Sexism Prevalent in NCAA Coaching System According to Researchers

A group of researchers from various universities around the United States recently published a paper highlighting the role of sexism in women’s collegiate swimming and diving coaching. 

The paper, titled “She is the Best Female Coach”: Female Swimming Coaches’ Experiences of Sexism” was published by Dr. Jessica L. Siegele of UNC Pembroke, Dr. Robin Hardin of the University of Tennessee, Dr. Elizabeth A. Taylor of Temple University, and Dr. Allison B. Smith of University of New Mexico. Dr. Siegele, the lead researcher on the project was a swimmer at the University of Kentucky from 2001-2005, and coached at various levels, including time at Ashland University, California University of Pennsylvania, Univ. of Pittsburgh, and Colorado College. 

Within the paper, the researchers analyze obstacles faced by women’s collegiate swimming and diving coaches utilizing the Ecological Intersectional Model, which “captures how a person’s whole identity constrains their ability to interact with others and engage with their environment.” Utilizing this model, the researchers identified several barriers for women in coaching, including:

  • gender normalcy
  • homologous reproduction (people hiring other individuals that look like themselves)
  • tokenism
  • an unequal assumption of competence
  • work-life conflict
  • A lack of mentors and professional networks

They then furthered their investigation, collecting qualitative data by interviewing 21 female NCAA Division 1 swimming and diving coaches with varying levels of experience, including: head coaches, associate head coaches, assistant coaches, and recently retired coaches. During these interviews, all of the participants answered questions regarding their personal coaching history, their training and education as a coach, and their perceptions regarding the gender imbalance in the profession.

Based on this study, the group was able to conclude that there is “a pervasiveness of gender bias in the swim coaching profession,” notably manifesting itself in five different forms of sexism, “(a) misidentification (b) differential treatment, (c) tokenism, (d) isolation, and (e) motherhood.” 

Dr. Siegele commented on her team’s findings, stating, “On a personal level, I experienced many of the things the women in this study did. For me specifically, the misidentification happened very regularly. People have a really strong and largely unconscious bias of what a coach should look like.” 

“As for the categories of sexism, I want to emphasize that every coach’s experiences are unique and do not fit nicely into boxes. However, I wanted to be able to help people make sense of these women’s experiences. I would say my categories are probably imperfect, but I think it may help our understanding of the issue if we can identify specific areas where women are being harmed by sexism.”

“I don’t think that any woman who has coached collegiate swimming will be surprised by my findings. But I also don’t want to paint the picture that this is the singular reason women are not represented in better numbers in collegiate coaching. Coaching in general has a massive work-life balance problem. While this affects both genders, we know that women often bare a higher load of domestic responsibilities.”

The group’s study comes at a time during which only 16% of NCAA Division 1 women’s swimming and diving programs have female head coaches, despite the fact that almost half of USA Swimming’s registered coaches are female. 

In an annual report published in 2019 The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, division 1 swimming and diving received an “F” grade for the percentage of women head coaches. In that report, only 31 of the 134 programs analyzed had female head coaches. The 2020 version of the Tucket report has not been published yet. 

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John
2 years ago

As a male coach attempting to join the collegiate ranks, I can tell you it’s much more difficult to get an entry level position as a male. I’ve been told many times that they were looking for a female candidate.

SwimFani
2 years ago

Wonder what an article researched by 4 men would look like titled “Why men make more effective NCAA Coaches than women”.

SonnyBoi
2 years ago

Head coaches are taking Still taking ‘the boys’ out to strip clubs after a ‘Long day’ of professional development conferences.

Last edited 2 years ago by SonnyBoi
Doconc
Reply to  SonnyBoi
2 years ago

Stereotype much?

Guerra
Reply to  SonnyBoi
2 years ago

What are you talking about? I don’t think that it’s appropriate for any coach, men or women, that coaches kids, or even college swimmers, to go to a strip club. It isn’t professional and raises a big red flag, especially now.

Kate Wrenshall
2 years ago

Great research! I am proud you are doing this incredibly important work, Dr. Siegele!

DutchWomen
2 years ago

The comparison to Texas men isn’t quite fair…I mean we’re talking Reese here…doubtful any man coaching the women would win that many NCAA titles in the same time span either.

Saw Guerrera
Reply to  DutchWomen
2 years ago

Greg Meehan?

Coach
Reply to  Saw Guerrera
2 years ago

With all due respect to Greg, if he was a female coach, he would have received the same bashing regarding his coaching of Katie Ledecky that Teri faced coaching Missy Franklin. And for the record, they both seem to be hard working coaches, and I don’t think either deserve bashing.

Guerra
Reply to  DutchWomen
2 years ago

Anybody that’s been around the sport for a long time knows the Texas women’s swimming program has been an underachieving train wreck of a program plagued by terrible coaching leadership. Swimming careers go there to die. If anything, having Eddie’s example should have helped those coaches but it didn’t. The good and experienced club coaches know this.

swimapologist
Reply to  Guerra
2 years ago

Jeeze, in your world, everyone is either “a true American hero, worthy of all the wealth and riches in the world” or “an absolute disaster of a human being, scum of the earth, and worthy of a death sentence.”

Seems like the primary separator is “whether or not you’ve met them,” given that all of your “hero worship” comes with “I’ve met…” qualifiers.

This is the kind of black and white divisiveness that is ruining our country. I’m glad I only have to see your nonsense on the internet. I can’t imagine having to spend any time around it IRL.

Guerra
Reply to  swimapologist
2 years ago

Thanks for being such a fan but you’ve got me wrong. I’m not sexist, but I think articles like this hurt women’s coaches. Nobody is entitled, regardless of their sex. Take Cal Women’s Coach, Terri McKeever, for example. She worked hard, paid her dues, endured backstabbing from Mark Schubert, Richard Quick and Frank Busch and took a terrible team to national championship and Olympic success. Texas continues to hire coaches for their women’s team based solely on their sex so that everyone feels all warm and fuzzy. They’re last three hires not including former Co head coach Mike Walker are Carol (zero head coaching experience), Kim Brackin (zero head coaching experience) and Jill Sterkle (1 year head coaching experience). This… Read more »

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Guerra
2 years ago

Thou doth protest too much.

Coach
Reply to  Guerra
2 years ago

If you look at the major swim schools, most of the recent hires have been previous assistant coaches- Auburn, Alabama, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, even Greg Meehan was an assistant coach before going to Stanford. You don’t see many successful head coaches leaving stable coaching positions right now, so the big hires seem to be long term assistant coaches. I don’t think that has anything to do with gender.

Last edited 2 years ago by Coach
socal coach
2 years ago

I hate when people bring up the “well there is pretty much an equal number of female and male coaches in USA swimming”. While the number of female coaches in club swimming is pretty 50/50 with the number of male coaches, there is a significant imbalance regarding who coaches senior levels or head age group coach positions.

Numbers don’t really mean anything. A fortune 500 company can claim 50% of their employees are female, but if 90% of the females working there are secretaries, janitors, or maids, are we really going to say “yeah women are treated equally!”.. no we aren’t. Same with swimming… if 50% of the USA member coaches are female, but a vast majority are lower… Read more »

Guerra
2 years ago

Hire and retain the best and most qualified coach, whether it’s a man or woman. I mean look at the University of Texas woman’s swimming program. At some point after winning their last national championships in the the early 1990s, they decided to always have a women’s head swimming coach. The results of that decision is decades of underachieving and ZERO National championships. How many have the men’s team won, with the same facilities and resources??? In fact, the women haven’t even come close to winning a title in that 28 year period. I know my comments aren’t politically correct and some people will go crazy, but it’s a pitiful disgrace! The results speak for themselves and facts are facts.… Read more »

Todd Kramer
Reply to  Guerra
2 years ago

So, are you saying that women are inherently worse coaches than men?

Guerra
Reply to  Todd Kramer
2 years ago

No, not necessarily. Stop the quotas and hire AND retain the best candidate. I have a hell of a lot of respect for Terri McKeever. I met her when she first got the Cal job and the team was terrible and she struggled with her confidence. The Ol Boys club hated her and gave her no respect. But Terri worked hard, was honest, surrounded herself with good people and became one of the sport’s coaching greats. I would back up the Brinks truck and hire her for any big time position if I was an AD.

Stewie
Reply to  Guerra
2 years ago

Narrator: He will never be an AD anywhere.

Stinky
Reply to  Stewie
2 years ago

Well, maybe at William and Mary.

Coach
Reply to  Guerra
2 years ago

When is the last time Indiana won an NCAA meet? Or does that not matter because a man coaches at Indiana?

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Coach
2 years ago

Going with the Guerro logic here. IU men have underachieved since Doc Counsilman. They have far better facilities and financial resources today, but they keep picking men as coaches based solely on gender. They could’ve had a McKeever. Instead they got a Looze and a revolving door of assistant male coaches of questionable character and another revolving door of transfers.

Guerra
2 years ago

This is bull… There’s never been a better time in history to be a women’s coach, especially in swimming. Especially in college swimming, if it comes down to a male and female candidate for a job and they have equal qualifications, the female is going to get the job 99.9% of the time. In many cases, an underqualified female is hired over a well qualified male. That’s just the way things are now, so stop crying about nothing.

swimapologist
Reply to  Guerra
2 years ago

That you don’t believe in sexism is the least-surprising thing I’ve read on the internet today.

Other things Guerra doesn’t believe in:

-Coronavirus

Things Guerra strongly believes in:

– Ray Looze

Guerra
Reply to  swimapologist
2 years ago

Yeah, you’re right about that! If I was the Texas AD, I’d clean house and bring Ray in as the women’s head coach. He’d win national championships at Texas. The GOAT can recruit, and more importantly, coach kids up. I’d hate to lose him at Indiana, though.

Stewie
Reply to  Guerra
2 years ago

Ray Looze will never will a national championship. He can blame it on the weather making it hard to recruit to IU (see: Michigan) or whatever he wants, but the real reason is the way he recruits and how he treats his athletes once they’re in Bloomington. Just watch video of his demeanor on deck at 2019 NCAAs. Then compare that to Eddie or Durden. World of difference.

Another Anonymous
Reply to  Guerra
2 years ago

The professional victims will never stop crying. Its what they do and sadly people bow down to this mob.

When a profession is male dominated, they scream sexism, When a profession is female dominated and women voluntarily choose it because its what they’re interested in, that’s also sexism to them because they often don’t earn as much as other professions. No matter what is going on to these people, its sexism! Except man hating and pushing to hire people solely based on what is between their legs. That to them is not sexism, its empowering women!

socal coach
Reply to  Another Anonymous
2 years ago

Ok, hear me out…

Have you ever been to a swim meet where the official calls for a head coaches meeting, then you stand there waiting for it to start only for the official to look you in the eye and say, “we need the head coach from your school?”…. and you have to tell them, “yup that’s me”. Only to THEN be told, “we still need your men’s head coach too”… to which you respond, “yup, that’s me too”.

Or have you ever had an opposing head coach immediately walk up to your male assistant and start asking questions like he was talking to the head coach? Only for your assistant to tell them, “umm I’m not the head… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by Kellie Lawicki
Another Anonymous
Reply to  socal coach
2 years ago

Have you ever made a point that actually backs up the claim that there are not more female coaches because of sexism? I am going to guess no, because you haven’t in the above.

So now your point is that somebody assuming that a male is the head coach, in a profession where that is the majority, is not only proof of sexism, but that its proof that there are not more d1 female coaches because of sexism. And that even if the persons intentions were not good, and they actually are sexist, that now means that there are not more d1 coaches because of sexism?

Have you ever given a person the benefit of the doubt that they… Read more »

socal coach
Reply to  Another Anonymous
2 years ago

Someone’s angry because their masculinity in being tested I see

Anyway, to your point, no I didn’t give the benefit of the doubt. Because when you’re the only female in the huddle and the only person the official calls out, it would a little difficult to not associate that with being a female.

Also, I never mentioned in this post that females are not hired because of sexism. Your claim was sexism doesn’t exist isn’t the sport… my claim was it does exist (even when females do have a job).

Have you ever experienced a male swimmer come up to you and say “I don’t want to swim because you’re female?” Because that’s happened too. Nothing was said… Read more »

Corn Pop
Reply to  socal coach
2 years ago

There are always hats with HEAD COACH . Or a Polo with I COACH M E N .

SonnyBoi
Reply to  socal coach
2 years ago

Seen this many a time.

About Nicole Miller

Nicole Miller

Nicole has been with SwimSwam since April 2020, as both a reporter and social media contributor. Prior to joining the SwimSwam platform, Nicole also managed a successful Instagram platform, amassing over 20,000 followers. Currently, Nicole is pursuing her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. After competing for the swim …

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