Female athletes find it easier to connect with female coaches



There are overall twice as many male sports coaches as female coaches across all sports teams at the high school. Many female athletes tend to prefer female coaches, as they are often more easily able to relate to them and their experiences.

Every great athlete is made under the guidance of a great coach. However, does the coach’s gender have anything to do with it? In a male-dominated field, female coaches are hard to come by, even at the high school.

69 percent of all coaches at the high school are male. Even on exclusively female teams, 54 percent of coaches are male. Female athletes find that it is much easier to connect with and be inspired by strong female coaches as their role models. However, such opportunities are scarce.

Senior Shea Miller Novello, one of the captains of the girls field hockey team, said it can be discouraging seeing so few women in coaching positions.

“You’re wondering why there are so many more male coaches than there are female coaches. On the other hand, it almost makes you want to work harder because you want to get to that point where being a woman coach is not something different or unique; it’s the norm. Because it should be the norm,” Miller Novello said.

Junior Samuel Lee, a member of the boys crew team, said that he thinks there are more men in coaching positions because of media influence and the perpetuation of gender roles and stereotypes.

“There’s so much male representation in sports and everything in general, so I feel like children who identify as male can find that idea to say, ‘Hey, maybe I can do this as well,’” Lee said.

Senior Melanie Chernin, one of the captains of the girls soccer team, said that it has been frustrating having almost exclusively male coaches because it can be hard not to have that representation.

Chernin said that while her coach has been very active in trying to empower his athletes and that they appreciate his efforts, it isn’t the same as if it were being said to them by another woman.

“When anyone says anything that hasn’t directly applied to them throughout their life, or they haven’t gone through, or they haven’t experienced directly what that really means, then it’s a lot less powerful,” Chernin said.

The girls hockey team coach Nick Sama said that he knows how important female representation is in female sports—especially in high school. For this reason, Sama hired two female assistant coaches who, according to him, tend to interact individually with the athletes more than he does.

“I am of the belief that female athletes need someone to look up to that has been in their shoes before, that has been a female athlete playing that sport, or playing a different sport,” Sama said. “Although I played high school hockey, I never played female high school hockey, so there are things that female athletes go through that I’ve never experienced and that I don’t have intimate knowledge of.”

Chernin said that she’s looking forward to playing college-level soccer because she hears that there are many more female coaches at that level.

“They too have been athletes themselves, and being able to see what they’ve grown into and being able to take advice directly from them, as a female athlete who understands all of the things that go into being a female athlete, gives me a lot of hope,” Chernin said.

The ratio of female to male coaches on all-girls teams is more even than that for all sports teams at the high school. (LEEHY GERTNER/SAGAMORE STAFF)

Unlike the soccer team, the field hockey team is coached by a woman, health and fitness teacher Stephanie Hunt. Miller Novello said that Hunt inspires her athletes with her advice and hard work.

“We are all very driven in the sense that we’re not afraid to be aggressive, and we’re not afraid to be competitive, because our coach tells us to be aggressive because that’s the game. We’re not afraid to be ‘manly’ because it’s a sport and that’s how you get good,” Miller Novello said.

While having female coaches for girls’ sports has benefits for female athletes, other athletes could benefit from the experience as well. Lee said that he might feel more comfortable in his sports if he had more female coaches.

“I connect more with maternal figures in my life, so having male coaches is a bit uncomfortable for me because I can’t connect with them as well from my personal experience,” Lee said.

Erin Deneen, who coaches the girls volleyball team, said she values her ability to connect with her athletes on a personal level as she too was a high school athlete.

“I remember what it was like to be in high school as a female, and I knew what it was like to be a female athlete. I know the different things that female athletes have to contend with, and so I can relate to that on a personal level which I think is important,” Deneen said. “I definitely benefited from excellent male coaches as well, but there is a factor at play there that I find really important.”

Deneen said that perhaps the important conversations she has had with her athletes wouldn’t have happened had she been a man. She said that her ability to understand what they go through as female athletes has led to good personal relationships which have been very special to her over her years as a coach.

Deneen also said that it is important to her that her athletes see more women in positions of leadership in sports. She said that if her athletes can see someone who’s had the same experiences as them and made it to a position they admire, they will understand that it is a possibility for them too.

“I think that being able to see options is important,” Deneen said. “Whether it’s at the presidential level or all the way down to your high school coach, being able to see that it’s possible just makes it that much easier for the next person to come along.”