Female Coaches and Job Stress: A Review of the Literature

By Bradford, Shelley H.; Keshock, Christopher M. | College Student Journal, March 2009 | Go to article overview

Female Coaches and Job Stress: A Review of the Literature


Bradford, Shelley H., Keshock, Christopher M., College Student Journal


Prior studies on job satisfaction for females in the coaching profession have indicated many specific factors that can lead to job transfers, attrition, or burnout. This article reviews empirically-based studies from the extant literature that sheds some light on these critical concerns in the field. The focus is on the central issues of problems in attrition and job stress. Implications of the findings in this review are discussed.

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Title IX of the Higher Education Amendment was introduced in 1972 and since then has greatly impacted high school and college athletics. Participation in female sports has increased tremendously since its inception. From 1970 to 1971, the total number of females participating in high school sports in the United States was 268,591. The number has increased to over 1.8 million in 1987-88 (National Federation of State High School Associations, 1987-1988). Common sense would dictate that this increase in female athletic participation would also show a concomitant increase in the number of female coaches. However, research reveals that this is not the case. In Wisconsin, females coached 100% of the girls' teams from 1971 to 1972, but by 1984 and 1985, only 41% of the girls' teams were coached by women (True, 1986). In Washington, women coached 85% of the girls' teams from 1971 to 1972, followed by a decline to 32% in 1984 and 1985 (True). Similar declines have also been documented in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, and Virginia.

Reasons for this decline in female coaches include (a) historical issues, (b) lack of female role models, and (c) occupational structures. True (1986) explained the decline in female coaches from a historical perspective. In the early 1970s, women were assigned to girls' teams as chaperones. The enactment of Title IX and its compliance date in 1978 required a large increase in demand for coaches of girls' sports teams. The demand was first met by employing female physical education teachers. These teachers were coaching year round, and the increased workload of teaching and coaching several sports was extremely demanding. Therefore, to reduce workload, some coaches gave up coaching one or more sports while others left the coaching field altogether.

It has been suggested that having fewer female role models has had a major impact on the decline in the number of female coaches (True, 1986). Acosta and Carpenter (1985) concluded that young female athletes are less likely to consider coaching as a career because of better alternative career choices and, thus, never pursue coaching as a profession. The result is that fewer female coaches are included in the job pool, particularly for senior positions. A survey, conducted in Oregon, found that males coached all of the boys' basketball teams and 86.3% of girls' basketball teams, while only 13.7% of the girls' head coaches were female (Sisley & Capel, 1986). Across the three major sports (basketball, track, and cross country) in Montana, 93 % of the boys' teams were coached by males, while only 22% of the girls' teams were coached by females (Stevens, 1989). These statistics illustrate the relatively small percentage of female role models who are visible to young athletes.

Problem of Attrition

Attrition in the coaching ranks has been studied from an organizational and sociological perspective. Knoppers (1987) suggested that women in the coaching profession face different opportunities, resources, and working conditions than their male counterparts. These factors have an impact on the numbers of women entering and leaving the coaching profession. Hart, Hasbrook, and Mathes (1986) explored female turnover rates in the coaching profession based on Prus's career contingencies model. Modeling results showed that current coaches entered the coaching profession to continue their competitive athletic experiences. Former coaches were more likely to reenter into coaching due to pressure from other teachers or the school principal. …

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