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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2 years ago

The NCAA has a female coach retention and promotion problem. Inherent biases within the system, highlighted not too long ago on here by the Tucker Center’s report. 5 good female coaches summarily dismissed from D1 swimming last season…..its no surprise there’s no representation at the top when the deck (no pun intended) is stacked against them.

Reply to  Apso
2 years ago

Please be specific. What evidence do you have regarding a systemic bias against women? Not stating it isn’t there…but from what you wrote it could simply be what happened based on coaching specific reasons.

Reply to  Meeeeee
2 years ago
2 years ago

Great article, Torrey. Thank you. I’d be curious to see what other sports percentages of female coaches are (Womens T&F, XC, Tennis, Soccer, Volleyball, etc) as well.

2 years ago

The Tucker Center study has that data at least for the NCAA level. All of the sports you named have a higher percentage of female head coaches than does swimming, though as many pointed out, there’s a bit of a structural difference in swimming with combined-gender programs. Cross country has similarly-combined programs, though, and they do slightly better than swimming; Track does about the same.

Coach ID
2 years ago

Please kindly add to mid-major head coaches:
Hollie Bonewit-Cron – Miami University
Amanda Caldwell – Georgia Southern
Elizabeth Lykens – UNC Asheville
Laura Preacco – FAU
Brittany Roth – Univ of North Texas

2 years ago

One of the biggest problems is when new jobs open up schools often stick with “safe” choices for coaches and recycle mediocre male coaches with longer resumes versus taking a chance on one of the many female associate head coaches. I have been baffled by some of the more recent hires around the country; hires that really made me question whether or not some schools were even talking to female candidates. I’m all for “best person” for the job regardless of gender, but damn there do seem to be a lore of guys that always land a new job regardless of their actual coaching performance.

Caeleb Dressel's Bandana
Reply to  Dan
2 years ago

Unfortunately hiring the best person regardless of their gender seems to be an excuse to hire people because of their gender now :/

Stu Stuart
2 years ago

Yeah, too bad they picked the best Coaches instead of some sort of gender equality.

Reply to  Stu Stuart
2 years ago

Good morning, Stu! I think this could be a great learning opportunity for the swimming community. The underlying issue is that due to some inherent bias women are given less opportunities to rise through the ranks and prove themselves as great leaders and coaches. There is no lack of qualified women to fill head coaching roles, but many institutions are more likely to go with the status quo and select a male for the position. Why else would ten men but only two women meet the qualifications to be named Olympic head coach? USA Swimming makes those decisions, and they chose men 5:1 to staff those international meets.

Everyone wants the best coach to lead Team USA in 2020.… Read more »

joe bagodonuts
Reply to  Kate
2 years ago

Best way to deal with this is to have all female swimmers refuse to participate unless female coaches make up at least half of all coaching positions. No justice, no peace!

Reply to  Stu Stuart
2 years ago

Nice straw man.

Reply to  Stu Stuart
2 years ago

it’s like you didn’t even read the article…
This sentence, and the ones that follow it, should help:
“Essentially, the inequality begins early-on in swim coaching but most obviously manifests in high-level appointments.”

No one is saying they picked the wrong coaches. It’s asking a question of why is the coaching landscape like this to begin with? What changes can we make to ensure that the best coaches, not just the best male coaches, are getting opportunities at the lower levels of the sport?

Caeleb Dressel's Bandana
Reply to  eagleswim
2 years ago

It doesn’t really matter how many female coaches there are, what matters is that the female coaches get an equal opportunity to get the same job. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

Reply to  Stu Stuart
2 years ago


PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
2 years ago

We need articles and self-examination like this.

2 years ago


I do think it is possible to think/feel like Stu does after reading that article. His comment is honestly just a shorter and sarcastic version of what Capitani says in the article above.

Reply to  2Fat4Speed
2 years ago

It looks like the comment I responded to disappeared?

2 years ago

Katie Robinson was former head coach at Tulane. For Casmera Wick, you put her former head coaching experience in parentheses, so you should do the same for Robinson.

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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