Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

The Perceived Effects of the Double Bind on Female Head Coaches of Masculine and Feminine Sports

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

The Perceived Effects of the Double Bind on Female Head Coaches of Masculine and Feminine Sports

Article excerpt


Despite the implementation and intent of Title IX, women still face many obstacles in terms of gender equity in sports - both on the playing field and in the administrative offices. For instance, when Title IX was enacted in 1972, women represented approximately 90% of the head coaches for women's sports teams (Acosta & Carpenter, 1992): a proportion in a significant decline. Acosta and Carpenter (2014) reported approximately 43.4% of women's teams and 3.5% of men's teams employed female head coaches. The aforementioned disproportionate representation of female head coaches presents a unique situation for women within intercollegiate athletics.

Coaching has traditionally been viewed as a masculine occupation, thereby valuing masculine traits as well (Aicher & Cunningham, 2011; Aicher & Sagas, 2010). Aicher and Sagas (2010) found individuals ascribe masculine characteristics to the coaching role and defined the phenomenon as "Think coach, think male." The importance of masculine traits placed on the coaching profession in competitive sport may delimit women's opportunity to gain access to these types of positions because they are perceived as incongruent with the role (Aicher & Sagas, 2010). Women therefore must choose between displaying either feminine or masculine traits, which may create an environment in which acting in one manner may break from traditional gender expectations (Eagly & Karau, 2002). This dichotomy of gender expectations may engender a climate for the double bind.

Frye (1983) defined the double bind as a situation in which individuals, regardless of any given choice, will potentially be subject to punishment, sanctions, or other negative consequences. The double bind is most simply defined as the feeling that whatever one does, it will not be right or acceptable. Common double binds for women in leadership positions are that they must be tough, but if they act tough, they will be perceived too aggressive and thus be viewed negatively (Frye, 1983; Shaw & Hoeber, 2003). Instances of the double bind place women in difficult situations, without any legitimate options, and have the potential to negatively impact a woman's career. As a result, women are placed in this double bind of either conforming to masculine ideals or behaving in more a traditionally feminine manner, both of which may increase women vulnerability to negative sanctions (Eagly & Karau, 2002; Jamieson, 1995).

Those with power in intercollegiate athletics (i.e., white able-bodied protestant heterosexual males) have heightened the notion of the double bind and use it to oppress those without power (e.g., women) (Cunningham, 2008, Jamieson, 1995). Because sport values masculinity and masculine traits, women are seen as atypical employees, thereby creating a situation where they are defying stereotypes which dictate that men are best suited for a career in sport (Bryson, 1983; Shaw, 2006). These stereotypes may be a plausible explanation for negative outcomes women perceived in the coaching profession: treatment discrimination (Aicher & Sagas, 2009), less support from their supervisors (Dixon & Sagas, 2007), and express less interest in becoming a head coach (Cunningham, Doherty and Gregg, 2007).

The gender type of the sport may also impact evaluation. Sports can be gender-typed as masculine, feminine or neutral because of the performance style in which the games are played (Kane & Snyder, 1989; Hardin & Greer, 2009, Koivula, 1995, 2001; Metheny, 1965; Schmalz & Davison, 2006; Riemer & Visio, 2003). Sports associated with power, aggression, and physical contact are considered masculine, while sports focusing on aesthetics, agility, and beauty are perceived as more feminine (Hardin & Greer, 2009; Koivula, 2001). Sports that balance these traits or focus on one aspect more so than the other are perceived as gender neutral (Hardin & Greer, 2009; Koivula, 2001). …

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