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Where are the Moms? Strategies to Recruit Female Youth Sport Coaches

Kean A. Wallace III and Amber M. Shipherd

Strategies Cover September October 2020

The benefits of youth sport participation are numerous and well documented (Women’s Sports Foundation, 2020). Each year, millions of children participate in youth sport in the United States (Aspen Institute State of Play, 2018). A variety of sport opportunities are offered by youth leagues, organizations, clubs, park districts, and schools. According to the Aspen Institute’s State of Play (2018), approximately 70% of children ages 6 to 12 years participate in a team or individual sport at least one day during the year. The majority of these organizations rely heavily on parent volunteers to coach the youth teams, and it is estimated that there are more than 6.5 million youth sport coaches in the United States (Aspen Institute State of Play, 2016).

Coaches can play a significant role in getting youth, especially girls, involved in sports and continuing participation in sports (Cooky, 2009). However, according to Messner and Bozada-Deas (2009), the majority of youth sport coaches are men, and women make up only an estimated 27% of youth coaches. This percentage is even lower when it comes to coaching boys’ youth sports and decreases as boys and girls get older. Conversely, women hold the majority of manager roles (Messner & Bozada-Deas, 2009). Rather than actually coaching, women’s roles include duties such as “team mom,” coordinating team schedules, organizing snacks, and other organizational activities. The small percentage of female youth sport coaches is surprising and problematic considering the number of women who have participated in sports since the inception of Title IX. The coaching gender imbalance could send the wrong message to children and youth about power, gender, and leadership and reinforce the notion that sport is a male-dominated, male-run, and male-centered activity (LaVoi & Leberman, 2015). For children who are impressionable, seeing mostly men in positions of power in sports does little to challenge and change the status quo (LaVoi & Leberman, 2015). The purpose of this article is to describe the benefits of having female coaches and potential strategies to encourage more women to coach youth sports.

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