Posted by: nicktambo92 | February 1, 2013

Women and Sports

Throughout my whole life I have been either involved, around, or thinking about sports. I have experienced bad coaches, good coaches, coaches with terrible leadership, coaches who are transformational, coaches who are charismatic, and coaches who just don’t care. What I have never experienced is being coached by a woman. In terms of my life, that is unimaginable simply because it has never happened. I have always been around middle-aged gents who scream chaotically, with spit foaming around their mouths, and cheeks flaming red with anger. Those male coaches were always extremely masculine to the point that it created the perception that the sports I played should only be inherently masculine. That sounds bad, but you have to understand my point of view.

I grew up playing baseball, football, hockey, and basketball. Out of those 4 I want to focus on football and baseball, reminiscing  on my coaches and how they created the social mechanism that is perception. First, for baseball, I had a coach that was a spitting, loud, angry, abrasive, and a misunderstanding old man. He repeatedly told us stories of sexual escapades in his younger life. Countless times, he would make crude jokes about man parts and cajole with the guys like he still thought he was a college kid. As for actual practice, he was quick to anger and quick to yell; nothing was ever good enough and he acted immature. My football coach was my favorite. A hard man, he was level-headed and fair. As any football coach will usually do, his blow-ups were frequent and harsh. Once I saw him get so angry during a play that he ran and tackled the running back himself just so he could make a statement about how to tackle. Ultra-masculine, he affected how I thought football should be handled, along with baseball.

Equality for women in sports has come a long way. Still, however, the popular landscape is masculine driven. I think this is because of the way players are nurtured during development by their coaches. I know my coaches, no matter how inept they were, gave me a sense of pride to be considered a male athlete. We love blood, guts, tears, and emotion; to be amazed at high-flying achievements, big muscles, and long home-runs. All of those are represented by mainstream male sports, in which their engine is fueled by overly-masculine coaches nurturing young athletes to think of themselves better than women athletes by appealing to their hormone-driven macho emotion. Eventually, since popular perception is still dedicated to lifting masculine athletes over feminine athletes through media and culture, those athletes grow and replace their predecessors who continue to drive that perception. In the sports world, and maybe this is indicative of the struggle for women in the real world, it is a never-ending cycle of constant replacement with no end in sight because young athletes, and people, are groomed how to think when they are adolescents by those who came before. This is a scary thought, but something that can be gradually changed, and I think is changing (faster in the real world and slower in the sports world) with undying patience.

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Responses

  1. I believe athletics is a hard area for genders to mix. As I have seen, men coaches are more affective with men and women are best effective with women, yet when the opposite sex has the right balance between gender roles, it can be the most successful. In my experiences of watching sports on TV or on college and high school teams, men coaches always seems the most affective, but why? Maybe because it is easy for them to be hard headed and see as that fatherly role to push athletes to improve. In class it was brought up how women coaches can be seen as a “bitch” or cold hearted when they fit this masculine role, yet most people wish that their male coach would give more support like a women coach does. I believe that women coaches are best for women athletes because they have been in the same situation as them earlier in their lives. They can better realize the support girls need more so than men to feel confident but also know how far they can push girls to succeed. In my experiences with dance, I have had 3 female coaches and 1 male. Each of the female coaches were always strict and expecting my all, being hard critiques, and I had to work to impress them to receive the praise. However, my favorite years in dancing were with my male coach, where he made dancing fun and knew our abilities varied from person to person. He was able to be supportive and acknowledge special abilities and use those to make our dance team’s performance the best. However, where I could go to my female coaches explaining issues in my life or personal problems I was having, I knew I could never go to my male coach about this. Many girls tend to prefer men coaches because females keep their personal lives and gender separation apart when dealing with men supervisors and are able to concentrate on the task in order to impress the male coach as they do try to impress their father figure. When a male is strict it is more accepting from a girl’s point of view than a woman coach because depending on how it comes across, at least for me, when a female nags in a negative tone it is bitchy. So for me the perfect balance of a coach is someone who can fit both the male and female model roles in order to connect to my needs and drive me as a better athlete (dancer).

  2. I liked your point about how male athletes are viewed as more important than female athletes. I grew up with two brothers whose lives revolved around sports. Baseball, football, basketball; you name it, they played it. I also played softball, so anytime a game of backyard baseball was mentioned, you could count on me to be out there. Even as early as elementary school, I remember all the boys would try to take it easy on me. They would pitch to me underhanded and they would never actually try to get me out simply because I was a girl. This really bothered me because I knew I was just as good as all of the boys, but they had it in their heads that there was just no way that a girl could handle a game with the guys. This was just in elementary school. It continued into high school as well. The baseball team would always come ask what our stats were just to try to prove that they had higher batting averages or more RBIs than us. If that didn’t work, their last resort would be that baseball was harder than softball, so of course our stats looked better than theirs. I was just in high school last year, so I know there haven’t been many- if any- changes in the views of women in sports. I completely agree that women have come a long way in the world of sports, but I still think there is a long road ahead of us to completely be viewed as equal to men in athletics.

  3. When you talked about male coaches telling their males athletes that they were better than women athletes, that started me thinking about what we as leaders say to motivate our followers. Oftentimes we will tell our followers to beat other teams, even in friendly competitions, but these comments are never intended to be harsh or to belittle the other teams. Rather, they are meant to excite followers. This raises the question about the ethical nature of these comments. Are they appropriate, or are they too easily misconstrued? Especially when comments are made based on sex, these can easily be taken the wrong way. Although we really value leaders who are wonderful communicators and excellent motivators, it is important to listen to what they actually say, even if they don’t intend for it to be taken literally. Where is the line for comments like these? Or is there even a need for a line? Should we even be concerned? I’m not sure, but it is something to consider in situations like these.

  4. This is very true in the sports world. I am a huge fan of baseball and I played sports all growing up. I only like girls’ sports because I played them. Watching women sports and the athletes that are involved is not my favorite thing. It is more entertaining watching men play the same sport. Why is that? Is it because men sports are actually more entertaining or is it because the media rarely discusses women in sports? They cover mostly men. This topic has got me thinking more about this issue of women in sports. It is very intriguing to me because I love sports and I am a female.

  5. I grew up playing all sorts of sports. They ranged from basketball all the way to my all time favorite, softball. I admit that I am a very competitive player when it comes to competitions so growing up I was use to the aggressiveness of sport contact. Its funny now to look back on things and realize the lack of attention that our girls sports teams would recieve compared to that of the boys. During high school I remember how intense our boys baseball team was and the amount of support that they recieved because of the amount of awards that they would win. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school when our softball team won states for the very first time that we even got noticed by our school. Its sorta depressing knowing that all of our hard work that we had been doing just as much as the guys was only noticed when we got to a level of comeptition that could not go un noticed by the news. In a way I never realized it till now becasue I did love playing softball so much that the appreciation of others never really mattered to me. I was content with playing mmy heart out and not caring what others thought about it. Now that I am in a class where I can see that in certain positions men and provided more attention than women based soley becasue society has claimed their sport to be “more Entertaining” is very concerning.

  6. I grew up playing sports my whole life. Whether it was ballet, soccer, field hockey, track, cross country, and the best of all, lacrosse, I was always interested in the roughest one-lacrosse. As a member of the women’s lacrosse team at CNU, it’s interesting to see the different sports on campus and the coaching staff that goes along with it. For the most part, women are the head coaches of the women’s sports and vice versa for men’s, with a few exceptions. It’s odd to me that I just realized that over all the years i’ve participated in sports, I prefer watching men’s sports over women’s sports, especially lacrosse on TV. In society, sports are a lot more male driven, and that women dont hold a high leadership position in the sports world. After watching the youtube video in class of the woman’s sportscaster, my views of women in leadership and in gender roles hav been backed up.

  7. Looking at the arguments, the basis of the arguments are more about qualities than about gender. The qualities described by many of the statements have been similar. Hard edged and transactional have been a popular set of qualities. I think its a topic of leadership quality preference. I think gender should be negated from the equation. Comparing my two favorite coaches, a male and female both have had the same qualities. Both have been similar in how they handle training, organization and personal relationships. But they were different genders? I don’t think it even comes into factor.

  8. So as I am writing this, the Super Bowl just ended. While watching, it occurred to me the idea of having a woman NFL coach. Honestly, I instantly thought it would be absurd. But why? I began to picture a woman in the whole polo, hat, and head set outfit screaming on the sideline to her players that are three times her size. That thought then made me laugh. However, the laughter isn’t because a woman would obvious be inadequate as a leader to be a NFL coach. It would just be a sight that literally goes against every social norm for sports and the NFL. Could there ever be a woman that can stand up to those social barriers and those 300 pound linemen?

  9. I feel that there is a barrier to be faced when you have a woman coach a men’s team or a man coach a women’s team. I have had multiple male coaches throughout the 15 years that I played soccer and out of 8 coaches, I only had one woman. She was great at planning pizza parties for the team and making sure that we were bonding as a team but the male coaches seemed to be more focused on our skills and not whether we could all braid our hair for a game. I know this may sound bad, but the fact that the male coaches were more task oriented as opposed to relationship oriented was very much so more the goal when playing a sport. The men kept us focused on enhancing our skill level and making sure we were ready for anything. I think that if the roles were switched and a woman was coaching a men’s team, the dynamic would be strange. Like Julia said, imagining a woman standing up to a man that was 3 times her size is not reassuring that she can handle leading the team to greatness. I think that the more nurturing side of women may inhibit the ability to stay focused on skills only when it comes to sports.

  10. I loved Julia’s point about having a female NFL coach bringing her team to the Super Bowl. I can’t even imagine what that would look like or how society would react. Out of curiosity, I did a Google search on female coaches of professional sports and found several chat rooms where users had posted the question of “why not”. I skimmed the responses and was almost kind of insulted by a few. A lot of users were commenting back that women just weren’t fit for the job because of their character traits; one user even insisted that it was “bad enough” that there were female sports commenters. It made me wonder if perhaps women will forever be stuck in the “soccer mom” role – making pizza, bringing juice boxes, etc. and never quite taking on that leadership role. On another note, I spent a month and a half in New Zealand this summer and went to several field hockey games to support my host brother. He was playing at the primary school level on a co-ed team with two female coaches. The fact that the team was not coached by a hot headed male didn’t seem to be a problem in their culture. I wonder if that was indeed the culture or if that had to do with his age? Are parents less focused on their child learning the specific skills at that age and more concerned with the experience? And if so, is that when it is acceptable to have female coaches?


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