NCAA Swimming Lands ‘F’ Grade for Lack of Women Coaching Female Teams

Last week the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota published its annual findings on women coaching women’s teams at the NCAA level.

Prepared by Tucker Center co-director Nicole M. LaVoi, Ph.D, the reports highlight the percentage of women’s teams coached by female coaches at all three NCAA levels. LaVoi’s findings show that swimming and water polo are among the sports with the fewest female head coaches of female teams.

LaVoi used a sample of 3517 head coach positions of women’s teams from 349 Division I schools. She noted that of those total positions available, five were unfilled at the time of data collection (November 2017 – January 2018), which results in a final sample of 3512 for analysis.

She found that women held 1463 of the 3517 (41.7 percent) head coaching positions for DI women’s teams in general – up a few tenths of a percent from last year. However, the numbers for swimming, diving and water polo are much lower than the general population, at 17.9, 22.9, and 21.9 percent, respectively.

For DIII, of the 4197 positions sampled, women held 45.7 percent of women’s team head coaching positions. For swimming, diving, and water polo, those numbers were just 26.1, 28.7, and 22.2 percent, respectively.

The following charts show the grades of women’s teams only.


A 100-70
Lacrosse (91.2%), Rugby (85.7%)*, Field Hockey (84.2%), Equestrian (76.5%)**
B 69-55
Softball (65.3%), Golf (64.4%), Basketball (59.8%)
C 54-40
Gymnastics (54.0%), Bowling (51.4%), Triathlon (50.0%)*, Volleyball (46.8%), Rifle (43.8%)**
D 39-25
Beach Volleyball (38.5%), Rowing (38.4%), Tennis (37.3%), Ice Hockey (29.2%), Soccer (28.1%)
F 24-0
Fencing (23.1%), Diving (22.9%), Water Polo (21.9%), Cross Country (20.2%), Nordic Skiing (20.0%)*, Squash (20.0%)*, Swimming (17.9%), Track (17.7%), Alpine Skiing (9.1%)**

*Offered by ten or fewer schools; **Offered by twenty or fewer schools


A 100-70
Field Hockey (96.4%), Equestrian (88.9%), Lacrosse (84.4%)
B 69-55
Beach Volleyball** (66.7%), Softball (65.3%), Volleyball (62.9%), Basketball (60.9%), Gymnastics (57.1%)
C 54-40
Rifle* (50.0%), Ice Hockey (46.3%), Rowing (43.2%), Soccer (41.8%), Bowling (40.0%)
D 39-25
Fencing (33.3%), Rugby**** (33.3%), Diving (28.7%), Alpine Skiing (28.6%), Nordic Skiing (27.3%), Tennis (26.6%), Swimming (26.1%)
F 24-0
Squash (23.5%), Water Polo (22.2%), Golf (21.9%), Triathlon*** (20.0%), Cross Country (19.7%), Track (17.8%), Wrestling**** (16.7%)

*Only offered at two schools; **Only offered at three schools; ***Only offered at five schools; ****Only offered at six schools

The full reports also grade individual conferences, discuss the larger implications of hiring female coaches, and include ways to promote the hiring of women.

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Ex Quaker

Sexism may play a role here, but I’m not sure a percentage-to-grade system is totally fair. Women, on average, have different interests and temperaments that may impact their desire to coach certain sports. As an example, the average woman is far less physically aggressive than the average man, so the low grade for wrestling shouldn’t be much of a surprise. You’d truly need a multivariate statistical analysis to determine what’s a product of biology and what factors are more sinister.

25 free champ

This kind of comment is exactly the problem. Women aren’t as aggressive? I bet you’re also the kind that claims women are more nurturing. WOMEN DESERVE EQUALITY!!!!! Get out of here with your excuses and do something about the problem. More women swim than men. Therefore more women would be expected to be coaches. It’s not the case though because of old boys clubs and sexists like you!


Women are smarter than men on average, and also more conscientious. Women also commit far less violent crime and make up the vast minority of the prison system. I don’t think my prior comment makes me a sexist any more than acknowledgement of these facts makes me a female supremacist.


You’re the one making excuses. Blaming men for your own shortcomings are the issue. Indeed, all deserve equality, but equality will feel like oppression when you’re use to double standards and special treatment. More women swim than men because if you go to any college, they have 8sports for men and 22 for women. You obviously haven’t been paying attention the past decade with men’s swim teams being swiped away while keeping the women’s in tact. Or even bringing back swimming, but only on the women’s side. More swim because they have more opportunities. That’s why. And no, just because more train as swimmers does not equate to more being coaches. You are the true sexist here.


They’re granted a lot more scholarships money than men. e.g. 20th ranked US male 100 free gets 50% scholarship, but the 40th ranked female gets a full ride

Monkey brain

So why are globally >90% of incarcerated people male?


Agreed, but I get the point the article makes with swimming. Swimming strikes me as a sport where I would actually expect more female coaches then male, if anything, given that the sport tends to be more popular on the women’s side (at least from my personal experience, no idea what the data actually says).
But seeing statistics of low representation of women as coches of sports such as hockey or wrestling does not surprise or concern me. Also I would be curious to know what the overall percentage of participation by sex is within sports, as whether or not those percentages lined up with the percentages of coaches by sex would—I think—indicate how serious the issue is or is not.


I agree with just about everything you just said- my only concern is that there might be a disparity in factors that bring you to a certain sport and factors that would make you want to coach said sport.

25 free champ

I feel that comments like this should be removed. He’s clearly saying in his vague way that women are not as qualified as men simply because of their biology. As if biology affects any of this.

Marcus Joseph Leher

Just because you disagree with a comment doesn’t mean it should be removed. Discussion would be very dull if you could only hear the opinions of those with whom you agree.

Swimcoach Ed

which is a general problem we see in today’s society, you disagree with what someone says, then that person has no right to say it,it should be removed and no one else can hear it and form his/her own opinion.

Ex Quaker

How am I saying women are inferior? How do you know I’m not a woman?

Steve Nolan

You can still be sexist and a woman. Phyllis Schlafly existed, ya know.


And you imply being sexist automatically is sexism against women. As If you cant be sexist against men (you can and you can find That in the comment on here)

Steve Nolan

It’s the power imbalance. The same reason “reverse racism” against white people isn’t a real thing, either.


For the record, Phyllis Schlafly is a heroine of mine. I don’t want to derail the discussion, but I think she was anything but sexist–I think she was right. It’s not easy to speak unpopular truths.

Steve Nolan

Yeesh. Sorry to break it to you, but she’s a monster.


exactly what a guy who’s arguing about sexism would say

Steve Nolan

“In the nineteen-seventies, when women entered the workplace in large numbers, some male bosses made salacious comments, or hung pornographic images on the walls. “These days, we’d say, ‘That’s a hostile workplace, that’s sexual harassment,’ ” powell said. “But those weren’t recognized legal concepts yet. So the courts’ response was ‘Sorry, nothing we can do. Pornographic posters are speech. If women don’t like it, they can put up their own posters.’ ” He drew an analogy to today’s trolls and white supremacists. “The knee-jerk response is ‘Nothing we can do, it’s speech.’ ‘Well, hold on, what about the harm they’re causing?’ ‘What harm? It’s just words.’ That might sound intuitive to us now. But, if you know the history, you… Read more »

Ex Quaker

Biology does affect this, by the way. The vast majority of educators and medical personnel are women. What’s more likely, that this is because of sexism against men, or due to average differences in interest?

Nathan Smith

You just picked two jobs of very few jobs that women were allowed to do back in the day in the US for your example. Do you think Biology has a bigger effect on one’s interests or the culture that you grow up in? Men also disproportionately hold positions of higher power in the medical field and in education. Such a bad argument.

Ole 99

I don’t diagreee with the first sentence. You went way off the rails after that with the silly generalizations.

Ex Quaker

I’m talking statistics and averages. What specifically did I say that’s false?

Ole 99

Temperament of women is a statistic now?

EX QUAKER here’s a single study, just as an example.

Ole 99

I stopped reading when I saw a quote from Bill Cosby.


Ex Quaker, while I do not fully agree with your opinion I want to ask you a question. Have you ever thought how your view my be slightly sexist? The reason that women may be lacking in certain sport because we tell females from a young age that they simply can’t be in a position of power because they don’t have the mental toughness or what it will take to become a good head coach. I have seen many male head coaches who look at their female athletes the way you look at female head coaches, they don’t have what it takes mentally or physically to succeed based on their gender alone. This just further separates us when we should… Read more »


‚The reason that women may be lacking in certain sport because we tell females from a young age that they simply can’t be in a position of power because they don’t have the mental toughness or…‘

Im sorry but who is this „we“? Im certainly not Part of this we, are you? And if we both arent Part of it, Tell me where all These Bad People that make up this „we“?
I wont deny that sexism (both ways btw) exists and should be fought but from my experience it’s way less bad than your comment makes it sound like it would be


I appreciate your politeness and I understand where you’re coming from. I think the difference between my view and a sexist view is that I’m saying temperamental differences between men and women may play a factor in what professions they choose; I’m in no way claiming that women SHOULD be relegated to certain positions because I believe all women equal the average. I’ve spent a long time in the swimming world and some of the most amazing coaches I’ve ever seen (including my own mother) have been incredible women. I’m just interested in understanding the issue without jumping to conclusions, and I don’t think that suggesting there might be multiple factors is the same thing as me denying the reality… Read more »


To be fair, I may not have articulated my position well enough. None of this was intended to be a denial of sexism or the reality that women face socially-imposed constraints that reduce ease of access to certain positions. Of course that’s true. But it’s a very totalitarian view to claim that’s the ONLY factor in why men and women may be represented differently across different professions.


Swimming scored lowest of all tiers. I’d say focus on obvious improvement and don’t let the scientific study get in the way of immediate progress opportunities.

There’s nothing about the physical sport of swimming that keeps women’s from being head coaches as compared to, say, lacrosse.


To be fair, his original post said that what was needed was “a multivariate analysis to see what was biological and what was more sinister.” He never said that there was no sexism. He just suggested that there’s reason to doubt that a 50-50 split is to be expected.

re lawson

Is this a reflection of merit or sexism? If women should be hired because they are women isn’t that a form of sexim?


I see this argument a lot. And I know that it’s an easy out. But let’s put aside our preconceived notions here. When we’re comparing then coaches of women’s sports across NCAA swimming…what is fundamentally different about swimming than the sports of lacrosse or field hockey or softball or golf or basketball where those sports are doing considerably better than swimming? What makes female field hockey coaches considerably more qualified in their sport than female swimming coaches? If you can answer that, then maybe you’ve rooted out a layer of institutionalized sexism. Is it self-perpetuating? Are all the people at the top men, so they don’t promote women to get the experience they need? More women are swimming than men,… Read more »

Ex Quaker

Correlation does not imply causation.


Exactly. Basic economic principles at play here; I wish more people spent the time to learn them.

I looked through the D1 report linked in this article and it is clear the author(s) didn’t dive that deep in to the data. One glaring omission, where is the data on the application process, and more importantly the male to female ratio of applicants for these coaching positions??

I’m hoping that maybe these are just summaries of the full reports? I wouldn’t call a 6 page report “comprehensive”


Got it. So no matter what information you’re presented with, unless you receive a letter drafted by Mark Emmert and signed by Gregg Troy, Greg Meehan, Eddie Reese, and Braden Holloway, where they all agree to hire no more than 1 female coach per staff, there is not a single piece of information that will ever appear that will convince you that there is sexism in hiring women. That’s a really depressing way to go to life, to just make up your mind at some point and never waver. But, it’s your prerogative to be that way. It’s also my prerogative to not worry about your opinion, since it’s not founded on anything real or substantive. (Unless you’re a coach… Read more »

Ex Quaker

That’s not at all what I said.

Ex Quaker

We have the same goal- we both want a more fair representation of women in coaching positions. I just don’t believe that “fair” necessarily means 50/50 ratio across the board. Some positions may attract more women, while others more men.


It’s funny (it’s not) but you do exactly what you acuse bkp of. Your whole second paragraph lmao (again, actually not funny at all)

But correlation also doesn’t imply a lack of causation. Correlation warrants more investigation to determine if causation does in fact exist.

Experimental results aren’t easily possible. You can’t set up 100 double blind coaching staffs and see who gets hired. Maybe you could sit swim coaches down for interviews with voice-modulated individuals and see how their hiring practices change as compared to when they know the gender of the interviewee. I can’t imagine many real coaches will submit to that.

Ex Quaker

That’s completely fair. I’m just usually an advocate of not jumping to the worst conclusions. The statistics may never be completely settled (as is the case in most social science research) but these questions need to be explored carefully without ideological preconceptions. And I strongly believe that a letter grade system based purely on the numbers is not the way to do that- wrestling is a good example, for the reasons I’ve detailed above.


Let’s say for argument sake that the natural line is 40/60. Still pretty bad.

Why are you spending your energy on not highlighting the cause of our 40/60 underperformance?

Just Saying....


From what I could see, If you look at the SwimSwam Swimulator rate of improvement data for men or women swim coaches that lead a program, there does not seem to be a difference at all when it comes to improvement over a college career. (teams) One coaching staff really does not do any better than an other from a rate of improvement in performance (verses winning or losing stats) standpoint so it should really come down to who seems to be a good fit for that particular institutions culture.

Steve Nolan

And if more than 80% of team’s cultures have been shaped by a male head coach, how do you expect a woman to break through?


Considering there is no men’s field hockey or softball would lead to many more female field hockey and softball coaches. You used a bad example. Stick with the golf and basketball argument.


You beat me to it. It’s hard to draw analogies where mens and womens teams don’t exist in the same sport. Similarly, where both genders fall under the same head coach. I get the concept behind the study, but there is so much ‘noise’ in it I struggle to find meaningful data.


Women who are as qualified for jobs are usually passed over by men.


based on what

Ole 99


Steve Nolan

The numbers in the study above?


Yes, but he/she made it sound like its the case in other careers? I was just wondering what they meant and how they knew it


It is the case in other career 🤦


Based on what? Ive already asked you lmao


It’s mind blowing you think that it is isolated to only one sector. Really shows how ingrained sexism is in our society


It’s mind blowing that you haven’t told me HOW you know it

Steve Nolan

I got you, my man:

Swimmer Brent

When I was at Georgetown in the early 00s, we had something even more rare…a female head coach of a MEN’S D1 team


They have that @ Bryant University right now and she does an incredible job with them. Just graduated an Olympian and former MAAC Swimmer of the Year.


McKendree U has a woman as the head coach of the men’s water polo team.


Eastern Illinois D1 has a female head coach for both the men’s s and women’s team! She is start year five with them!

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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