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Female athletic coaches are rare around the country, Concordia included

When students walk past the coaches’ offices in Memorial Auditorium they find that twenty teams with 27 coaches inhabit those offices.

Statistically speaking, Memorial Auditorium falls into the norm of who occupies those offices. According to Acosta and Carpenter’s Women in Intercollegiate Sport 2012 study, women coach 43 percent of women’s teams, 20 percent of all teams and two percent of men’s teams nationwide. Of the 16 head coaches at Concordia, only two (13 percent) are female. Of the 27 total coaches at Concordia, only five (19 percent) are female.

“Concordia is not unique,” said Talia Butery, head coach of the women’s swimming and diving team.

Butery is entering her first full season as the women’s swimming and diving head coach after serving as an interim last year following an abrupt resignation from Ronald Hehn just days before the season started.

“I came in and interviewed and a day or two later was offered an interim position,” Butery said of her rather unique hiring process.

When her interim title was officially removed, Butery joined women’s basketball head coach Jessica Rahman as the only female head coaches at Concordia, something that Butery says can make coaches meetings feel like a “boy’s club.”

“It would be nice to have more females on staff,” Butery said. “But at the end of the day the job goes to the best candidate.”

For female student-athletes, the lack of female coaches comes as an afterthought.

“It’s something I never noticed at first,” said Brittany Glatt, a senior on the women’s tennis team. “It felt like the norm.”

For Morgan Holm, a senior on the women’s soccer team, a coach’s credentials are more important than gender.

“Gender is not important to me,” she said. “Hiring a coach shouldn’t be based on gender, but rather the coach’s credentials and the best fit for the team and program as a whole. That being said, I’m sure there are female coaches that would be highly qualified and a great fit with Concordia’s coaching staff.”

Glatt agrees that the best candidate for the job should get the position, however added that “it’d be cool to see more women coaches.”

While competing, communication between male coaches and female student-athletes is aided by the focus of the team’s goals.

“The coaching styles in my situation are not gender-specific,” Holm said of her male head coach and female assistant coach. “Both coaches share the same goals and strategies of constantly trying to improve the team and make us a cohesive group.”

Head coach of both the men’s and women’s tennis teams, Steve Futchko, says that his approach to coaching men and women is consistent.

“I don’t feel it would be fair to take a different approach because of their gender,” he said.

However from a player’s perspective, Glatt feels that there is a different approach Futchko has to take between the genders.

“As girls we just have a different team dynamic than the guys,” she said. “I think our team responds better to positivity. The guys perhaps need a different approach.”

For Butery, who has coached both boys’ and girls’ track and field at the high school level, the approach varies from sport to sport but is different between genders. She says that in her past experiences she’s noticed that boys and girls react to positivity and negativity differently.

“I definitely think that there’s a different approach,” she said. “Boys get over things quicker.”

For Futchko, communication on the court is similar between both the men and the women.

“I can talk a little more technically with my men’s team then my women’s team,” he said. “But I can also see that my women’s team responds to the strategies that I give them.”

However, communication off the court can be either hit or miss.

Glatt says that as a college student-athlete it is not hard to approach your coach as a mentor or even as a friend because both the coach and the student-athlete are adults and treat each other as such. Futchko agrees, saying that the women tend to respond better than the men when it comes to communication off of the court.

“My women are more likely to come to my office to talk about things going on in their lives a lot more than my men will,” Futchko said.

However when it comes to team meals with only the women, Glatt says that her coach might feel out of place.

“I feel like he keeps quiet and is withdrawn,” Glatt said.

For Holm, both coaches of the women’s soccer team are equally approachable most of the time with a few exceptions.

“Being as we are all female players, there are some issues that arise that we may feel more comfortable bringing up with our female coach,” Holm said.

Concordia is not alone in having fewer female coaches. Part of the issue in the decline is the pool of candidates when it comes to hiring.

According to a USA Today article written by Dana Hunsinger Benbow, in 1978 when Title IX went into effect, the number of women’s athletic teams at all levels instantly doubled. The result created plenty of coaching vacancies that men wanted to fill, and over time the number of female candidates declined.

Glatt is interested in coaching high school tennis and believes that coaching must be actively pursued by women.

“Women in general need to see it as a possibility,” Glatt said. “If it’s something you are interested in — be active in pursuing it.”

For Butery, getting more women interested in coaching requires a strong support network.

“It’s tough to find balance,” she said in regard to balancing time between family and coaching. “[Coaching] is demanding.”

For the time being, Butery remains in the minority, but she remains hopeful about the future occupants of Memorial.

“Hopefully there will be more females [coaches] when the time comes,” she said.


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