Female participation in NCAA sports has risen sharply since the introduction of Title IX, but the percentage of women head coaches has not. In fact, fewer than 40 percent of NCAA women’s teams had female head coaches last year, the lowest percentage on record.
The Alliance of Women Coaches, a group formed today with backing from several prominent names in women’s sports, hopes to reverse that decline. The alliance, which will be led by Judith M. Sweet, a former NCAA senior vice president, and Celia Slater, executive director of the NCAA Women Coaches Academy, plans to offer career-development programs for female coaches with the goal of boosting the diversity and number of women coaches at all levels.
The organization hopes to build on the success of the NCAA Women Coaches Academy, which has worked with more than 700 female coaches in all three NCAA divisions. Many graduates of that program said they needed an ongoing resource to help stay connected to others in the profession, and to assist them in overcoming various challenges, Ms. Sweet said in an interview.
“The biggest challenge for female coaches is that they are usually one of a small number of women coaches at their institution and they often feel isolated,” she said. Those coaches are also looking for a better work-life balance.
Dena Evans, a former national champion women’s cross-country coach at Stanford University who quit the collegiate coaching ranks at a young age, believes such an organization could help more women stay in the game. Ms. Evans, who is not affiliated with the alliance, is intrigued with the organization’s goal of working with female coaches at all levels, including high schools, club sports, and other ranks.
“This could provide a great opportunity to connect people in and outside of the college coaching ranks,” she said. “There are lots of women who are no longer formally connected to coaching, or in the grinder, but who could be active participants in a community like this.” Ms. Evans is a good example: After her well-publicized departure from college coaching, she now works part-time with a track club she helped start in Silicon Valley.
The alliance, which is offering individual and institutional memberships, plans to host regional seminars, a national convention, and other development opportunities. For more information, see its website.