Advice to Females Seeking Careers in Sports

29 04 2010

Yesterday I was invited to be part of a panel for the inaugural Minnesota Lynx Girls and Women in Sport Career Day (kudos to Carly Knox and her Lynx colleagues for putting on this event!)

Myself and 5 other women in the Twin Cities area spoke about our experiences, career pathway, advice for being successful in a male dominated profession and  “a-ha!” moments in our careers. On the panel with me: Cheryl Reeve, Head coach MN Lynx; Laura Day; VP of Business Development for the Twins; Britt Carlson, Director of Premium Seating at Minnesota Timberwolves & Target Center; Rachel Blount, StarTribune Sports Columnist; and rookie Lynx player Monica Wright.

I didn’t know what to expect but I learned a great deal from these accomplished women! There were many common themes, which I found fascinating because we wrote our comments independently. Here are some take homes and some reflections I’ve had since last night:

1. NETWORK!!! Get your foot in the door any way you can, and when you get the opportunity make the most of it. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so be ready and remember you are always interviewing for a job. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Seek out mentors and surround yourself with good people. I loved when Monica Wright told the audience, “Be loud and confident, and project yourself well”…which she was modeling!

2. Follow your passion. Don’t let anyone or anything stand in the way of your passion and goals. One young woman in the audience asked Coach Reeve if she thought more women would begin to coach men. I wanted to tell this young woman that statistically speaking her chances were very low, but on second thought…good for her! We need more females thinking coaching males is a viable career pathway and to strive to make inroads. If a young man had asked about coaching women, no one would of batted an eyelash. You Go Girl!….coach those males, and pursue your passion. Rachel Blount told a story about how a college football coach once told her to “go back to baking biscuits” rather than try to interview one of his players. She told me that not once in her 25 years as a sport reporter did she think of not doing what she loved, “I was born to do this!” she claimed emphatically….and I agree!

What was really interesting to me is that we were all asked to talk about our experiences in a male dominated profession. Only myself and Rachel Blount talked explicitly about sexism and how females are statistically the token minority in all sports careers. The other women said they’d never experienced sexism or any male-created obstacles–or perhaps didn’t want to talk about it if they had. I was really surprised by their admissions especially because I had I just ordered two books I cannot wait to read on this subject–Sexism in America: Alive, Well and Ruining Our Future (Berg, 2009), and Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism’s Work is Done (Douglas, 2010). I think both books will help me reflect on these women’s claims of a lack of experienced sexism. I came upon these books when I found a new blog this week titled Equality Myth: Young Women, Sexism, and the Workplace which got me thinking about how these concepts apply to my work with female coaches.

One young woman asked the panel why none of us mentioned children and how having kids influenced our careers. All of us looked at each other and a silent awkward pause ensued….none of us had children! Was it coincidental that all 5 women (I’ll exclude Monica Wright, because she isn’t in the same place in her career as the rest of us) were successful yet had no children? I immediately had a sick feeling. What did this mean? What message did it send to the young women in the audience who wanted both a career and children?

I quickly thought of Arlie Hochschild’s work on “the second shift”, which still unfortunately still holds true for a majority of women. The second shift for working women, is the idea a “second shift” or job starts when she comes home and is largely responsible for domestic and child-rearing duties. From the work I’ve done with female coaches, many of them discuss how coaching is only possible for them because their husbands also coach and that is “just what our family does”. My message to the audience was–if you want to have a family and career (which is possible!), be sure to choose a partner that will be supportive of your passion  and is willing to be equally involved in child care and domestic duties. One problem in this model is that on average women still make 77 cents to every $1 made by men, so having 2 working parents isn’t always the best financial choice if the cost of child care, outweighs the second income (here is fact sheet written by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research on the gender pay gap). So which income goes? The one who earns the least…which is usually the female (if the couple is male-female).

I have a lot more thinking to do about these topics and what it means for my career, my research and teaching, and for the next generation of young women. The event was very empowering and energizing, but the reflections I’ve had since the event have been admittedly depressing. I like action items that lead to social change, but when the actions required are tackling gender stereotypes, male power, and work/family gender roles…it seems daunting! But I will take my own advice and not let anything get in the way of pursuing my passion, which is trying to make a difference in the lives of females in and through sport.

What are your thoughts?





Did You Know? Videos: Hot Topics in Coaching

15 04 2010

I put together a few Did You Know? powerpoints and turned them into short videos (1:22-1:34 in length).

One is about the scarcity of female coaches in youth sport and the other is about gender differences & similarities in coaching.

I’d love your feedback as this is a bit a work in progress. Here is what I’d like feedback on:

  • Content
  • Length
  • How could these best be used?
  • What other topics would you like to see in a DYK?
  • Any other feedback you feel is relevant.

Thanks in advance. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

(thanks to Austin Stair Calhoun for overlaying the cool music!)





Observations from the 2010 Women’s Final Four

5 04 2010

As I’m watching the Men’s Final Four Final on TV, I have a few observations to share from my recent return from the Women’s Final Four in San Antonio. Both are related to Baylor’s Brittney Griner.

Play Like a Girl T-Shirt from SOOZN Design and Print

First, it was my week of meeting enterprising women that own their own companies. I was sitting on the Riverwalk before the semi-final games and fans of all the teams (Baylor, Stanford, UConn, OK) were filing by. There were even some lost Tennessee fans for some reason. Anyway, a couple women walked by with a great T-shirt that said “Play Like a Girl”. I had to get a picture of it, so I ran after them (see pic). The t-shirt is by SOOZN Design & Print. The shirt plays off of Griner’s ability to dunk. I asked the co-owner Susan Loftus (pictured on left with friend Jacky Howell) why make this shirt? She answered they were disgusted with the lack of t-shirts that pictured female athletes in action, that looked authentic and represented an accurate portrayal of athleticism. I thought to myself “Wow”…we need more women like this making sportswear. They were gracious enough to let me take their picture. This is a perfect example of many things: 1. women ARE sports fans, 2. many fans desperately want to see real representations of female athletes, and 3. female business owners can help create change by making products the giant sportswear makers don’t want to make, didn’t think to make, or don’t care enough to make.

The second occurrence happened while I was at the airport gate and overheard a conversation between two high school girls. These two were returning home after playing in the WBCA High School All-America Game. where one of them had met and talked to Brittney Griner. She talked for a good 20 minutes about her conversation with Griner in which she over and over again iterated how “nice” Griner was. She couldn’t believe Griner would care enough to talk to them for that long. It sounded like Griner genuinely took the time to answer her questions, and spend time with she and her teammates. It was obvious what an impression Griner made on this young woman, and I’m guessing on countless others. The girls asked Griner how she dealt with all the media attention and being accused of looking like, sounding like, and playing like a boy. Griner told them something to the affect of… “I can’t control what other people say. I just focus on myself and my basketball”. This also made quite an impression–What a great take away message! I do think Griner will help change and grow women’s basketball just as UConn has set the bar for what the future of women’s basketball will look like. Both are redefining what “Play Like a Girl” means and looks like…unapologetic athleticism.





New Short Videos of My Research Talks on Girls & Women in Sport

30 03 2010

Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi

I just posted new videos of two research talks I gave in the last week on girls and women in sport.

The first talk was a Tucker Table on “Coaching Youth Soccer as a Token Female” and the other was “Current Research of The Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport” for the St. Paul AAUW.

To see some short clips go to The Tucker Center’s YouTube Channel.





Critique of 2010 March Madness Sports Illustrated Cover

28 03 2010

Sports Illustrated 2010 March Madness Cover

I love March Madness. Every year I wait for the March Madness cover of Sports Illustrated. Every year I do a critique of the cover. Now that I have a blog, I can post the critique for the first time as I started this blog post March Madness in 2009 (April 5, 2009 to be exact). Here are the results of this year’s cover(s) [there are 4 versions of the March Madness cover this year]. The major point in this critique is to demonstrate that male power and dominance in sport is reproduced by the images portrayed and selected on this one cover. An equally important point is that women’s basketball, female coaches, female referees, and female sport fans are literally erased, marginalized and portrayed as secondary to team mascots.


RESULTS:

  • 1 giant male basketball player dunking a basketball (all 4 covers are of males dunking, despite the fact that Baylor’s Brittney Griner is well known for the fact she can dunk, thus it would of been feasible to feature a well known regional FEMALE player dunking)
  • 2 male referees
  • 3 cheerleaders (2 of which are discernibly female)
  • 4 fans (3 of which are male, the 4th is not discernible)
  • 5 coaches–ALL of whom are male, and I think they are all coaches of men’s teams. This is despite the fact UConn Head Coach Geno Auriemma’s team is on a very long winning streak (74 and counting as of 3/28/10) and is been touted as the BEST women’s basketball team ever.
  • ~9 female basketball players (2 of which are almost not discernible as one positioned under the giant dunking male’s player right foot who I think is UConn’s Maya Moore and one player from Texas(?) is under his gluteus maximus, otherwise known as one’s buttocks)
  • 16 Mascots
  • A LOT of male basketball player (roughly I counted ~77…~8 times the number of female athletes portrayed. I’m pretty sure the ratio of male to female basketball players in the NCAA is not 1:8. In fact, according to NCAA research the 2007-08 numbers are 15,307 women and 17,081 male basketball players)




Latest “Women in Intercollegiate Sport” Report Now Available

23 03 2010

The most recent version of Acosta & Carpenter’s longitudinal (33 years!) research on Women in Intercollegiate Sport is now available on their website. Some good news highlights:

  • 42.6% of women’s teams are coached by a female head coach, a number that has remained stable over the last four years
  • HIGHEST EVER number of paid assistant coaches of women’s teams, 57.6% which are female
  • HIGHEST EVER number (n= 12,702) of females employed in intercollegiate athletics

Given that basketball is the most popular collegiate sport acording to Acosta & Carpenter, and it is March Madness, you can also download the most recent Academic Progress/Graduation Success Rate Study of Division I NCAA Women’s and Men’s Basketball Tournament Teams

Director of The Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), Richard Lapchick states in the report, “Nineteen women’s tournament teams had a 100 percent graduation rate for their teams. Women do much better academically than men. Furthermore, the academic success gap between African‐American and white women’s basketball student‐athletes is smaller, although still significant, than between African‐American and white men’s basketball student‐athletes.”

Keeping it real with some data during March Madness…





Are Female Athletes Becoming More Aggressive?

21 03 2010

With the start of the March Madness and stories of “aggressive female athletes” making national headlines (i.e., Elizabeth Lambert, Brittney Griner), a question I have heard asked and debated a lot lately is–“Are females athletes becoming more aggressive?”

I don’t have the answer. The best I can say is a cautious–“maybe?” I don’t think there are any data to prove or disprove this question, but the fact the incidents are caught on video and replayed makes it seem like it is more frequent.  I am hesitant to say overly aggressive acts of female athletes is on the rise at the risk of reifying outdated gendered stereotypes and double standards. The New York Times journalist Jere Longman, wrote a balanced piece which contained perspectives of some of the best critical thinkers and brightest sport sociologists. The story titled “Pushing Back Stereotypes” featured a particular quote from colleague and director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota Mary Jo Kane, which I thought was spot on.  She stated,

“Only time will tell if this is an aberration, but what I think is a clear trend, as the stakes get higher in women’s sports, you see more pressure to win….This could be a natural progression to women entering into big-time college sports. You take the bad with the good; you take sold-out arenas with academic scandals. For us to think that women would enter the big time and have it be pristine and without controversy is naïve.”

What do you think about this issue? I wonder if the NCAA Women’s Tourney will conclude without any such incidents and ensuing media coverage.