Women Coaches
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie reacts against Oklahoma State during the second half of a second-round game in the women's NCAA college basketball tournament in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, March 26, 2013. Duke won 68-59 to advance. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

It’s sometimes difficult for youth sports teams to find qualified coaches. Even when coaches are available, the vast majority of them are men.

Professor Doug Abrams, an associate law professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, recently reported that only 13 percent of youth soccer coaches and 6 percent of youth baseball coaches are female.

Many kids go through their entire youth sports lives without ever seeing a woman coach. That’s too bad because women coaches have so much to offer.

Are There Qualified Women Out There?

Since Congress enacted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which made it illegal to discriminate or exclude a person from any educational program due to gender, many now grown women played sports as children.

These adult women played in youth leagues and many played beyond. Women like these are just as experienced and capable as their male counterparts.

Blogger Alex Perdikis outlines what makes a great coach. His list includes knowledge of the sport, flexibility, teaching skills and a commitment to safety. Being male is not on the list.

Why We Need Women Coaches?

Simply put, young athletes need to see and play for women coaches. Girls need positive role models. Boys should become accustomed to seeing women in a variety of different roles.

Early perceptions are the most difficult to challenge later in life. If young players only see male coaches, it leads to a lack of greater perspectives and a limited view of diversity. The April 2015 edition of Canadian Journal for Women in Coaching reported that the lack of gender balance in youth coaching sends the wrong message to children about gender, power and leadership.

In effect, the lack of women coaches reinforces the notion that sports is dominated by males.

Why the Lack?

If there are so many qualified moms and other women out there, why don’t they become coaches? On one hand, the persistent coaching gender gap is perplexing. Women vastly outnumber men in a host of volunteer opportunities in other activities, including Scouts, school events and the PTA. But not sports. Why is that?

There are several theories. One is that there are persistent ingrained attitudes about what moms should do and what should dads do. The PTA and Scouts are more Mom’s thing. The coach – that’s Dad. Ingrained attitudes may also come into play because league administrators have trouble envisioning women as coaches.

Most women work outside the home and are still responsible for much of the work around the home, such as housework and taking care of the children. It can’t be denied that women who want to coach face different and perhaps more difficult challenges than many men.

The Rewards of Coaching

Kathy Wunderli fell into coaching accidentally. She was five months pregnant when she and her older son attended his first Little League practice. Before practice began, a team representative announced they had no coach and asked for volunteers. At first, no one stepped forward. When it was obvious no one else would, Kathy said, “I’m in.”

Ten years later, after coaching her four boys through youth baseball, Kathy launched the Women’s Coaching Initiative in the Redondo Beach Little League hoping to recruit more women. Kathy hopes her experience, enthusiasm and practical approach brings more women in not only to give them a wonderful opportunity, but to make up for the overall lack of coaches throughout her area.

For Kathy and others like her, the rewards of coaching far surpass the challenges. Kathy glows when she talks about the wonderful memories she has of the young lives she touched, coaching her boys throughout the years and is exceedingly proud of the way they grew up – respectful of her and viewing women as equals. Looking back, she wouldn’t have stayed on the sidelines for the world.