Posted by: lukefernandez15 | March 20, 2018

Women in Sports

Tennis is often scrutinized as being highly sexualized sport and for the large disparity in pay between male and female athletes. Judy Murray, mother of former men’s world number one –Andy Murray, and Britain’s Fed Cup captain, has made it her mission to spread the joys of tennis to younger women. Creating the Miss-Hits program, which targets younger girls between the ages of five to eight years old to help spread awareness and teach more female coaches. Additionally, there is a much greater need for professional women coaches because the provide more personable insights into the women’s tennis game. Judy Murray has been adamant about the lack of diversity at the Lawn Tennis Association and is firm in her beliefs that there needs to be more women in the governing body of tennis.

Women leaders are struggling in the masculine contexts of sport, such as Judy Murray, because there is a lack of opportunity for other female leaders to succeed. In Kane’s (2001) Leadership, Sport, and Gender addresses the lack of opportunities and face such fierce resistance. Additionally, I think sports is a very classic example of how a leader must act, “Dynamic. Forceful. Risk taking. Confident in oneself and possessing the ability to inspire confidence in others. Grace under pressure” (Kane, 2001). My thoughts on the resistance of women in these roles is due to gender stereotypes or the pre-conceived notion about how sports “should be.” There is a resistance from masculine leaders to change because of this natural connection between sports and leadership that is done by males. Judy Murray is just challenging these ideas, just like how Title IX forbids gender discrimination in educational institutions almost four decades ago. Additionally, Title IX has allowed for many women to participate in collegiate sports and to be more inclusive. In the case of Judy Murray, the was not a tennis player herself and many people dismiss her coaching because of this; being a good tennis player does not make you a good coach. I think through continuous education and educating other men and women we can hope to change the culture to be more accepting.

In the context of women in leader, my question is what do you think is the reason why women are not in these masculine contexts of sport? Is it because there is such a strong opposition to change? If so, have you ever experienced this?

Kane, M. J. (2001). The Medias Role in Accommodating and Resisting Stereotyped Images of Women in Sport. Women On Power: Leadership Redefined,114-146.


  1. Hi Luke! I think it’s so neat that you made this post right before we heard from Dr. Shollen’s college. I thought Dr. Hanold’s lecture was incredibly interesting, and I’ll try to apply some of her points here. My sister has played tennis since she was in elementary school, and she’s quite good at it. But, I have to admit, I get a little angry when I see her school issued uniform. It’s a very tight, razorback tank and a short skirt; of course the man’s uniform is a pair of shorts and a shirt. So not only is the pay sexist, the players are highly sexualized. In sports magazines that show female athletes, they are posed in very sexy positions. This relates to what Dr. Hanold said about women’s pictures being taken with their hair down and makeup on for pictures, and how female athletes wouldn’t really compete like that. It’s really interesting to note that the male athletes are not posed that way. In one of my other classes, we talked about how the media creates certain schema that we subconsciously inhale every day.

    Even further than the problem of sexualized players, there are not enough female coaches. The lack of female representation throughout all sectors of our society is inherently harmful in a number of ways we can’t even imagine. Girls who love sports often have to stop after college, should they make it that far. There should be more opportunities for women to come back and coach the same sport that they used to play. Many think that the behaviors of coaches have to be masculine: the need to be assertive, directive, and authoritative. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that women were initially excluded from coaching, aside from the other stereotypes that keep women out of traditionally male fields.

    I thought the strategies that Dr. Hanold gave were really interesting, and useful to this question. Women who want to be coaches should get into contact with their coaches. This mentor could be a male or female coach, but the important thing would be that they provide the younger person with the necessary skills to network and achieve a coaching position. Once this woman gets her foot in the door, their skills would have to be good enough for them to actually get and keep the job. Like Dr. Hanold said, female athletes are aware of the tensions of being a woman in a man’s world. I had a pretty good experience in high school cross country, and have often thought I might go back to my school and coach. Now, I know this is a much more serious endeavor than I had originally thought it might be.

  2. This is such an interesting post and very fitting due to our speaker in class this week. I do not know to much about tennis, but I have had friends play in highschool, and like Maddie said in her comment, the difference in uniforms for the girls and guys is very drastic. However, I grew up swimming competitively and had a male coach my entire career for 13 years until my last year as a senior in high school. In swimming, girls and men wear even less clothes than tennis players. I grew up seeing lines get crossed more so with young male teenagers on the team, than coaches to swimmers. However, having mostly male coaches did not help much as they said it is just kids being kids, boys being boys, because at the end of the day, if you are going fast you are protected from disciplinary actions.

    In the swimmig world, there are very few female head coaches. One of the best, if not the best female coaches, Terri McKeever, was absent from the recent Rio Olympics and a male coach took her place in leading the female swim team. She has been to past Olympics and coached many olympians and national title holdes, yet for some reason the olympic team took male coaches. Women head coaches in collegiate sports are few and far between. Terri McKeever remains the only female coache to be asked to head an olympic team. Divison 1 programs have very few female coaches, in the ACC’s there is just one female head coach of a mens team, and the SEC has no female head coaches at all.

    To touch on your question of opposition to change, in the swimming world at least, I think there are traces of that. For example, many times getting a coaching job is about who you know. There is always an official post for a new coaching position, but if you know someone on the hiring committee or are well known in the swimming communtiy, your chances are higher. This hurts a lot of females as the men usually take precedent. Even in swimming events, most people when asked to name a swimming olympian will say Micheal Phelps, and his events pull the most viewers. Less people are familiar with Katie Ledecky or Missy Franklin. So it seems like there is not a firm opposition to change, but the attitude of thats how things have always been, which is just as bad and to blame for problems.

    Article about female swim head coaches:

  3. As we saw with our guest speaker, the number of females participating in sports has drastically increased over the past few decades. Part of me believes that in time, it will become normal for women leadership in sport to become a normal part of society.

    Going off your topic, though, it does sadden me that women’s sports receive a significantly smaller turnout from fans. Until the general public can become more excited about women’s events, I am certain that sports will remain a masculine field. This will require some large act of leadership, possibly a type of “great man” leadership, where someone is able to transform the perception of women in sports. The first step to this is educating the youngest generation, and making those girls excited about playing sports, and showing both genders that mens and womens games are equally interesting.

    Even though people resist change, I do not think that is what is prohibiting women from succeeding in sports. I think it is an unconscious bias that many men and women have ingrained in their minds from years of influence by society. This is why educating the youngest generation is the first step to change – hopefully one day we will see women leaders in sports everywhere!

  4. I’m surprised you discussed women’s struggles in tennis. I’d assume that people are more accepting of women playing sports like tennis, track and field, or volleyball: non-contact sports where the women wear revealing or conventionally feminine outfits and develop bodies that are conventionally attractive.

    There’s this trope in media called “Guys Smash, Girls Shoot” where male characters in a (often fantasy) story tend to be more in the thick of combat and their female counterparts use ranged weapons in comparison. We instinctually have a cultural taboo against “hitting a girl”, or seeing them enact violence on others. So to have your strong female character who fights alongside the guys and avoid showing her cleaving someone’s shoulder open with an axe, creators have their cake and eat it too by making the woman and archer or a spell caster, a type of character who has ranged attacks. There are some unrealistic elements to this, especially the fact that bows require a ton of upper arm strength women might not possess (at least with the way they’re designed).

    This trope can apply to sports, in a way. I think people aren’t comfortable with women in violent, contact heavy sports. Football, the other football, rugby, wrestling, hockey, etc: all these sports feature aggressive contact, often requiring layers of padding and protection. Girls being violent with each other strikes us as too masculine, and therefore strange. I think we’re much more comfortable watching girls leap around in pleated skirts, using their swing to hit a ball, or girls working together as a team to send a ball back over the net. It fits more cleanly with our image of what women ought to be and do.

  5. I thought your post was really neat, and so I did some more research about the history of women in sports. Women have been playing sports since the beginning, but they could only participate in recreational activities. Discrimination prior to Title IX barred women from easily entering the competitive world. In the 19th century, there was a belief that a person only had a specific amount of energy and it was harmful to exert this energy physically. Women were believed to already be weakened by the menstruation cycle, and therefore could not play in any sports competitively. Overtime, women proved society wrong by beginning their own athletic clubs and intercollegiate sports.

    I think one of the reasons why women are not respected in sports as much as men is that women are portrayed as “physically weaker” than men. Women in sports magazines and other media platforms, are pictured as delicate and dolled up. What they are wearing on the field is more important than how they are playing. They are seen more as sex idols than athletes.

    Just like what Dr. Hanold mentioned, women are underrepresented in sports. The 2018 winter Olympics was the first time I noticed that a lot of women were represented in the newscast. Women’s hockey was aired not only in the finals, but also the women’s combined Korea and North Korea team. For the American team, women were winning medals in areas that were never won before. Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall won a gold in Cross Country Skiing. Most importantly, women’s stories were portrayed in the media with their names. Chloe Kim, Mikaela Shiffrin, Bradie Tennell, and Mamme Biney were all given special spotlights during the Olympics. While they did credit some of their success to their coaches, they also credited their talent to the athletes themselves. This really stood out from the summer Olympics in Rio where women were hardly mentioned in the media. Corey Cogdell-Unrein won a bronze medal in the US for trap shooting in the Rio games, but was recognized as the wife of the Bears lineman in the newspapers. Shane Tusup, who helped coached his wife, Katinka Hosszu in swimming, was the “man responsible for her gold medal.” He ended up getting more media coverage than his wife.

    I think if we can start covering female athletes and giving them recognition to their success the media internationally, then national and local media sports outputs would see how successful female athletes are and cover our female athletes in America, such as the WNBA.

  6. This is an interesting topic that I have not personally seen or experienced. I ran track in high school and our team consisted of men and women. We would compete separately but we practiced together. The women’s side had a female captain and the men’s side had a male captain. It is sad that female tennis players are not getting female coaches. Doing a little research I found that since Title IX was passed, the percentage of women coaching female teams decreased from 90% to 40%. This is HUGE! I’m very surprised to see this, especially since that law is supposed to help women. I think a big reason women do not want to be coaches is because most are naturally wired to be more relational, not as agentic. Coaches need to be aggressive, something many women do not have. I do, however, agree that there should be more female coaches. In fact, I think coaches should always match the gender of the team. This would allow for more cohesion and the ability to relate. I also think it would be a good idea to have multiple coaches of a team be opposite genders, as to increase the diversity of opinions and styles. We obviously have a ways to go, but the article you posted made it seem like progress is being made, specifically in the UK. Hopefully our generation will continue to make a difference.

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