Family responsibilities often limit pool of female coaches

Matthew Smith | Staff Writer

With coaches being an integral piece to any team’s success, there are plenty of sports with positive influencers running the programs at Mason High School. But take another look.

Where are the women? 

With an even distribution of male and female sports at most high schools, men still dominate the coaching ranks. Mason High School is a prime example. Out of 24 head coaches, 21 of them are male. 

 Assistant girls basketball coach Jere Clark said there are many reasons for the lack of female coaches, but the biggest one is how much family responsibility women have outside of sports to begin with, which limits their ability to dedicate themselves to a team.

“It is much harder for women to have a family and also coach than it is for a male,” Clark said. “It can get overwhelming to not be at home or taking care of kids a lot, they need to gravitate towards the mother, especially when they’re younger. The mom tends to be the one who is constantly at home, so they already have plenty of pressure on them.”

Graphic Methodology: The percentages in the above graphic were calculated by surveying the 24 traditional on-field/on-court category of sports at Mason High School and determining the ratio of male to female head coaches in those sports.

Facing the responsibility of raising a family and coaching is a daunting challenge that can be a lot to manage. Clark said that she thinks that even if some women can handle being a coach, they don’t go after the job. 

“I’ve seen plenty of women who are qualified to get a coaching job, but don’t even apply,” Clark said. “There isn’t a lack of opportunities. There are just not enough women out there who have the passion to be a coach and are willing to sacrifice as much as they would have to. They face too much responsibility outside of coaching.”

The responsibility is extreme, and running an entire program is even tougher. Softball Head Coach Liann Muff has found time to take on leading the softball team, and manage everything on her plate.

Muff said that it has been a challenge to handle coaching and her personal life, but she feels like it is worth it to make an impact on lives of her female athletes.

“It has been difficult at times since I became the head coach,” Muff said. “I’ve had to rely on my husband, family, and friends to help me manage everything I had going on in my life. Even with the sacrifices I’ve made I think it has definitely been worth it to build a relationship with my players and be a positive female influence in their lives.”

Unlike Muff and the softball team, very few sports, even female sports, at the high school have a woman as the head of the program. Even if a female isn’t running the show, head girls basketball coach Rob Matula said that it goes a long way for his girls to have Clark on staff as an assistant. 

“I think it’s extremely important for young women in our society and in athletics to have a female coach that they can look up to,” Matula said. “If we have more female coaches, it will encourage young women even more to play a sport, knowing it can be done. The players will see everything their coach has accomplished and that will be really encouraging.”

Having more women in coaching roles will undoubtedly be a huge step towards equality in the coaching world. However, Matula said that despite the importance of having female coaches, it is essential that they are hired because they are qualified, not just because of gender.

“I think if a woman is qualified, and they have the desire to become a coach or head coach, they 100% deserve an opportunity,” Matula said. “If there is an opening, the most qualified person should always be considered, regardless of male or female.”

Looking past gender and choosing a coach purely based off of qualification can be difficult, but always important. Mason Athletic director Scott Stemple said that he thinks female coaches can be great mentors for young women, but being the right fit is critical when hiring. 

“You want to have a coach who you think can be a great role model for their players,” Stemple said. “I think it’s important for young females to have a mature female to look up to in their sport, and same for males. However, you first have to look at your pool of candidates, and hire the most qualified person for the job, regardless of gender.”

Having more women in coaching roles can be done, but the player’s still need to respond to them. Being qualified is most important for a coach, and sophomore basketball player Marilyn Popplewell said that she enjoys being coached by Clark, but it’s still more important that her coach is the right fit. 

“I think it’s great to have a female coaching me because they can be a great mentor as the season goes along,” Popplewell said. “I think that being qualified is more important though, whether they are male or female. I have Coach Matula and Coach Clark making a big impact everyday during basketball, and they both are great coaches.”

Graphic by Riley Johansen.