Why are so few women’s college teams coached by women? The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism invited University of Maryland women’s basketball head coach Brenda Frese, USA Today columnist Christine Brennan, ESPN and Big Ten Network basketball analyst Christy Winters-Scott and former UMD and Women’s National Basketball Association player Crystal Langhorne to answer that very question.
Each of the four women had a unique answer, originating from their own personal experiences and their current place in the sports industry.
As a current head coach, Brenda Frese is very familiar with the struggle to balance the responsibilities of being a mother to two boys, while leading Maryland women’s basketball team to championship after championship.
“The demands are so high … but … the time constraints and what you’re juggling day in and day out is very high,” she said.
One of Frese’s twin boys was diagnosed at the age of two with cancer. Frese recognized her fortune that her husband was in a position where he could take on those responsibilities, as she was shuffling motherhood and coaching.
Christine Brennan, a Northwestern wildcat, blamed how lucrative and sought after women’s college coaching jobs are, in addition to the fact that white, male athletic directors tend to hire coaches who look like them.
Brennan said, “This is about looking at an issue in 2021 that is so important because it’s about creating role models for our daughters, our granddaughters, our nieces and the girl next door, and letting them know that sports can be a career for them.”
Brennan believes the National Collegiate Athletic Association must do a better job of promoting and supporting female coaches for the next generation: “If you can see it, you can be it,” she said.
Crystal Langhorne, a 2006 NCAA National Champion, accentuated the lack of diversity in head coaching positions. WNBA coaches are majority white men, but Langhorne aspires for the emphasis to be on diversity when hiring. “It’s going to help girls in the future … when you see a coach that’s a woman, so it’s like ‘I can do this.’” she said.
Christy Winters-Scott, a mother of three, put the accountability on women to apply and interview for head coach positions. Winters-Scott coached at the Division 1 level at Georgetown University for 10 years, but the birth of her oldest son forced her to realize that coaching wasn’t the right thing for her schedule at that time.
Yet she still interviewed for a high school coaching position at her alma mater, South Lakes High School, in Reston, Virginia. “There’s a different level of acceptance of women who have opportunities to be in these leadership roles… when the opportunity presents itself, it’s up to women to grab hold of that opportunity,” said Winters-Scott.
The lack of female head coaches at the collegiate level stems from both a systemic bias. Many women also doubt they can juggle both a full-time job and a family.
The NCAA should implement a grading system for universities on their hiring diversity, according to Brennan. Women, also, must seize the opportunities and apply for head coaching jobs, said Winters-Scott.
Maybe in the future, a surge of women interviewing to be head coaches will change the make-up of women’s collegiate coaches.