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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5 years ago

Just because the grade is an F does NOT mean a Head Coache who is women who is not doing a good job should continue to be the head coach of the program. Equal treatment and accountability need to be given no matter the gender of the coach. For example, Sue Novitsky is the head coach of the University of Illinois but has not produced results in 20 years. She also has a negative impact on her athletes. She has created such a bad reputation for University of Illinois swimming.

So confused
5 years ago

Forget everything else, I am aghast at the percent that goes with each letter grade. 40 is a passing grade, AMAZING!!!

Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi
5 years ago

I am troubled by many of the comments on this thread that blame women for the lack of women, go to a nature/nuture debate, and contribute the problem by perpetuating false information. I have written to the editors and suggested I write a column that will help move this dialogue to a productive space, one that can change the culture of your sport in ways that value and support women coaches. Dr. LaVoi, Co-director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, University of Minnesota

Reply to  Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi
5 years ago

I am troubled by the lack of common sense many posters portray in this article also. Dr. Lavoi is a genius and should run for President with Maxine Waters as VP!!!

Reply to  Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi
5 years ago

Oh please, Dr. Lavoi, enlighten us! I’m sure you bring no bias to the conversation…I’m so glad my college days are behind me. Academics have no idea how the real world works.

phelps swims 200 breast rio
5 years ago

In primary schools, nearly 9 in 10 teachers are women. In high schools, less than two-thirds are. Nine out of 10 registered nurses are female.

Mark Rauterkus
5 years ago

Comprehensive report, except for DII and NAIA.
And nothing about the gender of the coaches for the men’s programs?
And nothing about the addition of and the loss of the all types of (especially men’s) programs in the past as well.
What about the gender of the athletic administrators and other athletic department support staff?
Furthermore, the pay rates might be more interesting to note too.

If not for Howard Payne University, the letters “pay” would be absent, as are the words compensation and salary.

Great report, except they should scratch the sub-title and drop the word “comprehensive.”

5 years ago

It would be interesting to see how these percentages have changed over time. I recall seeing a story about how in the early 70s once Title IX had been enacted, that most women’s teams’ coaches were women. The money was minimal and the teams were often given less than equitable equipment, budgets, etc. I would guess that as the working conditions and financial compensation has improved, that it has become more attractive for men to apply for and ultimately fill these positions when offered.

Coach Mary
5 years ago

Well, if anything we have people voicing their opinions. When I started college in early 1970’s most college womens teams were coached by women DGWS
At Syracuse U the mens and womens PE departments were separate. When they joined them there was a problem cuz all the women had masters and doctorate degrees and the men did not! It is my opinion that when Title 9 became law there was more money in coaching womens teams so….. men were hired to coach the women.
I am the head coach of a 350 member club team. I have a male assistant. We started practice this week and the new swimmers and their parents all went to him for direction.… Read more »

Reply to  Coach Mary
5 years ago

Didn’t see your comment before, but was on the same wavelength.

T Hill
5 years ago

Be interesting to hear from our female coaches (head/ass’t/grad.assistants) what their view is. Female coaches in clubs ? – as we all know it not what sex you are but how well you do the overall job. I know when I was hiring Ass’t for a Div. I program lot fewer applicants and in many cases less experience . Also, being a great swimmer doesn’t make you a good coach. The A & B % are primarily sports where men don’t play or have little experience (my learning curve to coach those sports would be very high). Outside of Golf 64 %, which I love to coach either Men or women or both. Should there be more female Head coaches… Read more »

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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