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Pat Griffin's LGBT Sport Blog: It's not getting better for women coaches

(Editor's Note: This commentary is being republished here with the permission of Dr. Griffin. San Diego Gay & Lesbian News will republish & highlight Dr. Griffin's blog posts from her LGBT Sport Blog on a recurring basis, because her insight, experience and wealth of knowledge on the subject of LGBT Sports and Academia is legendary and needs to be shared.)

Here is an excellent article that explores the state of women in coaching and discusses the disturbing statistics that tell us the number of women coaching women’s teams has declined even as the numbers of women athletes participating in college sports has risen. On the other side, women are still not considered serious candidates for coaching men’s teams.

The result is that men now coach almost all men’s teams and 58% of women’s teams.

This article discusses many factors that must be considered in understanding why this is happening. One factor the authors explore is the continuing effects of that lethal combination of sexism and homophobia in sports. This climate discourages women from seeking coaching positions and results in many women who do have coaching positions either leaving the field or being let go and, in effect, banned from the coaching field.

This state of affairs is particularly difficult to reconcile given the increase in the number of straight male straight allies who have stepped up to challenge homophobia in sports. In contrast, there is a pervasive silence among straight women in sport. It is difficult, even for someone like me who keeps up with this kind of information, to name straight women equivalents to Hudson Taylor, Patrick Burke or Ben Cohen. Anyone who wants to begin to understand why this is so should read this article.

I’ve had some really interesting conversations with several men who are LGBT sports advocates who tell me that gay men coaches and athletes coming out over the few years are receiving a positive reaction from their teams and colleagues. It’s just not a big deal. It seems that it is getting better for gay men in sport.

I don’t want to discount the fact that there are also lesbian athletes and coaches who are out to their teams and colleagues. Things are getting better in women’s sports too, a little. But things are getting better in women’s sports despite the pervasive effects of homophobia and sexism.

The problem is that homophobia and sexism and the fear these evil twins engender keep women from challenging discrimination against all women and against lesbians in sport. They keep lesbian athletes and coaches, especially from high profile programs, in the closet. They keep straight women allies silent. Homophobia and sexism discourage talented women athletes who might be great coaches from considering coaching as a viable career option. They do not want to live in the closet or they don’t want to battle men’s teams for a fair share of the resources.

I co-led a workshop on LGBT issues in women’s basketball at the recent Women’s Basketball Coaches Association in Denver. Hearing the coaches who attended the workshop talk about the continuing effects of sexism and homophobia on their lives makes it difficult to believe that the gains made in addressing homophobia in men’s sports are equally true for women’s sports.

Read this article. It will help you understand why it doesn’t seem to be getting that much better for women coaches, especially when those coaches are lesbians.

About Pat Griffin

Pat Griffin wrote a book entitled, "Strong Women, Deep Closets: Lesbian and Homophobia in Sports," published by Human Kinetics, 1998. She also co-editor of "Teaching For Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook for Teachers and Trainers," Routledge, (second edition, Spring 2007).

In January of 2011, she launched Changing the Game: Sports Project for the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN). The GLSEN Sports Project will assist K-12 schools to create and maintain an athletic and physical education climate that is based on the core principals of respect, safety and equal access for all students and coaches regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

For more of Pat Griffin's commentary or more information about her efforts to battle homophobia in sports, visit her LGBT Sport Blog blog.