Amongst a few of the most disturbing trends in college athletics is the dwindling numbers of female coaches. Post-adoption in 1972 of the federal law of Title IX, a whopping 90% of women's teams were coached by women. Today, our numbers have dwindled to just above 43%.
We talk, write and debate about it when in reality, given the steady decline it is clear none of the alarming facts above are promoting awareness.
As a result, in place of debating, a more creative approach is in order to demonstrate the absurdity of this trend that appears we are content on ignoring or in many cases, denying.
We can certainly point to instances where male coaches have been let go or resigned unfairly and that's not ok either. However, given the state of athletics in education and the experience of countless female colleagues in this space, allow me to map out how simple it is to eliminate women in the athletic profession in 2024.
Hopefully this reframing of the problem will help us all move beyond recognizing that the issue exists, so we can attack it. As you read, if you are not a coach, you may still find some similarities from other lines of work where women are systematically held back and/or eliminated for exhibiting too many traits of strength that men are often lauded for.
The following steps, while certifiably exhausting and morally wrong, are those that can and are actively being applied by schools and administrations interested in eliminating their female coaches/staff.
The good news for administrators is that we've wrapped up all of your well-known behaviors and patterns into an easy-to-read 5-step formula. We know precisely how interested you are in making detection more difficult for the law and ultimately more problematic for the candidate to attempt to fight back. Let's go to step 1.
IDENTIFYING YOUR CANDIDATE
This first step is relatively simple. This candidate will stand out amongst the rest and will be easily identifiable by her clear disagreement for inequitable division of departmental assets across sport and gender lines. Keep in mind, there is no typical profile or specific sport that will produce more of these coaches than another. The win-loss record will also not be an indicator of whether or not they will create issues for you, but you can choose to make this a contributing factor later on as you see fit.
Physical or Behavioral Characteristics to Look For:
While the volume of your candidate's voice may seem louder than that of their colleagues, it is not wise to ever point out or acknowledge this strength in a positive way. When referring to your candidate's ability to bring issues forth, you must be consistent in your language by regarding dialogue by your female coach as “yelling or shouting”. This will be a bigger help to you in later phases when trying to demonstrate aggression or unruly workplace demeanor should HR need that documentation to support igniting consequences. See Jane Meyer case
Your candidate's ability to be open, honest and direct in creating dialogue is likely to be a behavior in the minority amongst their peers. This is good news for you because it will make them much easier to identify. Consistent approach by your candidate will undoubtedly be bothersome to the leadership in many ways, but specifically worrisome when issues of equality, resources, treatment and equal pay are presented. See Tracey Griesbaum v. The Univ Of Ia Et Al
Moreover, be on the lookout for your candidate to display very little reservation for speaking out in forums such as staff meetings. The subject will possess an open desire to address issues and discuss them. Commonly these candidates will often seek out personal meetings to discuss concerns with superiors in a meaningful and productive way. You can often disregard these meetings, or ignore their emails to avoid a paper trail. Meet in person at your own risk but only with intent to pacify or muzzle concerns, which typically does the trick if you are able to expedite the handling of this swiftly by minimizing concerns or redirecting accountability elsewhere.
All of the above should help you establish your candidate and you are ready for step 2 .
2. IGNORE ALL EFFORTS BY YOUR CANDIDATE TO COMMUNICATE
At this point, you have identified your candidate and now will be able to gather more information on her precise concerns.
Careful during this process not to address their concerns, but do take notes on the specific topics so you can create template rebuttals that may assist you in temporarily justifying inequity or disparaging treatment. See Shannon Miller vs UMD civil case
This step is important as the longer you are able to sustain ignoring the problem, the more impatient the candidate will become which will allow you to document additional behaviors or dialogue they display that can work in your favor at later stages to demonstrate that they are not in alignment as a stable employee or "team player".
This will offer you the opportunity to paint these behaviors as counter to the department culture and more importantly, develop a paper trail that can legally come in handy in the later steps. If and when you get to the phase where you are questioned about your reasoning behind ignoring pleas concerning equity, you can simply refer back to those physical and behavioral characteristics from step 1.
3. IDENTIFY OTHER EMPLOYEES, ADMINISTRATORS OR RESOURCE STAFF THAT MAY BE IN SEARCH OF ADVANCEMENT TO SUPPORT YOUR EFFORTS
Most institutions are now far more concerned with their reputation in the public eye than making change or acknowledging shortcomings in policy or culture. This makes it especially challenging to fire your coach when they speak out about discrimination, gender equity, harassment, equal pay, homophobia etc. Remember, you are ok with looking bad to your employees and creating tension within the department, but being exposed publicly is the worst outcome. See Harvard and the Women's Rugby Program
With many institutions now supporting more fear-based leadership with their coaches due to liability concerns, you can easily sway those within your department and the leadership by convincing them that this candidate is a problem.
In theory, if one candidate is asking for more, then it could be interpreted that another will get less. This is easily your softest target argument to offer to other coaches or admin who may fear losing their jobs if they do not comply with your plan. As you recruit them to build a solid case against this particular coach, you will earn loyalty out of fear rather than respect but pay that no mind. Additionally, if you are extra diligent in isolating this coach from their peers, this could pay off in the long run. Eliminating any avenues of communication where they may seek refuge or understanding within the department is much more likely to prompt a resignation under the pressure and stress of being alone and isolated. Resignation is the ideal outcome, but if this is not successful in this endeavor, proceed to step 4.
4. DEVELOP A MECHANISM TO IDENTIFY ANY UNHAPPY ATHLETES OR CUSTOMERS
Now this step is especially important. While your school and university may only be aware of this coach’s record or current reputation, it is up to you to develop the strategy and shape that coach’s image in the way that works for you. Despite athletes having no experience in the area of evaluating the level of strength a professional has achieved in pedagogy, your opinion as a department is not nearly as impactful as the feedback collected from the athletes. Our biggest advantage is catering to the minority opinion on the candidate. Keep in mind, every team, classroom and office has one or two dissatisfied parties that are not in full agreement with how the leadership runs their program. These primary targets will prove to be especially instrumental in developing a case to remove your candidate.
Be sure to meet with this constituency privately to extract as much helpful information as possible before there is any possibility the candidate could be alerted. This may need to take place over a series of meetings but you want to be careful not to include the candidate in any of this dialogue.
Multiple meetings are recommended as this will allow the athlete(s) to become comfortable because let's face it, the more they trust you, the less they trust their coach. This is a favorable set of circumstances.
In the event the coach finds out this is taking place without their knowledge or inclusion, simply respond that athletes are permitted to speak to admin at anytime and that you wholeheartedly permit this as your right as a superior.
This is of course irrational and unfair to your employee on several levels, but you are well beyond fairness at this stage anyway so just keep going. The institution can promise their breadth of the legal team will do its best to deny any missteps or wrongful acts against the candidate so you are not expected to be perfect.
5. REPRIMAND YOUR CANDIDATE AND CREATE A PAPER TRAIL
Once you have your department reports in place and one or two athletes on board, you are all set.
Be sure and have all this documentation ready for the meeting with the candidate and HR. Remember, this is about preservation of the way you have always operated your department and no one, not even a candidate with a winning record and great evaluations is going to change that.
Guard the old ideals and stand your ground because you believe that inequality is inevitable due to the fact that all sports are simply not equal.
Statistically, 9 coaches out of 10 of these coaches will panic once they realize you are attempting to remove their livelihood. They are far more likely to sign away their right to sue for a few thousand in severance and walk away because they recognize what a losing battle ground of traps you have set for them.
This makes steps 1-4 all the more crucial if you happen to be faced with the minority 10% that chooses to fight. Court battles are costly and you never paid her enough to be able to afford a lawyer so stick to your guns. Your candidate is statistically more likely to give up. The fear of rumors, reputation damage, and the dismantling of the rapport they have built with their teams will be too much to bear. Remain confident in your candidate's uncertainty and the level to which they fear the power your institution has to ensure they never lead another team again if they decide to challenge you.
Be sure to clearly spell out and emphasize your disappointment in your candidate's failure to make one or two athlete's happy in conjunction with your documented characterizations and overinflated or unfounded claims.
Again, it's highly recommended to encourage resignation over firing. A resignation should provide you some comfort that legal action is less likely.
Once she signs the papers and has cleaned out her office, you can breathe a sigh of relief and know that the next coach you hire to replace her will be one that speaks softly, asks for nothing and expects less.
Best of luck.
Note from Fearless Coaching
The above is not ok but it's very much a practice that is alive and well. My upcoming capstone intends to support this statement as well as the playbook above I have laid out for you. Please share this article to let the professional world know that we see these 5 step-formula and will no longer be tolerating them.
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