youth, and I’d like to commend Nike for their support of our efforts on the playing fields.

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The process of finding a place for you spend the next four years of your life can be incredibly overwhelming for a 17-year-old. The late junior/early senior years of high school and accompanying college application process is very stressful. The demands they put on the kids to not only have “honor-level” grades and top-notch SAT scores, but also to have extra-curricular activities, is not only wrong but unrealistic. Now, take all of those elements and add the stress of infiltrating a  collegiate athletics program- and you’ve got one stressed out kid. This article is about that stress, what I experienced, and how you can overcome it to truely discover yourself.

Today, I came across a New York Times Well blog article which documents the stressful accounts of three high school kids applying for college.  I think the article is interesting and very telling, but what is even more intriguing is the accompanying comments to the blog. In my opinion, the beauty of blogging is that you can see and share with other people on an immediately engaging level, which is what makes the sharing of stories powerful.

The article was posted only yesturday morning (April 29) and already, there are 139 comments from people throughout the country who complain and explain their awful experiences. SOMETHING is wrong here. Why is this such a grueling experience for these kids? There is entirely too much pressure, and it’s causing some unnecessary stress in individuals who are trying to embark on a journey of discovering where they want to be in the world.

Now, like I said, take that pressure and add to it the expectations set upon a kid who has performed well in his or her athletics career up to that point in their lives. There could be a few different scenerios that could occur here.

Some kids force themselves to make a decision. Should I continue to play the collegiate level? Or do I want  “real” college experience a big school, and ditch the sports altogether?  This can be the crossroad in the life of an athlete, as they may separate from the athletic expectations that parents, coaches (and sometimes even communities) have upon them. In my opinion, if you’re even asking yourself this question, you should probably stop playing and just go to the school of your choice. If you don’t you will regret your decision. Trust me.

Others, like myself at that age,  know they want to participate in a sport at hte collegiate level, but aren’t sure at what level.

The summer before my senior year was met with letters of interest, game filming, emails to coaches and plenty of internet research. (You think the regular admission process is hard? Try adding this work to your plate).

I attended many stressful AAU “bluechip” tournaments. (I know, the word “stressful” conflicts with my previous article about the benefits of AAU sports). That said, I have to admit — once a kid reaches the later years in high school, AAU participation is much more of a game of getting into college — those who are still playing at that age are serious about attaining a college scholarship.

So, the summer before my senior year, I traveled around the country at showcase tournaments. Usually, I had a only a few opportunities in a particular weekend to make an impression on college coaches who sat in the stands watching my every move.

Unfortunately, I was under the impression that my performance would affect the decisions of these scouts.  I quickly came to find out that (like a lot of other parts of life) the college recruitment process is largely political, and is about who you  know and who those people know. The coaches in the stands were there to “scmooze” individuals who they knew, who they had previous contact with and who were already on their radar. Performance in these tournaments  didn’t really matter much at all. The college coaches who were present were really just looking to see what kind of shape you are in, and to make some “beneficial” face-to-face engagement to try and influence your decision.

I did have a few schools looking at me, and that is why I kept plugging away at those tournaments. I was very unsure if what I was doing was going to be worth it, but I remember my dad saying to me, “Meg, even if you get nothing from this, you can at least say you tried. It’s all about the experience.”

I came out of those experiences with an offer from a few division II schools, and “letters of interest” from a few division III schools (no scholarship money allowed). But, I did see parts of the country that I never thought possible, and I played with and against some of the best athletes to have competed in women’s basketball.

By the spring of my senior year, I still had not made my decision, and was sick and discussed by the politics of the entire process. Girls who I had evenly competed with had signed letters of intent with division I scholarships because of who they knew, contacts they had made.

So, I decided (thankfully) that I wanted a life of my own, and I went to an in-state division III school, close enough to home that my parents could come see me play. The school had an outstanding liberal arts reputation, yet a competitive basketball team and an even more competitive application process.

I was comfortable with my decision, largely because it would be over. (Can you imagine that? A kid should be excited about their decision… not excited that the decision process is over).

I found myself right back where all the “normal” college applicants find themselves – struggling to prove themselves on paper. Because I am not one to perform well on standardized tests, I spent much time in the kitchen of a local tutor, working hard to improve my scores. I spent late-night hours on the essays about my life’s purpose, campaigned for leadership positions, and worked as hard as I could to garner a successful basketball team. Where did all the time go for fun? I’m still asking myself that question.

But, what I don’t have to look back on is my decision. I know I picked the right one. I truly discovered myself in college. I challenged myself academically and physically.

When deciding if you want to continue with athletics, you need to really think about the commitment level. A Division III basketball program, although not as demanding as Division I, still demands a commitment of at least three hours per day, not including extra workouts and lifting. If class conflicted with practice, you went to class. If you had an early practice the next morning or a game the next day, you went to bed instead of going out. But because of these rules, my teammates and I unconsciously found ourselves  challenging and pushing each other in the classroom, and in life – not just on the basketball court.

When you join a division III athletics program, you automatically enroll with about fifteen friends (your teammates) who share something in common with you. This is a powerful thing when you are discovering who you want to be friends with. You are invited to engage in a silent, yet powerfully existent social community of an athletics program at the institution.

Because I chose the school and level of athletics that I did, I was able to to expose myself to four different areas of academic study – health and exercise science, psychology, women’s and gender studies and communication. I graduated with a degree, two minors and a concentration. I also had two internships completed and four-month independent study, all of which have led me to where I am today. I still don’t know how did it, but I’m glad that I did.

Yes, the basketball thing could have ended a little bit better than I would have hoped for, but  that’s not what really matters. What really matters is what my dad said to me when I was 17 years old… “the experience.”  Because of my decision, I had a lot of fun, and I discovered myself along the way.

So if you’re a high school athlete considering college athletics, when it comes to your decision, think about how committed you want to be to the sport. Ask yourself if you really love it. Then, think about where the most options are, both academically and athletically.

Once you do that, your decision is already made. Take a deep breath. It’s over. Now you can relax and go with the flow. You’re on a journey to discovering the rest of your life.

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