While there has been an explosion of girls and women participating in athletics since Title IX, only about 40% of them are coached by women. The film explores supporting research, dispels false narratives, celebrates female coaching pioneers at all levels of competition and highlights stories of success and hardship. Their stories are the universal stories of women coaches who fight many battles to pursue their passion to coach. Produced in collaboration between Twin Cities Public Television and the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport.
Thank you Becky Carlson for this very important read!
The steady decline of female college coaches over the last 30 years is not an opinion, it is a fact. Among the most detrimental results of female coaches leaving or being forced out of the profession, here is one that many probably haven’t considered:
Athletics may never allow another Pat Summitt.
We can all read about leadership and post as many inspirational John Wooden memes as as we see fit. However, actually practicing, living and re-teaching their lessons comes with its own set of challenges, especially for female coaches. I have read my share of Pat Summitt books and have much admiration for the late fearless leader of the Lady Vols. I’ve even met a few former Tennessee players who would walk through fire for Coach Summitt today without a second thought.
A few years ago, I met one of Coach Summitt’s former players who is currently a successful high school athletic director. She spoke about a particular game the team lost during her tenure at Tennessee and more notably, the return trip home. She talked about how Coach Summitt told them that UT paid for the team to eat but only if the team gave their best effort. She shared that the team knew they had not played up to their own standards and had accepted missing dinner that night.
When I asked the former player what kind of personal feelings she had over this particular memory, she was overwhelmed with nostalgic respect for Coach Summitt and agreed as a leader that she had “every right to teach a hard lesson at that time”. The more we chatted the more we chuckled at the prospect of this method being employed in high school or college today. Both of us agreed we would lose our jobs if we ever chose this lesson to be the one we borrowed from Coach Summitt.
I then asked her directly, “Do you believe if Coach Summitt was reincarnated today and lived her legacy all over again as another female coach, would she ever be able to do it her way with this generation?”
She replied with an immediate “no”.
While I was fascinated by this former player’s story it left me wondering about the athletes of today and how different that scenario would play out in present time under a tough female coach of far less prominence than Coach Summitt.
I’ve heard many stories about other female college coaches such as Vivian Stringer, Dawn Staley and Tara VanDerveer. All of whom are accredited with successfully dishing out tough and notable lessons. These are some of the top names in the business of women’s college basketball where very few fans would bat an eye at some of the most rumored practices in toughness. Male coaches like Geno Auriemma write openly in their books about their direct methods and no-apologies attitude while they are revered for their honesty and passion. So where does that leave the rest of us?
Outside of the big names in women’s college basketball, what about the other 99% of female college coaches who work to have positive coach-athlete relationships but are tough on their players when it comes to the core values? The Summitt mentality is valuable and indeed a proven system but is the average athletic administration outside of D-I women’s NCAA powerhouse basketball prepared or interested in carving out space for new strong, direct and passionate female coaches?
For me, the answer is absolutely not.
The list of women in coaching who have been dismissed is alarming and our percentage of women coaches at 41.7% is actively on a backslide. (Stat courtesy of WeCoachSports.org)
There’s no doubt that somewhere in the population of up-and-coming fired female coaches was the next Pat Summitt. She was armed as a forward-thinker with a winning persona but given the current environment in athletics where strong women are devalued, it’s becoming more probable that we may never meet her.
Many of the changes for student-athlete safety and welfare have been positive additions to the philosophy and missions of departments and universities. However, as the institutions tweak their policies with the vast majority of leadership still being white males over 50, there has also been an abrupt elimination of accountability and ownership specifically for female athletes where the natural tendency is for male ADs to prompt their female coaches to protect rather than teach.
A few years ago, I went to a forum for the then-named Alliance of Women Coaches, now the WeCoach organization. During this seminar we had a breakout session where administrators and coaches were issued roundtable topics. I specifically chose a group where I was the only coach with several administrators. Our topic was dealing with explaining athlete playing time and reducing conflict in that area. As the only coach, I volunteered to go first and proudly explained our methodology for posting in the locker room what each player needed to work on in order to gain a starting position. In the middle of my explanation, a very prominent and respected female AD began to shake her head in disagreement and interrupted.
“Wait, you post it for the rest of the team to see?” she asked.
“Yes, this way it is transparent and it eliminates locker room chatter or drama for the team to know what each player needs to accomplish individually in order to start. It’s worked out well for us with no complaints,” I explained.
“That would never fly in my department,” she replied. “Any coach who did that would not last very long. You cannot embarrass female athletes like that.” she said.
This scenario was a learning moment and a puzzling one given that that very method I had explained and employed was borrowed and slightly tweaked directly from the leadership presentation of 13-time NCAA Champion UCLA coaching legend, Sue Enquist and her “Roll Call”. I had taken notes on this presentation only a few months before and found it amusing that this advice from a hall of fame coach would be so adamantly frowned upon when implemented by a non-hall of fame female college coach.
I think back on it now and wonder how many times the leadership at UCLA could have easily extinguished the bright light of one of the most amazing coaches of our time if they had chosen to see her strength and innovation as a threat, rather than an asset. Thankfully we were all lucky enough to watch Coach Enquist’s journey of unprecedented success but unfortunately, the next generation of female coach superstars are at risk for extinction.
This written piece is still about Coach Summitt and her leadership but is also about the minority of leadership who chooses to stick with these remarkable female coaches early on in their career. There are typically a few athletic directors on the resumes of every coach as they move through their years in the profession and each may have a different philosophy and mindset about what they want to achieve. However, every coach has someone they report to and every GREAT coach has someone who supported their journey to become legendary.
We must support our female coaches in their pursuit of going from good to great. This means we must be respected even when our decisions are unpopular, our faces are not wearing permanent smiles, and our tones fail to deliver a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Keep in mind, these are all among the most common characteristics of the same leadership we praise male coaches for. Great coaches became so because they were permitted to coach in their own skin where enthusiasm, innovation, confidence and courage were ingredients for success rather than a recipe for elimination. Female powerhouse coaches in major D-I sports cannot be the only ones institutions and departments allow to become great.
All divisions of the NCAA, JUCO and NAIA female coaches are much more the future of our sports than even the current big names. The next group of Coach Summitts are somewhere working their way up to great, but if we are not prepared to defend and support them along the way, it is a highly likely we may never get to witness that greatness again.
This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from Nicole M. LaVoi, Ph.D., Co-Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
Recently, a piece sharing the data on lack of women head swimming and diving coaches at the collegiate level was posted here on swimswam.com. That data is part of my research at the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota.
The data shared was accurate: swimming and diving both get an F grade on our Women in College Coaching Report Card, at the NCAA D-I level and a D grade for both at the D-III level. What this means is that less than 1 in 4 collegiate female swimmers are coached by a same sex role model, and that fewer men get the benefit of a cross-sex role model. Let me contrast that by stating that nearly ALL (~96-98%) men’s collegiate teams are coached by men. Swimming and diving is unique in that it is a “co-ed” sport so we’d think we’d see more women coaches. Yet many college programs have a Director of Swimming that oversees both the men’s and women’s programs, and based on the data we know that person is rarely a woman.
WHY DO WOMEN COACHES MATTER?
I get this question a lot, so let me offer up some evidence-based reasons why women in sport leadership positions matter.
First, sport is one of the most visible and powerful social institutions in world. Who is seen and known in the world of sports, like head coaches, communicates who is important, relevant and valued (and who is not).
Second, girls and young women want and need female role models, like former female athletes who become coaches, who have experienced many of the same issues in their sport. Same sex role models provide emulation, aspiration, self-esteem, and valuation of abilities. Many girls grow up NEVER having had a female coach, whereas 100% of their male peers have had a male coach.
Third, when boys and men experience women as competent leaders in a context that matters greatly to them (i.e., sport), they are more likely to respect women, see females as equal colleagues, friends, and intimate partners, and are less likely to sexually objectify women.
Fourth, when girls and young women see females in coaching roles they will more likely think about coaching as a legitimate and viable career, and may aspire to become a coach. Women coached by women are more likely to go into and stay in coaching!
Fifth, sport organizations with more women coaches on staff will likely have different perspectives at the decision making table, which, according to the data, is positive for any workplace.
Sixth, women coaches need to see and interact with other women coaches for friendship, networking, support, career advice, mentorship, counseling and help in navigating a male-dominated workplace.
Seventh, when women are tokens in the workplace (<24%) it is often detrimental to mental and physical health outcomes. Female swimming & diving coaches often endure and experience alienation, feeling highly visible and subjected to scrutiny, having to overperform to gain credibility, feeling pressure to conform to organizational norms and endure increased risk for gender discrimination in the forms of sexual harassment, wage inequities, and limited opportunities for promotion; all caused by their minority status in the workplace. Over time, this takes its toll and many women coaches burnout and leave the profession.
Eighth, decades of data indicate 99% of sexual abusers and molesters of all athletes (female and male) at all levels of sport are male (see Brackenridge, 2001). With increased concerns of athlete health, wellbeing and safety, increasing the number of women coaches and gender diversity in the workplace might expedite advancement and achievement of these important goals.
In sum, women love to coach and are competent coaches. Women love to coach just as much as men, but due to the system and culture of swimming and diving they are often denied the opportunity afforded to male peers or face such an inhospitable workplace (and that means at the national, organizational, athletic department or club level) that they quit something they are passionate about and good at!
Women coaches matter, and swimming and diving has some work to do to make this a reality.
About Nicole M. La Voi, PhD
Nicole M. LaVoi, Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer in the area of social and behavioral sciences in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota where she is also the Co-Director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport. She received MA (’96) and doctoral degrees (’02) in Kinesiology with an emphasis in sport psychology/sociology from the University of Minnesota. After completing her graduate work, Dr. LaVoi was a Research & Program Associate in the Mendelson Center for Sport & Character at the University of Notre Dame (2002-‘05) where she helped launch the Play Like a Champion character education through sport series, and was also an instructor in the Psychology Department. LaVoi was an Assistant Professor of Physical Education and the Head Women’s Tennis Coach at Wellesley College (1994-’98), and the Assistant Women’s Tennis Coach at Carleton College (1991-’93).
Through her multidisciplinary research she answers critical questions that can make a difference in the lives of sport stakeholders—particularly girls and women. As a leading scholar on women coaches LaVoi has published numerous book chapters, research reports and peer reviewed articles across multiple disciplines. Her seminal research includes the annual Women in College Coaching Report Card which is aimed at retaining and increasing the number of women in the coaching profession, and a groundbreaking book Women in Sports Coaching (2016). She also collaborates with colleagues on media representations of females in sport, including co-producing an Emmy-winning best sports documentary titled Media Coverage & Female Athletes: Women Play Sports, Just Not in the Media (2013), and has a new documentary with tptMN coming out in November 2018 titled Game ON: Women Can Coach. As a public scholar she speaks frequently to sport stakeholders around the globe and serves on national advisory boards for the Sports Advocacy Netowrk of the Women’s Sport Foundation, espnW and WeCOACH (formerly the Alliance of Women Coaches). She is also the founder and director of the annual Women Coaches Symposium held on the U of MN campus which serves over 350+ women coaches of all sport and all levels. LaVoi focuses her research on the relational qualities of the coach-athlete relationship, the physical activity of underserved girls, the barriers and supports experienced by female coaches, and media representations of girls and women in sport.
LaVoi played four years of intercollegiate tennis at Gustavus Adolphus College where her team placed 4th (’89), 2nd (’91) and won the NCAA-III National Championships in 1990. She is a two-time NCAA Academic All-American.
15 Nominees, 6 are women and 9 are men. It’s up to the USA Swimming membership to make a vote that will change the narrative of the future. If you have a vote, please consider what women sitting on a Board can do to change the future. Research proves that Fortune 500 companies who have 3 or more women sitting on their Board OUTPERFORM their competitors. The time to elect them is NOW. Take a moment to read all the amazing people who have offered their time and energy to make our sport better.
2018 Nominees for Board of Directors
2018 Board Nominee: Nathan Adrian (1:36)
2018 Board Nominee: Natalie Coughlin Hall (2:49)
2018 Board Nominee: Bradley Craig (2:03)
2018 Board Nominee: Maya DiRado (2:50)
Below are the nominees for the USA Swimming 2018 Board of Directors in alphabetical order. The nominees for election are presented by the USA Swimming Nominating Committee.
On September 29, 2018, the House of Delegates will elect six (6) at-large Directors, at least two of whom will be “semi-independent” (individuals with a demonstrable connection to the sport, but who have not previously been members of the House of Delegates). In addition, on September 28, the Athletes Committee will elect three (3) Athlete Directors.
Hello, all my name is Nathan Adrian. I am a current USA Swimming National Team member preparing for the 2020 Olympics. I have been a member of USA Swimming for almost 25 years and been a part of the National Team for 10 of them. In that time, I went from wide eyed 19-year-old watching Michael Phelps achieve the impossible to a veteran who has been around the block.
I have applied for an athlete position on the USA Swimming Board of Directors. As an athlete I started in an era where we felt like our voices were never heard. Recently, there has been a huge (and appreciated) effort to change that. I hope to further this agenda by helping to bridge the gap between the National Team members and the governance that affects us all. My vision for this role is to represent the interests of the National Team as a whole, not any given individual or subset of the group.
Natalie Coughlin Hall
I have been ex-officio, non-voting member of the USA Swimming Board of Directors since 2016 due to my elected USOC Athlete Advisory Council position. I have been a member of USA Swimming for 30 years, starting as an age group swimmer at age 6. I was a National Team member for over 18 years and an NCAA swimmer for 4 years. I have experienced every level of this sport from beginner to Olympic champion. Along the way, I have made many great relationships with USA Swimming staff, former and current National Team members, as well as countless volunteers. Swimming has undoubtedly changed my life for the better. I am grateful for the many years that I competed for USA Swimming whether at the age group or Olympic level. I would love to continue to participate on the USA Swimming Board of Directors to continue to be a voice for the athletes and give back to the sport that has given me so much.
Chief Aspirer at Aspiricx – December 2017 – Present
Vintner & Co-Founders at Gaderian Wines – March 2017 – Present
Brand Ambassador at Luvo Inc – May 2015 – Present
Brand Ambassador at Nulo Pet Food – February 2014 – Present
Professional Athlete at Speedo — April 2004 – Present
Education University of California at Berkeley – Psychology, 2005
Honors & Awards – U.S. Olympic Team Captain, 2008 Beijing Olympics; U.S. Olympic Team Captain, 2012 London Olympics; Cal Athletics Hall of Fame; PAC-12 Swimmer of the Century
I started ‘swimming’ when I was three and my brother was less than a year old, we were the ‘demo’ toddler and baby for my babysitter’s swim school. By the age of six, my parents had signed me up for my local club team the Midland Dolphins. Over the coming twenty plus years, my parents ferried me from practice to practice, sport to sport, meet to meet and game to game. I tried multiple sports over the years but the one that was my passion was swimming. I slowly climbed the ranks of the sport going from States to Sectionals, Grand Prix’s, Juniors, Nationals, Short Course Worlds, Pan American Games and a few Olympic Trials. The sport of swimming allowed me the opportunity to connect with people all over the world, experience different cultures and ultimately earn my degree and compete for the University of Tennessee. Through those years I competed for SEC titles, attended NCAA championships and furthered my education. After graduating from the University of Tennessee I worked in Knoxville, began a professional swimming career and began to pursue my MBA. Having graduated from Central Michigan University with my MBA and ‘retired’ from swimming, it is time for me to give back to the sport that has opened so many doors for me, given me so many opportunities and helped shape me into the man I am today.
Approaching my 19th year as a member of USA Swimming, I’m honored to be considered for a position on the board of an organization that shaped my life in many wonderful ways.
My journey through USA Swimming took me from the club level with Neptune Swimming in Santa Rosa, California to the National Junior Team, collegiate swimming, and then Pan Pacific Championships, World Championships, and the Olympic Games. From my first 25-yard freestyle race as a six-year-old to my final, gold-medal winning race in Rio, USA Swimming played a crucial part in my development as an athlete and teammate.
In life on dry land, I graduated from Stanford University in 2014 with a degree in Management Science & Engineering and went on to work at McKinsey & Company before making the move the social sector. At King Philanthropies, I now work to alleviate extreme poverty by supporting high-performing organizations working where needs and challenges are greatest.
The lessons to be learned and experiences to be had through swimming are unmatched in the world of youth sports. USA Swimming has created a wonderful environment for young athletes to develop their competitive drive, appetite for hard work, and leadership abilities while also perpetually fielding the world’s most successful swim team. The possibilities to expand the sport, create additional opportunities for the nation’s best swimmers, and continue to develop the best and healthiest environment in youth sports excites me tremendously, and I hope to continue to be a part of this organization for many years to come.
Swimming has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I was learning to swim before I could walk, and the sport has stayed with me ever since. I have competed in mini meets, summer league meets, high school and college meets. And through a lot of hard work and an incredible amount of support, I was a national team member for nine years, representing USA Swimming at World Championships and the Olympic Games. Towards the end of my career, I realized I had more to give back to the sport. While my experiences with USA Swimming have been overwhelmingly positive, I felt like there was still room to grow and improve, and I wanted to help USA Swimming get there. Since 2014, I have been involved in both local and national levels of governance in trying to make sure that future swimmers, of all levels, have even better opportunities than I had. I want every athlete to have the chance to fall in love with the sport that I love. I am hopeful that I will to continue to be able to serve USA Swimming as a member of the Board of Directors and help guide the organization to an even brighter future.
Davis Tarwater is a speaker, investor, entrepreneur, and 2012 Olympic Gold medalist as a member of 4 x 200 free relay in the London Games. After a distinguished athletic career that included competing in three World Championships (2005, 2007, and 2009), Davis also held the American record in the 200-meter butterfly (SCM) from 2011-2013 and won three NCAA titles at the University of Michigan. He retired from professional swimming in 2012.
In 2013, Davis co-founded Gulfstream Capital, LLC, a private wealth management firm located in Knoxville, TN, where he remains a partner. Additionally, he speaks and consults with athletes, entrepreneurs and businesses on how to effectively engage transition.
Davis earned his Master’s Degree from the University of Oxford (2010) in Latin American Studies and his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Michigan (2006). During his senior year at Michigan, he was awarded the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor, given to the University’s top student athlete.
Davis also serves his community by participating on a variety of non-profit boards. He is the Board President of Tennessee Aquatics, the largest swimming club in Knoxville. Additionally, in his local community, he serves on the board of the Webb School of Knoxville and the East Tennessee YMCA. Finally, he has served as a member of the USA Swimming Board of Directors, participating on the investment committee and national board of review.
From the moment I watched Steve Lundquist win the breaststroke gold at the 1984 Olympic Games, I was hooked. It was that moment when I fell in love with swimming.
I was fortunate to be able to capitalize on that passion: first, as an age group swimmer and, ultimately, as a college swimmer at the University of Georgia.
After hanging up my swimsuit, I was able to fuel my passion as a media and sports attorney. For over 20 years, I advised sports organizations in their media rights, sponsorship and event hosting matters. Most notably, I advised the International Olympic Committee on their global media strategy, host city analysis and US relations for over 15 years.
Earlier this year, I left the practice of law to help run a movie studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), as their Chief Operating Officer. While working at MGM has presented a new and exciting challenge, I greatly miss the world of amateur sports and swimming.
I can now think of no better way to continue my passion than to join USA Swimming. I want to help ensure that we have ubiquitous water safety and education, strong youth participation, and more than our fair share of swimmers competing at the highest levels of international competition.
Quite simply, having the chance to join the Board of USA Swimming would be a dream come true and my chance to give back to the sport that has meant so much to me for so long.
Who would have thought Tarzan started my journey into this sport when I was only three years old? More specifically, the actor Johnny Weissmuller, a five-time Olympic freestyle gold medalist. After running into him on a family vacation at the pool, my love for the sport ignited like an overeager girl scout’s first campfire. From being a swimmer to officiating to coaching to currently serving as Vice Chair of Finance and Treasurer for PVS Swimming, I never could have imagined how enriching and rewarding this adventure has been.
In addition to putting my time into swimming, I have also cultivated an extensive business resume that I am excited to incorporate into USA swimming. My experience includes personally consulting the likes of multinational corporations such as Chevron, Skanska, ExxonMobil, Johnson & Johnson, and Bechtel. The unique learning opportunities from being involved with officers facing the most challenging situations in their businesses and boardrooms have allowed for me to develop a fine-tuned understanding of how to contribute to these corporations and enable them to stay ahead of the curve. My strength in addressing these challenges is my commitment to the success of all parties involved, by embodying the values of dignity, care, and respect to ensure a beneficial outcome for all.
As I sit here typing this, I can still feel the same flame I felt when I was three years old. I am grateful for the opportunities this sport has given to me and excited for the future of USA Swimming.
I’m Carolyn Conrad, and I’m a partner at an entertainment law firm with offices in Beverly Hills and New York City. I have spent over a decade representing actors, writers, directors, hosts, playwrights and musicians, and I have had the great fortune to represent nominees and winners of every major award in the industry. I also work with charity organizations on both coasts, including Opening Act (providing free after-school theater programs to NYC’s most under-served public high schools), Human Rights Watch and the Bowery Mission.
I grew up in Spring, Texas and swam for The Woodlands Swim Team. I continued to swim in college at both USC and UCLA, and was an NCAA All-American.
I believe that swimming, and my coaches and teammates along the way, truly changed the course of my life. Because of swimming, I was able to attend a college that would have otherwise been unaffordable to me. Because of swimming, I was able to travel, both domestically and internationally. Because of swimming, I learned focus, dedication and perseverance. Because of swimming, I learned how to be a teammate and how to be a captain.
Swimming has made me who I am today. The opportunity to serve on the USA Swimming Board of Directors, and give back to the sport and its athletes, would be an honor.
Dr. Cecil Gordon
It is an honor to be considered for a position on the USA Swimming Board of Directors. As a Life Member of USA Swimming, I have served on four National Committees, including International Relations, Rules and Regulations, Diversity and Inclusion and Safe Sport. As Chair of both Diversity and Inclusion and Safe Sport, I am especially proud of our accomplishments. The Safe Sport Committee guided USA Swimming through a period of needed change at a critical change for the organization. That change continues to shape USA Swimming, even today. Recently I joined the USA Swimming Foundation Board in 2016.
I’ve been an active official for twenty years and was selected as Starter for both the 2015 World Championships in Russia and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Additionally, I’ve been a part of the last three Olympic Trials in Omaha.
Outside of swimming I’ve served on numerous boards in my community, including charter schools, medical, philanthropic and the Episcopal Church Vestry. Currently, I am a member of the Christiana Care Health Services Trustee Board and previously was Vice President of the Delaware Board of Medical Practice. Professionally, I have maintained a private medical practice in Delaware since 1984.
All of these experiences I will rely on if elected to the Board of Directors. It is essential that our organization continues to grow and impact the communities we serve. It is equally important that we embrace diversity at all levels and invite everyone to be a part of our vision and mission. I look forward to that challenge and humbly request your support.
Jacquelyn Poland Hoagland
My name is Jacquelyn Poland Hoagland. I was a swimmer. I am a swimmer. I will always be a swimmer. I am a wife and mother of five. I am a swim parent. I have been a swim coach. I was an ocean lifeguard. I am an attorney. I am a member of the local Board of Education and I serve as the board’s chair of the policy committee. I am also a member of the negotiation and finance committee for the board. I am a past vice president of the local PTO. I am a member of the charity organization the Central Jersey Spinal Cord Association and have been a trustee of the non-profit Colts Neck Fair.
I was born in Newark, N.J., and raised in Kearny, N.J., until age 12 and then Sea Girt, N.J. I have resided in Colts Neck, N.J., for 24+ years. I graduated from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., in 1985 and was a member of the Furman swim team all four years. I graduated from Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark, N.J., in 1988 and passed the New Jersey bar that year. I was law clerk to the Hon. John E. Keefe, J.A.D. in 1988-89 and have been employed at Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst and Doukas LLP my entire career since. I was a partner at the firm from 1995 through 2003 and have been of counsel since having my fourth child.
I am deeply honored to be considered for this position.
Amy’s expertise is in strategic planning, marketing and communication. Practicing servant leadership, she believes in building a shared vision through collaboration. It is extremely important to her that the volunteer spirit at USA Swimming remains through the governance evolution and that our membership continues to have a voice.
Views on strategic focus of the new board:
Safe Sport: Going from good to great means looking at how USA Swimming can strengthen support to survivors, athletes, coaches, clubs and LSCs during crisis situations and beyond.
Growing our 10 & under base: USA Swimming needs to shift the tides and its thinking. While the Flex Membership program is a good start, the focus needs to be on additional strategies to garner and retain our younger athletes.
Communication: A good program is only as good as the communication around it. Every new initiative (and maybe some of the older ones), needs to have an internal and external communications plan.
PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND:
- Married: John – 36 years
- Children: Two – Blaine & Michael
- Education: University of Kansas/BSJ
- Profession: Director of Strategic Marketing for large regional accounting firm
USA SWIMMING BACKGROUND:
- CZ Non-Coach Director (2014 – present)
- Missouri Valley Admin Vice-Chair (2014 – present)
- USAS Audit Committee (2016 – present)
- National Officials Committee – Communications Chair (2012 – 2014)
- Woman in Officiating Task Force Chair (2010 – 2011)
- Olympic Trials (2012 & 2016)
- Pro Series Referee/Minneapolis (2015)
- Grand Prix Meet Referee/Missouri (2011) & Austin (2013)
- Junior National Meet Referee (2013)
- FINA list #18 & #20 Pan Pac Referee (2014)
Will Indest recently retired from his position as a General Partner with Draper Triangle Ventures, a prominent venture capital firm, and is now focusing on volunteer activities within swimming.
Over the course of his career as an engineer, business executive, and board member and Chair, Will has held leadership positions including worldwide division general manager with ABB, and chairman of the board, committee leadership roles and directorships on more than 15 boards of directors, including not-for-profit and for-profit companies. Will has also completed formal training in business strategy, finance, and board operations, including his master’s degree and specialized strategy training, including the executive program at Wharton.
At Draper Triangle Ventures, Will was responsible for choosing investments and serving on company boards to achieve investment success. Prior, Will held several positions at TechColumbus Investments Inc., including CEO, where he also gained board and management experience, reporting to and serving on several boards of directors.
Prior, Will served in a variety of management, sales, marketing and engineering positions at ABB and the State of Ohio.
Will currently serves as a national official with USA-S and USA ParaSwimming, and officiates and runs meets for NCAA, high school and summer league programs, contributing more than 500 volunteer hours per year for the last several years.
A native of New Orleans, Will earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame, and a Master’s degree in management (focusing on strategy and finance) from the Sloan School at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Will lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife, and two children, swimmers all.
Albert “Ab” Krall
I am excited about the opportunity to serve the swimming community and help build on the excellent environment that USA Swimming has created to reach young athletes everywhere.
I believe I can contribute meaningfully to the board of USA Swimming. I spent a 35-year career at Accenture and Deloitte Consulting helping clients to achieve their goals, simultaneously focusing on the career aspirations of motivated professionals to guide them to successful work and a balanced lifestyle.
At my alma mater, the University of Maryland, I have spent the past seven years on the Board of Advisors for the Smith School of Business, including terms as board vice chair and chair. I am also an adjunct professor teaching an MBA consulting class. I served seven years as a board trustee and strategy lead for a K-12 private school as we navigated challenging growth issues.
In the swimming world, I am entering my second elected term as the board president of the Naval Academy Aquatic Club (NAAC) in our hometown of Annapolis, Maryland. By adhering to a strategic quad plan developed by the board and head coach, our team is producing nationally ranked and well-rounded swimmers. As a former competitive swimmer, swim coach and father to a daughter excelling at NAAC, I recognize the importance of serving our sport.
My wife, Kristen, and I have three high-school aged children and are active community volunteers, leading charitable events and focusing our philanthropy on education, healthcare, sport and the environment.
Dr. Robert G. Marbut Jr.
I have a great passion for the sport of Swimming and have been in and around swimming for more than 47 years. As a 10-year-old, I started out as a club swimmer and later was a High School and College All-American swimmer and an All-American water polo player. I continued swimming as part of the sport of Pentathlon on the Olympic training squad (1980 Moscow boycott cycle) and competed in the Masters Nationals.
Even though I have been independent of the USA Swimming NGB proper, I am very knowledgeable of the sport of swimming, the work of NGBs and the internal operations of the USOC. Through my service as Chair of the NGB Council, as an officer of the USOC, as the President of the 1993 US Olympic Festival, and as Chair and Executive Director of the Pentathlon NGB, I have a deep understanding of NGBs, the USOC and the Olympic movement.
I also have a variety of national and international level experiences across the sectors of academia, government, marketing, business, sports and non-profits, including serving on the staff of President Bush (the Father).
When I was asked to apply as a Semi-independent Director I got excited about the possibility of giving back to my sport. Every great opportunity I have had in my life from working as a senior staffer to the President of the United States to traveling the world as an athlete/administrator, all directly tie back to swimming.
I appreciate your consideration of my candidacy.
My name is Derek Paul. I started swimming when I was six years old and swam almost every week thereafter until I was 22. The sport of swimming has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember and remains to be today.
I believe I can offer this organization a unique perspective and expertise as a board member. I practiced law for four years after finishing my swimming career and formal education at the University of Tennessee. While doing so, I remained connected to the sport both locally and nationally by volunteering with Tennessee Aquatics and USA Swimming. Recently I have re-entered the swimming world full time by working with my alma mater and Tennessee Aquatics.
When I stepped back from the wet side of the sport in 2012 I asked my age group coach what I could do to stay involved. Luckily, he suggested I volunteer my time to USA Swimming. It’s been my pleasure to serve this organization for the past six years. I have been honored and humbled to be able to interact with so many dedicated individuals whose passion for the sport of swimming is unrivaled. I would be honored if you would vote for me to serve on this board of directors for another term.
I began my lifelong connection to swimming as a young age-grouper in NY and NJ metro area leagues which included competing at numerous state, regional, and national championships. My swimming career culminated at Princeton University, where I competed all four years and was a letter winner. I was also a four-year member of Air Force ROTC. Upon graduating from Princeton in 1998, I proudly served our country as an Air Force officer for 20 years stateside, overseas, and in combat zones in what was a very exciting, challenging, and rewarding career first as an intelligence officer and later as an attorney in the JAG Corps.
Swimming has been such a big part of my life and I am thrilled to still be connected to the sport through my daughter. It has been a pure highlight of my life watching her thrive in age-group competition the last three years and grow to truly love the sport. Becoming a swimming parent has given me a whole new perspective and a renewed passion to be more involved.
As a recent military retiree and reflecting on how to spend my time, I keep coming back to volunteer service as a significant option. I cannot think of a more appropriate way to spend my time than giving back to the sport that gave me so much. I am eager to contribute my time, skills, and passion to USA Swimming.
I reside with my husband and our daughter in Las Cruces, NM.
Susan Teeter recently retired after 33 seasons as head coach of the Princeton women’s swim program in 2017, and after 40 years in coaching. She currently volunteer coaches at Rider University for the men’s and women’s teams. Teeter racked up over 219 dual meet victories, and guided Princeton to 17 Ivy League titles. Teeter serves as the Ex-Officio President of the College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association (CSCAA). She is the President of S. S. Teeter Associates, a Leadership and High Performance Consulting company. Teeter is the Co-founder of the Summit in Women’s Swimming. She is a level 5 USA Swimming coach.
Teeter was honored with the prestigious CSCAA “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2011 and the National Collegiate and Scholastic Trophy in 2017. She earned the ASCA Award of Excellence six times. In 1988, she received the Master Coach Award from the CSCAA for her contributions to collegiate swimming. In 2015, she was awarded the USAS Most Outstanding Woman.
Teeter was a member of the 1996 + 2000 Olympic Swimming staff in Atlanta and Sydney.
Teeter is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She lives in Cranbury, New Jersey.
Teeter would like to help USA Swimming address recent issues around safe sport, create a better meet structure using a college dual meet model to enhance participation, shorten meet time frames and improve spectator involvement. She would also like to address women in coaching and enhance benefits to club coaches for healthcare and retirement.
USA Swimming has experienced an unprecedented period of prosperity. To keep the future of our sport secure, we must first ensure the absolute security and protection of our most valued resource, our athletes. We must support programs that strengthen our clubs – they are the lifeblood of our organization. Going forward we need to build on our successes in a careful, measured manner which leverages our strengths to solidifies a sound future. I would be honored to serve you on the Board or Directors.
College: Clemson University – ’82 – B.S. Administrative Management
Military Service: Commander, United States Naval Reserve, Retired – 2002 – 20 years of service.
Two Children: Barbara – UNC-’10, Morgan – USC-Upstate -‘12
Professional – Commercial Airline Pilot – 23 years; Area Developer – Orangetheory Fitness – 5 years
Official – 1997-Present
Officials Committee Chair – 2003-2007
LSC Board of Directors, 2005-2009
Records Chair, NTV Chair, LSC Webmaster
USA Swimming Board of Directors – 2000-2014
Times and Recognition Committee – 2006 – 2009
Rules and Regulations Committee – 2008 – present, Chairman 2015-present
Official’s Committee – 2015-Present
Women in Officiating Task Force
FINA Official – 2008-2016
UANA – Union Americana de Natacion – Technical Swimming Committee Secretary – 2011-Present
Transgender Task Force – 2018
Task Force Chair – USA Swimming Safe Sport Review (Vieth Report) – 2014
On-Line Meet Entry System – testing team
SWIMS – LSC Records Portal – development and testing team
I am the Chief Executive Officer of Nation’s Capital Swim Club in the metro Washington, D.C., area. We have approximately 50 coaches and 1,850 athletes in our competitive USA Swimming program. We have another 350 swimmers in our developmental program along with one swim school.
I applied to be considered as a candidate because I feel I can help with our new Board structure to think strategically about our long-term success.
I currently serve as the General Chair of Potomac Valley Swimming with 12,500 athletes, 561 coaches and 667 officials. My goal on the Board is to listen to all members of our NGB including athletes, coaches, officials and parents to achieve our goals as an organization.
The most important goal is that we give every athlete the opportunity to reach his or her potential. We also need to make sure they are in a safe environment, so Safe Sport will be paramount to meeting our goals. I will also make sure I represent the concerns of coaches and officials to our staff. We cannot do what we do without your commitment and support and I will listen.
The new Board will be tasked with counseling our staff to carry out the mission of our NGB. I believe we have a great staff of employees and I want to make sure we are giving them the resources to meet our goals. Thanks for your time and I am happy to meet with you in Jacksonville.
Bob’s first experience as a Director was with the Alexandria Rotary Club Board where he learned, and still practices, the concept of “service above self.” He has served for over 10 years on the Board of the Professional Services Council, the Voice of the Government Services Industry. He is in his 15th year on the Board of Directors of Florida Citrus Sports (Selection Committee) scouting football for the Citrus and Camping World Bowl games.
He has been involved at all levels of swimming including President of a parent-owned club, LSC Treasurer, Zone Officials Chair, and currently serves as Finance Vice Chair of USA Swimming. Bob also served on the task force that helped to create the new Board Governing Policies Manual.
Bob earned an Education degree at the University of South Carolina and a master’s Degree in General Administration from the Business School at the University of Maryland, University College. After teaching for three years he opened a Domino’s Pizza franchise that ranked in the top 2% of sales, worldwide. In 1987 he sold the franchise and began working for VW International, Inc., a healthcare facilities company. Bob now owns that company and continues to serve as President and CEO.
He believes that all USA Swimming goals (“Ends”) should be athlete focused, coach driven, staff executed, and volunteer supported. Our Board should have the right resources in place, along with a monitoring and accountability plan, to ensure success at all levels throughout the organization.
Bob is married to Erin and they have two daughters, Mandy and Taylor, both former college swimmers. He is an active supporter of the USA Swimming Foundation.
Today on the Swim Brief I am joined Susan Teeter. Susan capped off a very successful career as coach of Princeton University a year ago, and since then she’s been working with organizations big and small through her company S.S Teeter Associates
I wanted to talk to Susan specifically because of the report that was reported on last week, coming out of the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center that gave NCAA Swimming an “F” grade for gender equity. We both noticed the way the conversation was going online and wanted to see if we could steer it in a better direction. Enjoy.
Three new patrons signed up this past week for my Patreon account, thank you to them! If you want to join the cause go here.
By Lesley Barry
At 6 p.m. on February 2, 2018, when the referee tossed the ball and play began between the Carleton Ravens women’s basketball team and arch rivals, the Ottawa Gee-Gees, groups of die-hard fans were dotted about the 18,000-seat Canadian Tire Centre.
It was the night of the Capital Hoops Classic, a major fixture on Carleton’s calendar, and an invitation to feel the pride, wear your colours (black and red, if you wanted to be on the winning side), and have some fun. More than 8,500 tickets had been sold for the double header— women at 6 p.m., men at 8 p.m. as usual — but by game time, just a couple hundred spectators had arrived.
After a fast start for the Ravens, the play tightened up. The women pounded up and down the court while spectators trickled in. As the Ravens made decisive gains in the final quarter, the seats in the lowest tier were filling up, and by the time the game ended with a score of 57-41, the Ravens clocking their 19th win of the season—and breaking the record for the most inter-conference wins in a row for women’s basketball—a party atmosphere was fizzing in the stands.
— Carleton Ravens (@CURavens) February 3, 2018
The women came off the court, spent a few minutes with fans and photographers, and left for the change rooms. The spectators kept arriving. At 8 p.m., the men took their places, the ball went up, and 8,500 fans cheered.
The women’s warm-up act was over, and the real event of the night had begun. Clearly at least one newsroom felt that way. When the women’s team opened up one of the city’s newspapers the next morning, there was a full-page spread on the men’s program and the men’s team at Capital Hoops.
And for the women?
“They didn’t even print our score,” says Heather Lindsay, who has played centre for the Ravens for five years. “We deserved more respect than that.”
Seeking a Better Reputation for Women in Sport
So she sent out a tweet, tagging the newspaper. While she didn’t hear back from the paper, she got a lot of supportive comments, and Sportsnet picked up on the story.
“I tweeted because I wanted a better reputation for women’s sport,” Lindsay reports. “There are all these girls who follow us and want to play like we do one day. For them to look in the newspaper and find nothing at all about our game seemed like a real setback for women’s sports.”
But it isn’t just a setback. This is the way it is. Women’s teams and women athletes can show a lot of guts, but they rarely get the glory.
When the women’s team won their first national championship just weeks later, and the men’s took bronze, some media outlets were still placing the men’s story more prominently.
The degree and extent to which sports remains a man’s world in Western society goes unnoticed because it feels so normal. Catch the news on the radio or television: the sportscast at the end will likely be narrated by a man, a male sports editor will have chosen what’s newsworthy, and the talk will be about male athletes, male teams and male competitions. Weekend television and the specialty sports networks show the same. The sports pages in newspapers and webpages on news sites? Overwhelmingly male, with ads targeted at men to match. Same again for the many websites devoted to analyzing, critiquing and discussing different sports and segments of sport.
This is what Canadian sports media looks like when just four per cent of televised coverage and 5.3 per cent of print coverage deal with women’s sports, as the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sports and Physical Activity (CAAWS) noted in a 2014 report in —and over half of that four per cent was devoted to women’s tennis and coverage of the Winter Olympics. It feels normal because it has always been this way. It feels normal until you notice the daily absence of athletes who are women, and then the absence of women can begin to feel strange.
“Because men’s sports are all that’s available in the media, we’re all socialized from a young age to value men’s sports over women’s,” says Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, CEO of CAAWS. “You see that reflected in audience numbers and in the media coverage, and these two things reinforce one another.”
It’s easy to find another interpretation. Read an online article analyzing the lack of coverage of women’s events and you’ll find comments like: “if the quality was there, then spectators would come” or “the women’s game isn’t as exciting to watch” and “there are physiological differences that make men better athletes.” These sentiments are shared, all too often, by men who control promotion and sponsorship dollars.
A Technical Game with More Character
But for Taffe Charles, the women Ravens’ basketball coach—as well as for the many fans of the WNBA and women’s NCAA basketball teams in the United States — that doesn’t mean the women’s game is a lesser product.
“If you deem playing above the rim as exciting, and many people do, then you’ll prefer the men’s game,” says Charles. “The women’s game has just as much character. The play is more technical and matches tend to be closer, so there’s more drama.”
“The pace, the hard hits, the hard tackles, whatever aspect is valued in men’s sports may not translate to women’s sports,” says Sandmeyer-Graves. “But women’s sports bring other things in terms of strategy, finesse and tactics that are awesome; they may just not be as apparent to the casual observer or to someone who’s been conditioned to think that it’s all about the dunks and the hits.
“Comparing the men’s version of the game and the women’s version of the game tends to position them in a hierarchy,” she continues, “where the men play it the way it was intended to be played and women play a lesser version. In fact, they each deserve to be valued and appreciated for their uniqueness.”
The “not as good” and “not as interesting” charges directed at women’s sports begin to crack in the face of audience numbers for mega events like the women’s hockey final at any of the last four Winter Olympics or the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which set new records for soccer viewership in the U.S. and Canada.
When these women’s events had access to mainstream sports media platforms and widespread promotion, audiences showed up. Katie Lebel, assistant professor in the Department of Marketing Management at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management, points out: “From an attendance and viewership perspective, it’s all about funding. Funding better publicity around women’s sport and female champions will attract audiences. The women’s gold medal hockey game at the 2018 Olympics is a great example of what happens when people become familiar with the players and feel invested and get excited. The networks promoted it, and it was one of the Games’ most-watched events.”
Examining Representation in Sports Media
Sports media is dominated by men. American figures suggest — and Canadian figures are believed to match them — that men comprise about 90 per cent of editors and assistant editors and 87 per cent of columnists and reporters. In televised sports news, about 95 per cent of anchors, co-anchors and analysts are men.
Countless academic studies have examined how female athletes are represented in sports media. One of the most interesting and eye-opening started in 1987 at the University of Southern California: at five-year intervals, researchers have compared and evaluated televised media coverage of men’s and women’s sports.
From 1989 to 2003, they found that sports commentary about female athletes tended to be openly sexist and denigrating. From 2004, “ambivalent” depictions began to be the norm, whereby female athletes were recognized for their achievements, but presented as wives, mothers or girlfriends.
“Part of improving women’s media coverage is following the coverage that does exist. Be that dedicated fan. To do that with the way sports media is set up today, you are going to have to do some work.” https://t.co/zO1se5zlL1
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) May 16, 2018
Then, in 2014, ambivalence was supplanted by “a matter-of-fact, monotonous, lacklustre delivery style of women’s sports coverage” that the researchers termed “gender-bland sexism.”
Over and over, the analysis revealed that segments on women’s sports lacked the excitement of the men’s, which would replay footage in slow-motion and from different camera angles, and feature “spectacular plays, breath-taking saves and competitive achievements.”
Commentators would announce women’s events in a monotone, then speak quickly and loudly, using flashy, descriptive words and action verbs like attacked, swarmed and exploded to present the men’s exploits.
NCAA swimmer Missy Franklin broke three records one day in the 200-yard freestyle and got the flat observation that she was “way ahead.” Elsewhere, the Philadelphia 76ers were having one of the worst seasons in NBA history but “commentators’ vocal intonations and jokes turned a less than inspiring game into an interesting one”— in other words, one worth watching.
Dedicated athletes are strong, determined and focused. Yet a large body of research shows only male athletes are consistently portrayed that way in images. Female athletes are, more often, posed, passive or looking tearful, or are out of their sports clothes and clad in fashionable outfits, emphasizing femininity over their athleticism. In other images, they may become sexual objects, clad in not much at all.
There are alternatives. Candice Ward’s photographs of Calgary Rage members, in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League, offer a refreshing counterpoint to the more common glamour shots of female athletes. According to CAAWS: “Her work offers a blueprint for how to capture and represent female athletes.”
When it comes to Instagram accounts of female athletes, Lebel finds that traditional images persist. “Many female athletes, especially elite female athletes, struggle to negotiate their strength and their success as athletes with the perceived need to conform to traditional expectations of femininity in the social sphere. And when they post more sexualized images, they can get two to three times the number of likes. They’re able to attract more sponsorship dollars, and since finances are still scarce in women’s sport, they’ve had to adapt to that strategy as a method of survival.”
An All-Too Familiar Story
Here’s an all-too familiar story: The women’s swim team at the University of Toronto won the national championships and the men’s team didn’t. The student newspaper covered the men and not the women.
“I phoned them up,” recalls a former team member. “They said: ‘We only have one reporter.’ So I asked: ‘Why aren’t you sending the reporter to the better team’s event?’ There was no really good answer to that.”
The principal difference between this story and the ones about the Ravens women’s basketball team? It happened in 1980, 38 years ago.
The swimmer who complained was Nancy Lee, who started with CBC Sports in 1987 as the network’s first full-time national female sports reporter at CBC Radio and was the first female executive director of CBC-TV Sports from 2000 to 2006. Lee credits her early experience on the swim team for her inclusive approach to sports programming.
Lee has had a long time to assess media bias. Her conclusion? Lack of awareness.
“There are three types of people in media when it comes to portraying women in sport. About 15 per cent understand they need to treat women respectfully and fairly. At the other end, 25 per cent don’t get it and aren’t interested. The sexist group is part of that. Forget the 25 per cent — they’re a loss. The opportunity is with the 60 per cent in the middle, who just aren’t aware.”
Asked to make a presentation on women’s sport coverage to the Press Committee of the International Olympic Committee a few years back, Lee decided to look at the competition schedules from the Sochi and Vancouver Winter Olympics.
“Over and over I found instances of women’s events being scheduled on weekdays instead of weekends, when there’s more coverage, or before or after prime-time hours. Men’s events took precedence. I said to the committee: ‘Don’t blame the media for not covering female athletes on the last day of the Olympic Games at Sochi or Vancouver when you didn’t schedule any games for women on the last day.’ People at the table literally did a face palm.”
The final day at Pyeongchang this year featured the women’s curling gold medal game and 30-kilometre mass start cross-country ski event.
A Pervasive Lack of Awareness
If the primary problem is a pervasive lack of awareness, then the solution is comparatively easy, and it can applied at every level where bias and inequity appear—including the local level.
For Lee, the absence of any mention of the Ravens women at the Capital Hoops game in the city newspaper is an opportunity.
“I commend the student, Heather Lindsay, for taking action. Consumers need to speak up when there’s something wrong and if enough people do that, then media outlets will start to pay attention.
“But for sustained change, there needs to be a conversation. There’s a role for the leadership —whether from the athletics department or the communications department—to go with the student athletes to the editor and ask for a conversation to understand the way they are thinking and why the decision was made not to cover the women’s game. Then you get to awareness, and you can negotiate to make changes happen.”
Everyone needs to be mindful, Lee says.
“When I speak to sports organizations about gender equity, I ask them: ‘Before you go to that newspaper or media organization, what are you doing yourself?’ Lee advises they do a content analysis of their own communications, including their website, promotional videos and brochures, to check whether women and men are being treated equally, and then create a gender-balance style guide setting out how both genders should be depicted.
“Promoting women in sport is a priority at Carleton, where we highlight our women’s accomplishments on the goravens.ca website, through social media and posters around campus,” says Jennifer Brenning, assistant vice-president (Recreation and Athletics).
“Carleton’s women student-athletes are role models to the youth in the community, It is important for young girls and women to see they have opportunity to continue participating in high-level sport.”
The university also plans a series of stories to profile some of its outstanding women athletes and looks for opportunities to include them in publicity campaigns.
Making Women Athletes a Priority
“Unfortunately Canadian university sport is not getting much (media) coverage of any kind these days, male or female,” says Brenning. “U Sports is unable to get a national TV deal. The sports journalism landscape has changed significantly with severe cutbacks and traditional sports media are centralized at major corporations, focused on professional sport.”
It’s a missed opportunity for media outlets, says Lee.
“This is a generalization, but in many cases, sports media have topped out on how many men are reading, tweeting, streaming and viewing. The growth area is in women and I don’t understand why companies don’t see that.”
For CAAWS’ Sandmeyer-Graves, equity provides a valuable guideline for making changes.
“Equity takes the position that in order for both genders to have the same outcome—let’s say audience numbers—sometimes different outputs or different supports are needed. Standard marketing practices will likely fill the gym for the men’s basketball game on Friday night at any given university, but if you want a full gym for the women’s event too, the same suite of tactics might not work. You may need to innovate.”
She suggests looking at different or more marketing, or, similar to the rescheduling of women’s events at the Winter Olympics to increase exposure, changing the order of basketball games so that the men play at 6 p.m. and the women at 8 p.m.
A different marketing strategy that many women’s sporting events have adopted is to appeal to families, according to Lebel. She notes that women’s sports events tend to have lower ticket prices, making it more economical for families to bring their children.
Lee has been busy co-ordinating a major initiative for the International Olympic Committee that’s a potential game-changer for women’s sports: the IOC Gender Equality Review Project. The entire review, released in April, contains 25 recommendations and 80 detailed actions.
“Everybody was so tired of talking about the problems,” says Lee. “We were mandated not to be aspirational but to identify practical actions that national sports organizations and international federations could work on with the IOC. Some of the actions say that we need more research or more funding, but others are quite specific.”
Moving Toward Equity
One idea for change discussed by leaders in women’s sport – pressing for a measurable increase in how much media content is directed to women’s sports.
“It would be a way of enforcing that, in this day and age, if you are a sports broadcaster, you have to start moving toward equity in your programming,” says Marion Lay, a former Olympian who has been advocating for women’s sports since 1972 when she set up a women and sport program at the federal agency for sports.
“You can’t have 1,000 hours of men’s sports and then, during the Olympic Games, run 25 hours of women’s sports. That’s not okay.”
As long as media coverage limits interest in women’s sport, viewership numbers, ticket sales, salaries, sponsorships and advertising—resources that athletes and organizations need for growth—will suffer.
But there is good news. The last federal budget contained $30 million over three years to address issues facing girls and women in sport has been energizing. “It’s never happened before,” says Lee. “Hopefully the money will be spent wisely and not on reinventing the wheel. But the key is women’s sports is on the agenda.”
Lay, from her nearly 50 years in the trenches, is optimistic.
“A lot more young women and girls are asking for things to be different. But it isn’t just women. There’s a lot of pressure on the sport system to change. The models of the past that are exclusionary — of women, people with disabilities, First Nations—have to change, because we all have the right to be able to participate fully in our society. I think that’s the challenge ahead.”