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Missing demographic: We need more Moms coaching youth sports!

May 6, 2011 – 7:58 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Katie Culver

I was so excited about my son’s first soccer season, that I volunteered my husband and I to share responsibilities as the team’s coaches. The complicating matter: I was 40 weeks pregnant.

My third child was born two weeks later, which meant that – along with rainouts – much of the season was a bust for me. Yes, I cheered from the sidelines, but it was frankly tough to watch my husband coach. As a former coach in high school and college, I was dying to get in there!

Being forced to watch from the sideline, however, reminded me what a powerful role coaches play – and made clear that we need more moms stepping up. Sure, I had to sit out the season, but the sidelines provided an alarming view.  It occurred to me that our children’s recreational sports reinforce gender inequity. Why?

1) The boys (plus sisters and parents watching) missed out on the valuable example of a woman coach—a competent woman at that—demonstrating leadership and skill in an area typically dominated by DADS.

2) I—completely willing and more than able—missed the opportunity to be involved in my son’s sport because I was fulfilling the stereotypical role of care-taker to the children on the sidelines. Now I know this makes sense—I had just given birth and was nursing my very fussy baby most of the time. However, with every single team we played being coached by a Dad (many of whom never played soccer!) it was clear that I had entered territory where women were not welcome. I was determined to change this.

The next spring, I again volunteered my husband and I as “co-head coaches.” I would bring a blanket and snacks for my three-year-old and strap baby TJ onto my chest in a baby carrier (yes, to coach in the sweltering heat!).

As a woman, particularly one wearing a baby and toting a toddler, I was an anomaly on the field. But my presence sent an important message to boys on the team, to my daughter, and to the spectators: Moms belong here!

It may stretch your comfort zone, but consider this a formal Mother’s Day invitation to get involved in sports with your kids — not on the sidelines, but on the field:

·         Don’t just bring snacks, volunteer to coach! NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY! Why are Dads more inclined to coach a sport they never played? Does being a sports fan qualify them to be a coach? Well, yes, they believe so. Own that attitude. Plus just consider that coaching a team is pretty basic compared with the juggling and on-the-run problem-solving and strategizing that is part of your life. And coaching is FUN!!

·         Practice with your kids! Take them to a field to play soccer or lacrosse or to just run around. They will learn so much from you and respect you for making the effort to play sports (or just be silly!) with them. Both boys and girls need to see their moms engage in athletics to challenge the norms we associate with sports.

·         Get other moms involved. Take a leadership role in the local recreation league so you can help recruit moms to coach. Whether it’s setting league policy, organizing try-outs for placement, or planning community-building events, local sports boards need more moms to serve as leaders and organizers. How can we encourage older girls to, say, train to become referees if local leagues look like boys-only clubs?

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