MANNING WOMEN’S SPORTS

Every year, more females participate in college sports, yet one aspect of female athletics becomes more male-dominated every year: coaching.Out of the 10 women’s teams at TCU, men coach seven of them.

TCU is actually part of a national trend.

THE RESEARCH

Female coaches represent 42.4 percent of the coaches of women’s teams in the National Collegiate Athletic Association compared to 58 percent in 1978 and 90 percent in 1972, according to the latest edition of a longitudinal study by R. Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter.

The study also found that less than 2 percent of men’s teams had female head coaches.

Acosta and Carpenter were physical education professors, who retired from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, and have been studying trends in women’s sports since 1977.

Carpenter said the lack of female coaches is troubling because women need role models in leadership positions.

Sports psychologist Debbie Rhea, who works with TCU coaches and student-athletes, said the main problem with not having female coaches is the disadvantages a male coach has in relating to female players.

“Most girls aren’t comfortable talking to a male coach about certain things,” Rhea said.

COACHES’ THOUGHTS

Men’s tennis head coach Dave Borelli has experience coaching both men and women as he was the coach of women’s tennis last year.

Borelli said personality is a more important factor in being able to relate to a player than gender is.

“Relating to a player comes down to their personality,” Borelli said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a girl or a guy; what matters is the quality of the individual.”

He also said both men and women can be equally effective in coaching a female team, but it is important to recognize that it takes a different approach to coach women.

“It’s easier for me being a guy around guys to be a little freer with language and other things,” Borelli said. “As a male coach among the girls, you have to have a little bit different approach. You don’t want to be crass.”

TCU women’s golf coach Angie Ravaioli-Larkin said even though she thinks being a female helps her relate to her players, it’s unfortunate that gender plays a role in hiring a coach.

“I think I can relate to my players more than a male could about not only physical, female issues but also social issues that males have never experienced,” Ravaioli-Larkin said. “I still think hiring a coach should come down to who’s better qualified for the job before gender is considered.”

Rhea said even though there are many successful women’s programs with male head coaches, a female ideally should be coaching a women’s team.

“I feel like female coaches should be in roles with other females as much as possible because I feel like female coaches have just as much to offer as male coaches,” Rhea said. “It’s hard to find female coaches because there just aren’t as many female coaches out there wanting positions.”

Women’s soccer head coach Dan Abdalla said he would rather coach a women’s team than a men’s team.

“Right now, there are significant opportunities in the women’s game where you don’t necessarily need to jump to the men’s side,” Abdalla said. “Soccer is particularly unique because, to be honest, there are probably more opportunities at the women’s level than there are at the men’s level.”

According to the study, only 29.9 percent of Division-I head coaches in women’s collegiate soccer are female.

PLAYER PERCEPTION

Senior soccer player Angie Nickens, who had a female coach during her junior year of club soccer, said she actually prefers male coaches over female ones.

“A lot of my teammates both now and back then agree they don’t like having female coaches,” Nickens said. “There’s just a lot of attitude between the two, so I prefer male coaches.”

Nickens said coaches need to take a softer approach when dealing with women but said a male coach can be good for a team because it can force them to harden up.

Emily Conway, a shooter on the rifle team and member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, doesn’t think sex should play a role.

“I think most female athletes would agree that it doesn’t really matter if their coach is a girl or a guy,” Conway said. “I think ideally it would be best to have both a male and a female coach on a female team to fill both of those roles.”

Conway said in her experience, male coaches tend to be harder physically and emotionally on players, which can make the team stronger, but female coaches can relate to female players on a level that males cannot.

“Without a female coach, I think girls resort to using their teammates for that female-to-female support,” Conway said. “I don’t think having a female coach would necessarily give a player support that she wouldn’t already be getting from her teammates.”

Borelli said the most noticeable difference in his coaching style now that he coaches men is the way he motivates players.

“I get more animated than I did with the girls,” Borelli said. “On occasion, I did get animated with some of the girls, but, for the most part, every guy likes me being animated and pumping them up.”

Rhea said female players come to her with just as many complaints about male coaches as female coaches and the most tension in player-coach relationships stems from a team’s lack of success.

“Lets just face it, when sports are successful, you’re going to have way fewer complaints from athletes about a coach,” Rhea said. “If the team is winning, there’s going to be a lot less blame and finger pointing than when a team is losing.