Team USA Coaching Appointments: Where are the Women?

Following USA Swimming’s announcement last week that Cal’s Dave Durden and Stanford’s Greg Meehan would serve as the 2020 US Olympic Team head coaches, continuing the States’ trend of rarely placing a woman in either role, the question naturally arose: should a woman have been appointed, and who might be the next woman in line to land the prestigious gig?

Of the 12 coaches who met qualifying criteria to be named the Olympic head coach for 2020, two are female: Texas’ Carol Capitani and Cal’s Teri McKeever. Among other more administrative and interpersonal criteria, to qualify for the head Olympic job, an individual needed to have served as head coach at one of the following meets: 2014 Pan Pacs, 2015 Worlds, 2015 World University Games, 2015 Pan American Games, 2016 Olympic Games, 2017 World Championships, 2017 World University Games, or 2018 Pan Pacs.

Anyone not selected as head coach remains eligible to be appointed as an assistant, likely pending the outcome of the 2020 Olympic Trials.

In conjunction with USA Swimming naming an all-male staff for the 2017 FINA World Championships, the assertions of inequality are understandable; but this feels likes a top-of-the-ladder symptom of a system-wide problem. This imbalance, as explained by Capitani, is created by a lack of “backfill in the pipeline.”

Capitani lamented the intricacy of the situation when SwimSwam spoke with her in 2017.

“I wish I had a great answer – it’s complicated and it’s messy,” she said. “There aren’t as many female coaches there, so you can’t put all of us in roles over people that have maybe put more people on a team. But I think it’s equivocally even – I didn’t put anybody on an Olympic team [in 2016] so I wasn’t upset that I wasn’t a coach.”

“I do think there is a systemic inequality – I wish I was smart enough to fix it,” she continued. “I do think there’s inequality, but there’s not enough backfill in the pipeline at this moment, I don’t think, or maybe the opportunities are less.”

Essentially, the inequality begins early-on in swim coaching but most obviously manifests in high-level appointments. The bottle-neck begins well before ‘US Olympic Team head coach,’ arguably the most prestigious swimming appointment in the world, and instead needs to be attacked much earlier in the hiring tree. Specifically, our research shows that there’s a growing number of top-25 NCAA Division I ‘associate head coaches’ that are women, but that these roles aren’t translating into head coaching jobs that lend themselves more obviously to international appointments.

So, let’s take a look at who is currently in the pipeline, and could perhaps climb the coaching ladder to break this trend. We’ve sorted through teams at the highest level in the United States; our list begins with women who are currently head coaches at Division I top-25 schools, then moves on to those at Power 5 schools. From there, we circle back to associate head coaches at top-25 schools, then to head coaches at DI mid-major schools, then to head coaches at top-10 Division II and III schools. We’ve also included female head coaches at USA Swimming Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medal clubs. Each level of coach is sorted alphabetically.

Note that this is not a ranking of SwimSwam’s top 50 female coaches in the US, or our favorite female coaches; rather, it’s a ranking of where coaches fall on the ‘ladder’ of progression; a cheat-sheet of sorts for any athletics directors or club presidents looking to make hires of qualified female candidates for their next big-time open position. There is a certain order that these hires usually go in, and the easiest fix, politically, is to start pulling coaches up this ladder, one at a time.

Editor’s Note: This table was compiled manually by hours of work. If we missed one, please leave it in the comments section and if it fits the criteria, we’ll add it to the list.

Level Name Team Position
DI Top-25 Head Coaches Carol Capitani Texas (W) Head Coach
Cyndi Gallagher UCLA (W) Head Coach
Teri McKeever Cal (W) Head Coach
Power 5 Head Coaches Courtney Hart Georgia Tech Head Coach
Jennifer Buffin Oregon State (W) Head Coach
Sue Novitsky Illinois Head Coach
D1 Top-25 Associate Head Coaches Alicia Hicken-Franklin Minnesota
Associate Head Coach
April Jensen Notre Dame
Associate Head Coach
Ashley Jahn Tennesse (W)
Associate Head Coach
Beth Botsford Arizona Assistant
Casmera Wick Villanova
Assistant (Former co-head at Pitt)
Catherine Kase USC
Associate Head Coach
Dawn Kane Duke
Associate Head Coach
Jordan Wolfrum Ohio State
Associate Head Coach
Kathleen Milloy Michigan State
Associate Head Coach
Katie Robinson Northwestern
Associate Head Coach (former head at Tulane)
Michele Lowry Utah
Head Distance Coach
Naya Higashijima UCLA (W)
Associate Head Coach
Rachel Stratton-Mills ASU Sr. Assistant
Stefanie Williams Moreno Georgia
Associate Head Coach
Tanica Jameson Texas A&M (W)
Associate Head Coach
Terry Ganley Minnesota
Sr. Associate Head Coach
Tracy Slusser Stanford (W)
Associate Head Coach
DI Mid-Major Head Coaches Amanda Caldwell Georgia Southern Head Coach
Barbara Jahn UC Davis (W) Head Coach
Brittany Roth North Texas Head Coach
Carol Withus Old Dominion Head Coach
Christine Mabile Boise State Head Coach
Colleen Murphy Air Force Head Coach
Diana Caskey Columbia Head Coach
Dorsey Tierney-Walker New Mexico Head Coach
Elizabeth Lykens UNC Asheville (W) Head Coach
Hollie Bonewit-Cron Miami University Head Coach
Jacqueline Michalski Eastern Illinois Head Coach
Jeanne Fleck Fresno State Head Coach
Kate Kovenock Brown (W) Head Coach
Katie Cameron Bryant Head Coach
Kerry Smith Stony Brook (W) Head Coach
Laura Preacco Florida Atlantic Head Coach
Leah Stancil Tulane Head Coach
Lisa Ebeling Northern Colorado (W) Head Coach
Mandy Commons-Disalle Cincinnati Head Coach
Miriam McGeath Valparaiso Head Coach
Stephanie Wriede Morawksi Harvard (W) Head Coach
D2 Top-10 Head Coaches Katelyne Herrington Fresno Pacific Head Coach
D3 Top-10 Head Coaches Dani Korman MIT Head Coach
Gold Medal Club Head Coaches Erin Pitman Swim Atlanta
Hamilton Mill Head Site Coach
Ginny Nussbaum Long Island Aquatics
Founder/Head High Performance Coach
Jessica Fry NCAP
Claude Moore Head Coach
Silver Medal Club Head Coaches Alexis Keto New Trier Aquatics Head Coach
Allison Beebe Santa Clara Head Coach
Amy Albiero Cardinal Aquatics Head Coach
Audrey Cormack North Texas Nadadores Head Coach
Christina Batchelor Bluefish Swim Club
Cumberland/Attleboro Head Coach
Dana Kirk PASA
Fremont Hills Head Coach
Kate Lundsten Aquajets Head Coach
Megan Oestingq Eastern Iowa Swim Federation
Head Coach/Owner
Monique Shelton Beach Cities Swimming Head Coach
Bronze Medal Club Head Coaches Abi Liu Peak Swimming Head Coach
Alison Pick Wichita Swim Club Head Coach
Anna Heidinger Pike Peak Athletics Director/Owner
Cindy Dial Firestone Akron Swim Team Head Coach
Ellen Johnston Westport Weston Y Head Coach
Emily Melina Lake Oswego Swim Club Head Coach
Hilary Yager Naval Academy Aquatic Club Head Coach
Jane Rixe Penguin Aquatics Head Coach
Leigh Ann Fetter-Witt Greater Nebraska Swim Team Head Coach
Marjorie Sherard Empire KC Swim Club Head Coach
Meredith David South Carolina Swim Club Head Coach
Morgan Cordle 757 Swim Head Coach
Olga Splichalova Espinosa St. Croix Swim Club Head Coach
Susan Trainor Crimson Aquatic Wellesley Head Coach
Tricia Butcher Flatiron Swimming Co-Head Coach

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5 years ago

The rate at which men’s swimming is getting pushed out of NCAA (thanks to football), it seems to me that there is a far larger percentage swimmers that are female. This could result in a larger number of female coaches. Silver lining or no?

5 years ago

Why isn’t Dana Kirk listed as a Silver Medal Head Coach?
Because she is one.

And certainly Allison Beebe should be listed as a Medal Coach as well

Reply to  Morrow3
5 years ago

Morrow3 – we’ve asked Santa Clara Swim Club several times who their head coach is since the separation with John Bitter, but they haven’t answered. So, we can’t definitively say that she is the head coach of a bronze medal club. The team site doesn’t list her as the head coach.

As for Dana Kirk – this is one of those complicated clubs that has tons of sites with tons of head coaches. We’ve done our best trying to slice and dice who is the ‘head coach’ there, and have had to make some nuanced decisions on who to include or not. Unfortunately, the structure of our sport doesn’t leave clear lines of distinction all of the time. Tony Batis… Read more »

5 years ago

One only has to look at the majority of US officials behind the blocks at a meet like last week’s Knoxville meet to see the problem. US Swimming is represented by a noticeable array of old white men. This just feeds the malaise of separationin the country today.

Susan Teeter
5 years ago

I have never responded to any of the articles on SwimSwam and this article has motivated me. I am presently working to find solutions to these issues. We all want the best coaches to lead our teams, whether they male or female. It’s time for more collaboration, not negative and divisive opinions. My reason for choosing to respond to this article is how much sadness I have that a full list of women actually “fits” into this article. I doubt it would be the same for the men. Folks, this IS the list. That’s not ok with as many athletes as we have in this country. We all need to want our athletes to learn from women AND men. One… Read more »

joe bagodonuts
Reply to  Susan Teeter
5 years ago

The very fact that you indicate that you are “working to find solutions to these issues” belies your claimed indifference to the gender of the “best coach” leading your team.

5 years ago

Don’t care one way or the other how many female
coaches there are or aren’t, unless there is actual institutional bigotry happening in which Athletic Departments reject female applicants simply because they are women. And I seriously doubt they do, especially at universities in which the professionally aggrieved are always on the lookout for that sort of thing. It’s very possible there are simply far fewer women who wish to be swim coaches.

Adriana Quirke
5 years ago

Monique Shelton (Beach Cities Swimming Head Coach) was Bronze Medal in 2018 and is Silver Medal Club Head Coach for 2019 🙂

Will Jonathan
5 years ago

Emma Svensson is an assistant coach at Florida State, and she is PHENOMENAL. As someone who works directly with the team and sees her working up close, both at and away from the pool, she’s utterly fantastic and certainly deserves a mention!

5 years ago

I think there is bias when it comes to the NCAA hiring practices but the sport itself I think if you can coach swimmers to go fast the sky is the limit at the club level.

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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