Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Bargaining with Patriarchy: Former Female Coaches' Experiences and Their Decision to Leave Collegiate Coaching

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Bargaining with Patriarchy: Former Female Coaches' Experiences and Their Decision to Leave Collegiate Coaching

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to better understand the experiences of former female coaches and their decision to terminate their careers. A feminist perspective and mixed-methods (surveys and interviews) were used to allow for a richer understanding of their experiences. The survey findings, which included 121 former female coaches, suggest that time and family commitments were the. main reasons they left coaching. Also, a small number (18%) left coaching for reasons such as opportunity for promotion. Six women from the survey sample were individually interviewed. Through a descriptive analytic strategy and indexing process (Creswell, 1998), three general themes emerged: (a) gender disparities in women's work, (b) technical demands of coaching, and (c) college coaching and normalized sexualities. Overall, the interview findings confirmed the open-ended responses on the survey and described gender discrimination, the centrality of male coaches, and rampant homophobia in U.S. collegiate coaching. In addition, some female coaches discussed perceptions of conflict between working as a coach and motherhood, or women with children as being "distracted" by motherhood. Collectively, the survey and interview results revealed that women have multiple, complex, and overlapping reasons for leaving collegiate coaching.

Key words: gender issues, resigning coaching, women in coaching

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In the United States, sport is a popular cultural practice upon which dominant ideologies are constructed, maintained, and reproduced (Coakley, 2008). These ideologies are so prominent in sport that we rarely question them; they become common sense and natural. Gender ideologies, for example, are perpetuated and sustained in sport through patriarchy. Sage (1998) defined patriarchy as a "structured and ideological system of personal relationships that legitimates male power over women and the services they provide" (p. 59).

Historically, many more U.S. men have participated in and had access to organized competitive sport compared to women, providing further evidence of the patriarchal nature of sport (Coakley, 2008). With the passage of Title IX, the Educational Amendment Act of 1972 prohibiting sex discrimination in all institutions receiving federal financial assistance, women's participation at high school and college levels significantly increased (Bray 2004; Howard & Gillis, 2003). Title IX also proved to be a "curse" (Hult, 1994). First, it led to the demise of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), the governing body of athletics for women. This marked a major change in women's athletics. Before the passage of Title IX and the takeover by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), women's athletics were organized by women and for women. This change is unique to the social institution of sport (compared to law or education, for example), because women were in charge of their experiences at some point in its history. Second, Tide IX led to a decrease in the percentage of female coaches and administrators in women's college athletics (Hult, 1994). Acosta and Carpenter's (2010) longitudinal report clearly demonstrated this trend, given that women made up 90% of coaches and administrators in women's college athletics in 1972, but only 42.6% of coaches and 21.3% of administrators in 2010.

Sport and, more specifically, U.S. collegiate athletics are clearly defined around patriarchal ideologies. That context most likely affects the work of female coaches, and, hence, U.S. collegiate athletics may not be an area in which women feel supported, valued, and respected. Research with female coaches in collegiate sport indicates they are devalued. Theberge (1993) interviewed current and former coaches in Canada and found they experience marginalization common to "token" members of a work group. The female coaches were keenly aware of their token status, provided several occurrences of being the only women, spoke of die "old boys network" regularly, and felt their actions were scrutinized and closely evaluated. …

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