opinion

I read an article a couple years ago, where “Hutch,” the head coach of Michigan softball was featured concerning the lack of female head coaches in college softball. This new article in the New York Times (and video) expands upon that question asking why there are so much fewer woman coaches in all sports in college and the pros. I answered this question before in private discussions with friends, but will do so now for all to see. But first…..please watch the video and/or read the article from the NYTimes.

Before I state my opinion, which is based solely on my experience in softball, know that this opinion has only grown stronger since I first contemplated the question a couple years ago. My opinion will only be about college softball, not any other college or professional sport. It is based upon what I’ve seen and heard and from personal experiences. That said it is likely going to offend many people.

(Disclaimer: If you are easily offended, incapable of critical thinking or cannot agree to disagree, this opinion may trigger your emotions. Proceed with caution.)

First, I’ve tremendous respect for Hutch, her coaching and many accomplishments. I met her years ago when Michigan was recruiting my daughter. My opinion is not a personal attack on her or any other woman who asks the same question. I’ll jump right to it: Does anybody really believe the reason there are fewer women coaches in college softball than men (42% women according to the article) is because of sexism or some other type of prejudice (pick an “ism”)?

I think you’d have to be living under a rock to not understand how liberal the vast majority of college campuses are these days. So, to believe there is a vast right-wing good ole boy conspiracy when it comes to the selection of college coaches for softball is simply ridiculous. And please remember I’ve raised 3 daughters who are independent strong women now and have been coaching softball for years. I’m hardly a sexist or any other “ist” you may be tempted to label me as.

Another stat from the video is that in the late 70’s only 10% of women’s college sports were coached by men, while today it is around 58% (all women’s college sports, not just softball). “We’re moving backward in gender equity in coaching,” states soccer coach Meredith Flaherty, while Hutch asks,“Where did all the women coaches go?” The video is filled with implications like these. But, they stop short of making the accusation that colleges discriminate against women when hiring coaches for women’s sports.

I get it. We all have our own life experiences, which shapes our beliefs as we grow older. But wait a minute. Isn’t 58-42% closer to gender equity than 90-10%? The big question they come back to though is asking where are all the women coaches? Maybe the better question would be to survey former college athletes of women’s sports to ask them if they had any desire to ever get into college coaching? They’ll likely never do this though, because the answer will probably not fit their narrative.

I recall sitting in on a conference call when the athletic director from Ball State was talking to the softball team about the “hiring process” for replacing the coach who had just left to take the job at Arizona State (Craig Nicholson). Eventually he asked the team, “What is it you want in a new softball coach?” Immediately the team stated, “We want a man!” And they were emphatic about it. My daughter and I began laughing hysterically with the phone on mute, while she agreed with their sentiment. The AD calmed the group down and said, “Now ladies. You know there are laws against that, right? We have hundreds of applicants we are screening and will pick who we feel is the best for the job.” At the end of summer just before college began, they announced their new female head coach to the team.

Maybe another question for those former college athletes would be, “Did you prefer men or women coaches in your playing days?” The answer will also likely not fit their narrative. But, it’s easier to just imply that there is some sort of bias or prejudice rather than to ask the tough questions. What do the players want? If they prefer men coaches, why?

Finally, here are some questions to ask former players: Why they have no interest in coaching? Why they have no interest in providing training or instruction/lessons after their playing days have ended?

Maybe they are sick, tired and burned out of softball when their playing days come to an end. They want to get on with their lives. They want to start their careers with the degrees they worked so hard to get. They want to get married, start families, go to the beach, hang out with friends, go to parties, etc. They want to do all the things they’ve not been able to do because of the time they’ve had to put into softball for the past 10+ years. And maybe just maybe, they don’t want to become like the coach who was on their ass for four years. Maybe that is not in their character?

I think it would be very interesting and informative to survey former college softball players to get the answers to the questions I’ve posed? You couldn’t ask current or future players, since they may fear repercussions. Survey the players who have lived it. Maybe they ought to thank the many men who coach or have coached these young ladies, rather than indirectly complain about them?