Evidence That Support Equality: Credential Characteristics of Georgia Female High School Coaches

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to increase awareness and understanding concerning gender differences in high school athletic coaches in terms of coaching characteristics. The authors conducted a more comprehensive follow-up study to their 2007 survey in which they compared female and male coaches in Georgia. All active members of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), approximately 8000 coaches, representing each of five GHSA classifications, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A and A, participated in the study conducted in the fall of 2008. The instrument used was a 76-item questionnaire that was developed and adapted from the previous coach’s survey. Results affirmed the authors’ previous research findings. When comparisons were made respecting gender, female coaches were comparable to males in such areas as degrees earned, the number of years of coaching experience between six and ten years, and in their level of coaching experience. Females exceeded males in some areas. More female coaches majored in Health and Physical Education; were recruited, supported and hired by the principal and athletic director; were teachers first; and were dedicated to educating young people.

Identifying desired qualities and competencies could assist athletic coaching candidates in preparing for careers and/or in improving their job performance, leading to greater coaching effectiveness. Also, from a qualification/preparation perspective women should be impartially represented in coaching positions, including head coach, a position where gender should be less of a factor in the hiring process.

Key Words: Gender, Coaching, Credentials, Characteristics, Preparation, Hiring

Introduction

Several studies have found female athletic coaches in high schools have equal or better qualifications than male coaches (3,9,14,22). In their study of high school coaches in the state of Georgia et al. (22) compared female and male coaching credentials and revealed female coaches possessed closely the same characteristics as male coaches, and in some instances exceeded the qualifications of their male counterparts. In spite of these favorable statistical comparisons, male coaches greatly outnumber females in terms of the number of coaching positions held, even with female athletic teams. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation website eighty percent of all coaches at the high school level are male (20). This was not always the case. In the early seventies around the passage of Title IX the number of female coaches of athletic teams was more prominent, but since then, the number has dwindled in many states across the United States.

Conceptual Background

The decline in women coaches could be due to several factors such as long held societal perceptions that men are more talented (5,21), more highly regarded (13), and more knowledgeable (12) than women. Several studies have reported that discriminatory attitudes in hiring decisions, lack of inclusion of women administrators in decision making, female athletes’ preferences for male coaches, homophobia, jobs that are not family-friendly and extreme workloads promoting unbalanced lifestyles have all played a central role in driving the decline (4,18,21).

Even though the number of female coaches has declined steadily since 1972 (7,4,15), the number of female high school athletes has risen dramatically and interest of girls in high school sports is ever increasing (11,19). Young girls need role models.

Hoch (10) stated that coaching qualifications are important and recently have become hot topics in high school athletics for numerous reasons, the first of which is accountability. In education generally and on the topic of athletics, specifically, parents expect and demand much more from public officials. Second, due to an ageing faculty and less coaching from physical education teachers, the number of teachers available to take on coaching assignments is diminishing, forcing schools to hire community coaches to fill their coaching vacancies. Third, most other professions have some form of certification in their fields; however, high school coaches do not. Anyone can apply as a coach, a position that influences millions of youngsters on a daily basis. Fourth, being a teacher in an academic discipline other than physical education does not qualify anyone to coach any more than an English instructor is equipped to teach math. Both coaches and teachers need specialized preparation. Fifth, just because someone has been a player does not necessarily ensure success as a coach. The skills involved with each are different and coaching depends upon one’s ability to teach and relate.

The encouraging news according to Popke (17) is that administrators at the high school level are beginning to see past gender as illustrated in several examples across the country. Even though the numbers are low and have been stagnant for years, there have been promising developments. In March 2010, Natalie Randolph was named as the head football coach at Calvin Coolidge Senior High School in Washington, D.C. According to the Washington Post, it is not clear how many women have been head coaches for boys’ high school football teams – but it is extremely rare. The Post reported that another Washington teacher, Wanda Oates, was named head football coach at a different Washington high school in 1985. However, she was removed a day later after coaches who did not want to coach against her pressured the school district (8). Prior to the hiring of Natalie Randolph at Coolidge Senior High, in the state of Georgia, Angela Solomon was the only known head football coach of a public middle school or high school team. She led Myers Middle School, located in Savannah, to the 2009 championship football game of Chatham County (1).

In Wilmington, Delaware, math teacher Katie Orga Godfrey was hired by the Salesianum School, a private Catholic all-boys institution, as its first ever female coach of a junior-varsity basketball team in fall, 2008. Her qualifications were the key to getting the job. Also, in fall 2008, Katie Mack was named as the first ever varsity soccer coach of a male team at Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax, Vermont; and Allison Meyer was hired as the varsity basketball coach at Fennimore, Wisconsin High School. The coaches have assumed roles where the best available leader, role model, coordinator and instructor with knowledge about their sport was needed. Therefore, the coaches’ qualifications were essential to their hiring irrespective of the coaches’ gender.

With their previous research on coaching characteristics and professional preparation as the foundation for the current study, the authors conducted a comprehensive statewide survey of high school coaches in Georgia (22). The survey revealed important data concerning coaches’ education, experiences, qualifications, and teaching areas. Comparisons were made respecting gender, ethnicity, and school classification, etc. (22).

The purpose of this study was to increase awareness and understanding concerning gender differences in high school athletic coaches in terms of coaching characteristics. Coach preparation can be linked to greater effectiveness in meeting the psychological and physical development of athletes (2). Also, identifying particular characteristics such as qualities and competencies of athletic coaches could offer others assistance in preparing for coaching careers or in improving their job performance.

Methods

Participants

All active members of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), approximately 8000 coaches, served as the population for the study which was conducted in the fall of 2008.

Seven hundred ninety five (795) individuals representing each of five GHSA classifications, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A and A, responded to the survey.

Procedures

The instrument used was a 76-item questionnaire that was developed and adapted from a previous coach’s study that examined demographic characteristics (gender, age, ethnicity, etc.), educational level, college major and degree, current position, coaching experience, certifications, sport participant experience, and previous coaching education courses taken. The questionnaire was reviewed for face validity by coaching education faculty for appropriateness for coaches as well as individuals currently practicing as coaches.

A private company, “Georgia High School Coaches Association” (GHSCA) was contracted for dissemination of the questionnaire, which was posted on the internet and hosted by SurveyMonkey.com. The GHSCA maintains a database of active high school coaches in the state of Georgia. An email was sent to all public high school coaches in the database inviting them to participate in the study. The email provided an overview of the study, informed consent documentation, and a link to the questionnaire. Two weeks later, a reminder email was sent to all public high school coaches in the database.

Respondents were not required to answer all questions and were free to skip questions or sections of the questionnaire. The respondents did not receive any compensation for completion of the questionnaire and no personal identifying information was collected. This study was approved by the University’s Institutional Review Board.

Results

Coaching Characteristics

Results from the survey are presented in Tables 1-9. The coaches’ responses revealed information concerning demographic data, educational level, coaching experience, coaching level, types of certifications, teaching areas, individuals most supportive during the hiring process, the coach’s description of filling the coaching position, and the respondent’s reason(s) for coaching.

As represented in Table 1, the seven hundred ninety-five (795) individuals responding to the survey had the following demographic characteristics related to gender, ethnicity, and age: 70.4% were males and 29.6% were females, 86.6% were Caucasian and 9.3% were African American. Female respondents were 85.5% Caucasian and 9.4% African American. With respect to males, 87.1% were Caucasian and 9.3% were African American. Females’ average age was 35.63 years and males’ average age was 39.37 years. The overall age for all coaches ranged from 19-75 years old.

Table 1
Demographic Characteristics of Georgia High School Coaches by Gender, Ethnicity and Age as a Percentage of the Sample

Gender
Male 70.4%
Female 29.6%
Ethnicity
Caucasian 86.6%
African American 9.3%
Caucasian Males 87.1%
African American Males 9.3%
Caucasian Females 85.5%
African American Females 9.4%
Age
Male Average Age 39.97
Female Average Age 35.63
Overall Average Age (range 19-75) 39.54

Note: At least one coach from ninety three different high schools responded, a total 795 coaches.

Table 2 depicts the educational level attained by the respondents. More than ninety-six percent (96.5%) of females had a Bachelor’s degree; 73.8% a Master’s and 7.4% a Doctorate. A higher percentage of the male coaches reported having earned degrees at the Bachelor’s (98.1%), Master’s (83%), and Doctorate (8.1%) levels than females. Also, a higher percentage of male coaches (56.5%) reported having taken additional coaching education courses than females (51.7%).

Table 2
Highest Degree Earned by Georgia High School Coaches by Gender, and the Percentage of Coaches that Have Taken at Least One Coaching Education Course

Degrees Earned Males Females
Bachelors 98.1% 96.5%
Masters 83.0% 73.8%
Doctorate 8.1% 7.4%
Coaching Education Courses 56.5% 51.7%

Table 3 shows the respondents’ years of coaching experience by gender. More than thirty-two percent (32.6%) of the females had coached 11 years or more, 5.8% had coached between 16-20 years, and 6.2% had coached more than twenty years. Nearly fifty-three percent (52.6%) of males had coached 11 years or more, 10.7% had coached between 16-20 years, and 25.2% had coached more than twenty years.

Table 3
The Years of Coaching Experience for Georgia High School Coaches by Gender

Number of Years Males Females
1-5 25.6% 51.9%
6-10 21.9% 25.5%
11-15 16.7% 10.6%
16-20 10.7% 5.8%
More than 20 25.2% 6.2%

Table 4 indicates the respondents’ level of coaching. The highest level of coaching experience was in high school for 87.6% of females and 78.9% of males. Community college coaching accounted for the participants’ highest level of coaching experience for 2.2% of the female coaches and 2.2% of male coaches. College coaching was the highest level for 6.7% of the females and 16.7% of the males. Less than two percent of females (1.1%) and males (1.7%) had coached at the professional level.

Table 4
Highest Coaching Level Attained by Georgia High School Coaches by Gender

Coaching Level Males Females
High School 78.9% 87.6%
Community College 2.2% 2.2%
College 16.7% 6.7%
Professional 1.7% 1.1%

Table 5 depicts the types of certifications held by the coaches. Almost seventy eight percent (77.9%) of females held teacher certifications compared to 81.2% of males. Over seventy percent (70.2%) of females had certification in CPR, 51.5% in first aid, 3.4% in athletic training (ATC), and 0.9% in strength and conditioning (CSCS). Over seventy-five percent (75.4%) of male coaches had certification in CPR, nearly sixty percent (59.3%) in first aid, 3.6% in ATC, and 2.9% in CSCS.

Table 5
The Types of Certifications Held by Georgia High School Coaches by Gender

Certifications Males Females
Teacher 81.2% 77.9%
CPR 75.4% 70.2%
First Aid 59.3% 51.5%
ATC 3.6% 3.4%
CSCS 2.9% 0.9%

Table 6 displays the coaches’ teaching areas. Health and Physical Education was the most popular major among females (15.8%) and males (9.8%), and Math was the second most popular major chosen by 5.6% of females and 8.6% of males. With respect to females, 5.9% majored in physical sciences and of the males, 5.9% majored in the same discipline. A wide range of other majors were listed by respondents. More males than females majored in social studies.

Table 6
Teaching Areas of Georgia High School Coaches by Gender

Teaching Area Males Females
Health / Physical Education 9.8% 15.8%
Math 5.6% 8.6%
Sciences 4.1% 5.9%
Social Studies 5.8% 3.9%
Special Education 4.6% 5.9%

Table 7 identifies the individual(s) that hired the coach. Females were hired by the principle 25.5% of the time; by the Athletics Director 19.6% of the time; and by the head coach alone 14.5% of the time. Males were hired 15.9% of the time by the principle, 16.4% of the time by the Athletics Director, and 11.2% of the time by the head coach alone.

Table 7
Individual Most Supportive of Hiring Georgia High School Coaches by Gender

Person Males Females
Principal 15.9% 25.5%
Athletic Director 16.4% 19.6%
Head Coach 11.2% 14.5%

Table 8 illustrates the coaches’ description of themselves in terms of fulfilling their coaching responsibilities. Females described themselves as a teacher and coach (68.2%), as a coach who can teach (4.7%), and as a teacher who can coach (27.1%). Males described themselves as a teacher and coach (78.4%), as a coach who can teach (7.8%), and as a teacher who can coach (13.8%).

Table 8
Georgia High School Coaches’ Description of Filling Coaching Position by Gender

Description Males Females
Teacher and coach 78.4% 68.2%
Teach who can coach 13.8% 27.1%
Coach who can teach 7.8% 4.7%

Table 9 indicates the respondents’ reasons for coaching. Female coaches listed being dedicated to educating young people (20.4%), inspired by a previous coach (11.1%), parent coached and inspired me (4.3%), and my child played the sport (1.3%). Over fourteen percent (14.1%) of male respondents claimed to be coaching because they were dedicated to educating young people, inspired by a previous coach (15.2%), parent coached and inspired me (1.3%) and my child played the sport (1.2%).

Table 9
Georgia High School Coaches’ Reason(s) for Coaching by Gender

Reason for Coaching Males Females
Parent coached and inspired me 1.4% 4.3%
Inspired by a previous coach 15.2% 11.1%
My child played the sport 1.2% 1.3%
Dedicated to educating young people 14.1% 20.4%
Other 4.5% 10.2%

Discussions

In terms of the coaches’ credentials, comparisons were made between the current study and the authors’ 2007 survey findings (22). Based on the responses to this survey, the typical female high school coach in Georgia is a 36 year-old Caucasian who holds a Master’s degree, a major in Health and Physical Education, and has coached five years or less. These characteristics are identical to and affirm the authors’ 2007 research findings concerning female high school coaches in Georgia (22). Based on the responses to the survey, the typical male high school coach in Georgia is a 39 year-old Caucasian who holds a master’s degree, training in CPR and First Aid, and describes himself as a teacher and coach. These characteristics are also very similar to the authors’ previous research findings concerning male high school coaches in Georgia (22). Further, consistent with previous research outcomes, when comparisons were made respecting gender, female coaches possessed approximately the same characteristics as male coaches and in certain areas were better qualified than males.

Both studies found that more female coaches majored in Health and Physical Education; were recruited, supported and hired by the principal and athletic director; were teachers first; and were dedicated to educating young people. In addition, this study showed that a larger percentage of the high school coaches in the state of Georgia were females – nearly one third as opposed to the previously reported figure (22) and national average (20) of approximately twenty percent. Also, a higher percentage of female coaches held certifications in teaching, first aid and CPR than reported in the previous study. Female coaches were comparable to males in such areas as degrees earned, the number of years of coaching experience in the 6-10 year time frame, and in their level of coaching experience.

As a result of this survey, additional research is needed in several areas. For instance, additional research could increase understanding concerning why Georgia female high school coaches have better credentials than male coaches in certain areas and why male coaches have better credentials than female coaches in certain areas. Further research should be conducted concerning the coaches performance assessment, which would likely have a positive impact on coaching performance and ultimately on young athletes. High school principals and athletic directors should also be surveyed to get their perspective on coaching qualifications and hiring practices related to gender.

Conclusions

From a qualification/preparation perspective women should be impartially represented in coaching positions, including head coach, a position where gender should be less of a factor in the hiring process. As stated by Pedersen and Whisenant (16), equity in hiring is simply a matter of fairness, young females (and males) need to see women in key decision-making positions where their abilities and contributions are valued, they can be visible as role models, and influence (through hiring and networking) the next generation of coaches, and utilize their acknowledged perspectives, skills, and abilities. As disclosed by this study’s findings, high school principals and athletic directors are appropriately taking leadership roles in the recruitment, hiring, and support of qualified women coaches. According to Fazioli (6), this involves more than just passively posting the job announcement and waiting for qualified applicants to appear at the door. Also, head sport coaches, those with jobs to offer, and others in leadership positions should be supportive by helping stem the outcries from opposing individuals who see female coaches as threats rather than persons simply seeking equal opportunities. In addition, the general public’s understanding, trust, and embrace of female coaches is a must. Given that female coaches are better qualified or as qualified as male coaches in many of the important coaching attributes, there is a strong likelihood that they would be as successful as males in terms of their coaching performance.

Applications in Sport

Coaching is less about gender and more about whether or not the person can actually coach. Participation and educational background, training, skills, and knowledge and experience provide vital information about an individual’s qualifications. School administrators want the best candidate possible, and therefore, should seek the candidate with the best credentials for the job, male or female. Based on the findings of this study, it is possible to find qualified women coaches even for boys’ teams. Fazioli (6) states increasing the number of women coaching boys’ teams may be even more of a priority than boosting the number of female coaches in women’s sports because it is the former jobs that are higher in status and salary. The more visible and successful female role models there are in high school coaching, the more attractive coaching jobs look to young aspiring female coaches, and the more will apply for coaching vacancies.

It is hoped that the results of this study would assist decision-makers in the school systems, the Georgia High School Association, and colleges that offer a coaching education curriculum by providing useful information for coaching preparation in Georgia. This study provides some initial incentives for gathering additional information that would be useful in assessing coaching characteristics and the implications. Future researchers are encouraged to use the findings to compare coaching data from Georgia with other U.S. states and/or other countries.

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Author Profiles

Dr. Willie Burden

Dr. Burden is an Associate Professor in the Department of Hospitality, Tourism, Family & Consumer Sciences at Georgia Southern University and also is Advisor to the Sport Management Major’s Club. His previous professional appointment was at North Carolina A & T State University in Greensboro, where he served as the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Instructor in the Department of Health and Physical Education.

Dr. Trey Burdette

Dr. Trey Burdette is an Assistant Professor of Coaching Education in the Department of Health and Kinesiology at Georgia Southern University. His primary teaching responsibilities are in Coaching Education – undergraduate and graduate. His research interests are in human performance and sport leadership.

Dr. Drew Zwald

Dr. Drew Zwald is the Director of the Coaching Education Program and a Professor in the Department of Health & Kinesiology at Georgia Southern University. He also is the Past President of the National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education. His previous academic appointment was at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was the Director of the Physical Education Activity Program in the Department of Physical Education, Exercise and Sport Science.

Dr. Dan Czech

Dr. Dan Czech is a Professor in the Department of Health & Kinesiology at Georgia Southern University. His primary teaching responsibilities include teaching the sport and exercise psychology courses within the department. He also serves as a mental consultant for numerous professional football and baseball players in the National Football League and Major League Baseball respectively.

Dr. Tom Buckley

Dr. Tom Buckley is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Graduate Athletic Training Program in Athletic Training within the Department of Health and Kinesiology at Georgia Southern University. His work on the elucidation of the central and peripheral mechanisms which influence dynamic postural stability during transitional movements in individuals with central nervous system disorders has been funded by the Army Research Office and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.

Corresponding Author

Willie James Burden, Ed.D: burdenw@georgiasouthern.edu

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