Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Multiple Realities of Women's Work Experiences in Coaching and Athletic Management

Academic journal article Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal

Multiple Realities of Women's Work Experiences in Coaching and Athletic Management

Article excerpt


This paper is an exploration of the multiple realities of women's work experiences in coaching and athletic management positions. Eleven women who had previously coached or directed women's athletics programs were interviewed using a semi-structured approach. Three general categories emerged from the data -- Support, Gender Differences, and Change. The work experiences reflect problems the women encountered at work, how organizations can be empowering, and the impact empowered women can have on the social construction of work. Based upon the data, we suggest that the individual search for empowerment takes different forms, yet also acknowledges that systemic changes must take place in order to improve the work environment for women. These findings are significant because they validate women's experiences and contribute to the understanding of work experiences of those who are underrepresented and often left out of key circles of power and control.


Sport opportunities for girls and women grow, yet opportunities for women to continue with their love of sport in associated paid professional roles diminish (e.g., Acosta & Carpenter, 1992; Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union [CIAU], 1997; Hart, Hasbrook, & Mathes, 1986; Hasbrook, Hart, Mathes, & True, 1990; Inglis, 1988; Lovett & Lowry, 1988). The concern over the declining percentages of female coaches and athletic administrators has spawned studies from a variety of perspectives.

Researchers have helped to untangle the many aspects involved with women and the work cycle inclusive of their entry into, growth and development within, and exit from work situations in sport (e.g., Acosta & Carpenter, 1988; Caccese & Mayerberg, 1984; Hall, Cullen, & Slack, 1990; Hart et al., 1986; Knoppers, 1987, 1992; Lovett & Lowry, 1988; Pastore, 1991; Pastore, Inglis, & Danylchuk, 1996; Stangl & Kane, 1991; Weiss & Stevens, 1993). For example, we know from Hart et al.'s (1986) study of current and former women high school coaches that

current women coaches entered the coaching profession to extend their involvement in competition and former coaches entered to work with skilled athletes (Hart et al., 1986). In a study exploring retention issues for coaches and administrators Pastore, Inglis, and Danylchuk (1996) reported women coaches and athletic administrators placed higher importance on an inclusive environment compared to their male counterparts. Additionally, a myriad of reasons, including burnout, time/family commitments, discrimination, and lack of administrative support have been identified as reasons as to why coaches leave their positions (e.g., Acosta & Carpenter, 1988; Caccese & Mayerberg, 1984; Lovett & Lowry, 1988; Pastore, 1991). Each phase of the work cycle offers important areas to understand.

Collectively, this work can be enhanced by understanding the experiences of women presently in the system, those desiring access, those denied access, and those who have left the system. This study is part of an on-going research project focusing on women's work in intercollegiate coaching and management (Inglis, Danylchuk, & Pastore, 1996; Pastore, Inglis, & Danylchuk, 1996). In this present work we have moved into qualitative methodology accepting Bogdan and Biklen's (1992) notion that "it is multiple realities rather than a single reality that concern the qualitative researcher" (p. 42). Qualitative approaches represent a change in focus from the researcher(s) who use(s) a prescribed set of questions (often with forced or limited choice of response) to the research participant who offers an account of experiences through dialogue. It is through these multiple realities that our understandings of women's intercollegiate work experiences will be expanded. Our research perspective is an acknowledgment of the importance of women's experiences, the need to explore gender and power relations at work from diverse perspectives, and the strong influence of outside social systems affecting women and their experiences at work (Acker & Van Houten, 1974; Brett & Stroh, 1994; Clegg, 1989; Fagenson, 1990; Martin, 1994; Rothschild & Davies, 1994). …

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