To examine media portrayals and narratives around sportswomen and women’s sport. The research focuses on media production practices, representation patterns and storytelling, and the impact of portrayals on girls and women.
A 26-year Longitudinal Analysis of Intercollegiate Division I Media Guides in a Changing Sports Media Landscape
Media guides are university-produced and distributed publications whose role has changed as the college sports media landscape has changed. This longitudinal study documents changes in male and female athlete portrayals and representations over time.
Buysse, J. A., & Wolte, S. M. (2019, July). A 26-year longitudinal analysis of intercollegiate Division I media guides in a changing sports media landscape. Minneapolis, MN: The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
Athletics as Solution and Problem: Sports participation for girls and the sexualization of female athletes
Daniels, E., & LaVoi, N. M. (2013). Athletics as solution and problem: Sports participation for girls and the sexualization of female athletes. In E. L. Zubriggen & T. A. Roberts (Eds.), The sexualization of girls and girlhood: Causes, consequences and resistance (pp. 63-83). New York: Oxford University Press.>
The Freedom to Choose: Elite Female Athletes’ Preferred Representations within Endorsement Opportunities
Despite unprecedented gains in women’s sports 40 years after Title IX, female athletes are rarely used in endorsement campaigns and, when utilized, are presented in sexually provocative poses versus highlighting their athletic competence. This pattern of representation continues, though empirical evidence demonstrates consumers prefer portrayals focusing on sportswomen’s skill versus their sex appeal. Research also indicates females are keenly aware of gendered expectations which create tensions between being athletic and “appropriately feminine.” The current study addresses what we don’t know: how elite female athletes wish to be portrayed if promised the same amount of financial reward and commercial exposure. Thirty-six team and individual scholarship athletes were asked to choose between portrayals of femininity and athletic competence. Findings revealed that competence was the dominant overall choice though close to 30% picked both types of portrayals. Metheny’s gendered sport typology was used to analyze how sportswomen’s preferences challenge, or conform to, traditional ideologies and practices surrounding women’s sports. Implications for sport management scholars and practitioners are discussed.
Fink, J., Kane, M., LaVoi, N. (2014). The freedom to choose: Elite female athletes' preferred representations within endorsement opportunities. Journal of Sport Management, 28(2), 207-219. Click here to download poster.
Exploring Elite Female Athletes' Interpretations of Sport Media Images: A Window Into the Construction of Social Identity and "Selling Sex" in Women's Sports
Scholars have produced a body of evidence demonstrating media portrayals of sportswomen emphasize femininity/heterosexuality versus athletic competence and argue that such coverage trivializes women’s sports. Little research attention has been given to how these portrayals are interpreted by various audiences, including female athletes. This study explores how elite female athletes respond to the ways they are represented within sport media. We employed reception research where viewers deconstruct the meaning of texts and how that meaning impacts their feelings toward a subject. We examined the subject of sportswomen’s dual identities to determine how they wished to be portrayed. Thirty-six team and individual sport athletes were shown images ranging from on-court competence to off-court soft pornography and asked to choose which image best represented themselves and their sport, as well as increased interest/respect for their sport. Results indicated that competence was the overwhelming choice for best “represents self/sport” and “increases respect.” Forty-seven percent of respondents picked soft porn to best “increase interest.” This latter finding reflected participants’ belief that “sex sells” women’s sports, particularly for male audiences. Results were analyzed using critical feminist theory to unpack sport media and its relationship to gender, privilege, and power.
Kane, M. J., LaVoi, N. M., Fink, J. S. (2013). Exploring elite female athletes' interpretations of sport media images: A window into the construction of social identity and "selling sex" in women's sports. Communication & Sport, 1(3), 269-298. doi: 10.1177/2167479512473585 Click here to download poster
Examining Online Intercollegiate Head Coaches’ Biographies: Reproducing or Challenging Heteronormativity and Heterosexism?
Past research in intercollegiate sports connects heteronormativity (i.e., societal and/or institutional assumption that heterosexuality is the norm) and heterosexism (i.e., prejudicial and discriminatory practices and beliefs toward any non-heterosexual identities and relationships) to the creation of privilege for the dominant group (Eng, 2008; Griffin, 1998; Krane, 1997; Krane & Barber, 2005). Sport media scholars contend that coverage and framing of athletes and coaches present females in heteronormative ways in print (Fink & Kensicki, 2002; Kane & Buysse, 2005), broadcast (Billings, Halone & Denham, 2002) and new media (Jones, 2006; Maxwell, 2008). To date, research examining heteronormativity and heterosexism on university-sponsored athletics websites is scarce. Online biographies are a universal component of intercollegiate athletic websites and provide the public with an accessible “up close and personal” source of information about coaches and teams. Online biographies of NCAA Intercollegiate Head Coaches of the Big Ten Conference (N = 226) were examined for patterns of textual representations of dominant ideologies documented in sport media research—specifically heteronormativity and heterosexism. Austin Stair Calhoun (PI), Dr. Nicole LaVoi, Dr. Mary Jo Kane (3/23/2009).
Calhoun, A. S., LaVoi, N. M., & Johnson, A. (2011 ). Framing with family: Examining online coaching biographies for heteronormative and heterosexist narratives. International Journal of Sport Communication, 4(3), 300-316.
Calhoun, A. S., LaVoi, N. M., & Kane, M. J. (2009). Examining online intercollegiate head coaches’ biographies: Reproducing or challenging heteronormativity and heterosexism? Sport, Sexuality, and Culture Conference in Ithaca, NY. (poster session). Click Here to Download Poster
Expanding the Boundaries of Sport Media Research: An Exploration of Consumer Responses to Representations of Women’s Sports
Sport media scholars have consistently uncovered two patterns of representation throughout mainstream media: 1) female athletes, compared to their male counterparts, are significantly underrepresented with respect to amount of coverage; and 2) sportswomen are routinely presented in ways that emphasize their femininity and heterosexuality versus their athletic competence. The basic premise of this research is that because mainstream media ignore, underreport, and denigrate women’s athletic achievements, they help to maintain belief systems and practices that relegate sportswomen to the sidelines. In spite of the contributions made by sport media scholars, a significant gap in our understanding of women’s sports remains: We have yet to produce a body of evidence that provides direct support for how representations of sportswomen are interpreted by consumers (e.g., sports fans). In addition, there is almost no research on how interpretations of media images impact consumers’ attitudes toward women’s sports overall, as well as their intentions to support female athletes by, for example, viewing or attending a sporting event. This innovative pilot study is grounded in the basic tenets of audience reception research whereby scholars pay particular attention to what readers do with the texts they consume. In sum, two questions will be at the forefront of the investigation: 1) How do consumers interpret particular media images and do those interpretations influence interest in, respect for, and support of women’s sports?, and 2) How does one’s social role/position in society influence the interpretation of a media image, meaning does the particular lens that an individual brings to the image influence how s/he perceives women’s sports? Dr. MaryJo Kane (PI), Heather Maxwell.
A Longitudinal Analysis of Intercollegiate Media Guide Covers (Kane & Buysse, 2005)
If one compares images of male and female athletes from the same sport in the same year from the same institution what does this reveal? Two earlier studies (1990 and 1997) found that female athletes were significantly less likely to be portrayed as active sport participants and more likely to be portrayed in passive and traditionally feminine, sexually provocative poses than were their male counterparts. It was also discovered that there were few differences between the two time periods. However, recent developments suggest that women’s sports are gaining widespread acceptance, meaning female athletes are taken more seriously as athletes. If this is the case, we would expect to see sportswomen portrayed on the court, in action. To test this hypothesis, we replicated the two previous studies by examining media guide covers from the 2003-2004 seasons. Results indicate sportswomen were overwhelmingly represented on the court, in uniform, and in active, athletic images. In short, females were portrayed as serious, competent athletes which was in sharp contrast to earlier investigations we conducted.
The Influence of Occupational Status and Sex of Decision Maker on Media Representations in Intercollegiate Sports
This study employed a decision making corollary to Kanter’s homologous reproduction theory (1977ab) to examine the intersections of occupational position of decision maker, sex of decision maker and media representations within intercollegiate men’s and women’s sports. Data were gathered from Bowl Championship Series schools across 12 selected sports that published a media guide for the 2003-04 season. Data included two components: 1) 528 total media guides (252 for men; 276 for women) and; 2) corresponding data (n = 528) pertaining to who made the decision regarding how athletes were portrayed on the media guide covers. Descriptive analysis revealed two trends: 1) women were under represented (i.e., “tokens”) as sole decision makers within men’s sports, but not for women’s sports and; 2) a majority of decisions were not made alone, but by a decision-making dyad with both men’s and women’s sports. Logistic regression analysis revealed which factors significantly influenced media portrayals in men’s and women’s sports. Results are framed using mechanisms of gendered social control exercised in sport organizations—homophobia, homologous reproduction, and hegemony. Implications for application and future research are suggested.
LaVoi N.M., Buysse, J., Maxwell, H.D., & Kane, M.J. (2007). The Influence of Occupational Status and Sex of Decision Maker on Media Representations in Intercollegiate Athletics. Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, 15(4), 32-43.
To examine and highlight the barriers and supports that impact women coaches across all levels of competition.
Elite-Level Women Football Coaches
Women’s football (soccer) is developing on a global scale. For example, the UEFA Women's EURO 2017 championships attracted a record global audience of over 13 million and became the host nation's most watched sports program of the year. A number of nations have won the Olympics, World Cup and Euro championships since 2000, and all but one of these winning teams have been coached by women. Despite their perceived success, these women coaches routinely report experiencing discrimination, marginalization, and injustices that limit not only their own career retention and progression, but the careers of all women coaches globally. Deep-seated change to remedy these issues has been very slow, if not non-existent. This project aims to uncover how elite women football coaches negotiate (navigate) these issues over the course of their career journeys. Insight into strategies employed by women, may be used to accelerate that change, to recruit and promote other women coaches, increase the visibility of women who lead the game, and make visible the challenging occupational landscape women coaches experience. In this study we interviewed women coaches of elite football (soccer) teams around the world.
- Infographic: "Levelling the Playing Field for Women Coaches in Football."
- Webinar: Levelling the Playing Field for Women Coaches in Football
- Executive Summary: Elite Women Coaches in Global Football
- Graphic: Levelling the Playing Field for Women Coaches in Football
- Podcast: Tucker Center Talks: S2E10 - Global Research on Culture of Sport & Elite Level Women Coaches
- GameON: Women Can Coach Toolkit
Athletic Administration Best Practices of Recruitment, Hiring and Retention of Female Collegiate Coaches
The percentage of women head coaches of collegiate athletes has remained stagnant for over a decade. Young women want and need strong, confident same-sex role models, who positively affect their self-perceptions (Lockwood, 2006) and make it more likely they will go into coaching (Everhart & Chelladurai, 1998) and stay in coaching (Wasend & LaVoi, forthcoming). Many stakeholders, including the Tucker Center, are trying to support and increase the number of women coaches, and one way we are doing that is by releasing the annual Women in College Coaching Report Card (WCCRC). In the WCCRC a grade (A through F) is assigned to institutions, conferences, and sports based on the percentage of women in head coaching positions of women’s teams. It is the first and only report to drill down to this level of specificity. The goals of the WCCRC are to stimulate dialogue, raise awareness, and hold decision-makers accountable in the hiring and retention of women coaches.
To date, after six years of compiling the WCCRC, very few institutions have received an above-average grade of A or B. In fact, far more Fs have been assigned than As and Bs. Over the course of the last five years, we were often asked, “What are the A and B schools doing to hire and retain women?” We didn’t know the answer. For the limited number of institutions who received an A or B, no data existed as to what these “above average” Athletic Administrators (ADs) and institutions were doing to recruit, hire and retain women head coaches. This study aimed to fill this gap in the knowledge. In essence, we wanted to learn from ADs that have a track record of success and “doing it right” (i.e., were awarded an A or B on the WCCRC) in terms of hiring and retaining a majority of women coaches for their women’s teams.
Preferred citation: LaVoi, N. M., & Wasend, M .K. (2018, July). Athletic administration best practices of recruitment, hiring and retention of female collegiate coaches. Minneapolis, MN: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
To see what we uncovered and to read the full report, click here.
Women in Sports Coaching
Women in many Westernized countries encounter a wider variety of career opportunities than afforded in previous decades, and the percentage of women leaders in nearly every sector is on the rise. Sport coaching, however, remains a domain where gender equity has declined or stalled, despite increasing female sport participation. The percentage of women who coach women are in the minority in most sports, and there is a near absence of women coaching men. This important new book examines why. Drawing on original multi-disciplinary research from across the globe, including first-hand accounts from practicing coaches, the book illuminates and examines the status of women in coaching, explores the complex issues they face in pursuing their careers, and suggests solutions for eliminating the barriers that impede women in coaching. Developing an innovative model of intersectionality and power constructs through which to guide research, the book covers issues including sexual identity, race, motherhood, cross-gender coaching and media coverage to give voice to women coaches from around the world. As such, Women in Sports Coaching is essential reading for serious students and scholars of sports coaching, sport sociology or anyone with an interest in gender and sport.
Women Coaches Research Series & Report Card
Did you know that in the 40+ years after the passage of Title IX, female sport participation is at an all-time high? Yet the percentage of women coaching women at the collegiate level has declined from 90+% in 1974 to a near an all-time low today of ~40%—number that has remained stagnant for the last decade. To increase the percentage of women in the coaching profession, provide an institutional accountability mechanism, create awareness, and start a national dialogue on this issue, we have launched a research and annual report card series. Read the research reports to learn more about the historic decline and current stagnation in the percentage of women coaches, why this research and women coaches matter, how minority status in the workplace can affect individuals, and see which NCAA institutions, sports and conferences receive passing and failing grades based on the percentage of head women coaches of women’s teams.
Institutions in 7 Select NCAA D-I Conferences by Grade and Geographical Location
We are often asked if geographic location is related to institutional grade. We are providing a map to provide a visual answer to that question.
Simons, M., Kaufmann, C., LaVoi, N., & Silva-Breen, H. (2021, September). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference: 2020-2021. The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
Boucher, C., Silva-Breen, H., & LaVoi, N. M. (2021, July). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams: A comprehensive report on NCAA Division-I institutions, 2020-21. The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M., Boucher, C., & Sirek, G. (2020, August). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams: A comprehensive report on NCAA Division-I institutions, 2019-20. The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M., & Boucher, C. (2020, April). Women in College Coaching Report Card: 2019-20: Grades for Sports in Seven Select NCAA D-I Conferences. Infographic. Minneapolis, MN: The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M., & Boucher, C. (2020, April). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams: A report on select NCAA Division-I institutions, 2019-20. Minneapolis, MN: The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M., & Boucher, C. (2020, March). Women in College Coaching Report Card (WCCRC): 2019-20. Grades for Institutions in Seven Select NCAA D-I Conferences. Infographic. Minneapolis, MN: The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M., & Boucher, C. (2020, March). Women in College Coaching Report Card (WCCRC): 2019-20. Grades for Institutions and Conferences in Seven Select NCAA D-I Conferences. Infographic. Minneapolis, MN: The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M., Boucher, C., & Silbert, S. (2019, July). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams: A comprehensive report on NCAA Division-I institutions, 2018–19. Minneapolis, MN: The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M. (2019, April). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams: A report on seven select NCAA Division-I institutions, 2018-19. Minneapolis, MN: The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M., & Silva-Breen, H. (2019, February). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference: 2018-19. Minneapolis, MN: The Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M., & Silva-Breen, H. (2018, July). Head coaches of women’s collegiate teams: A comprehensive report on NCAA Division-I institutions, 2017-18. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M. (2018, February). Head coaches of women’s collegiate teams: A report on seven select NCAA Division-I conferences, 2017-18. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M., & Silva-Breen, H. (2017, December). Head coaches of women’s collegiate teams: A comprehensive report on NCAA Division-III institutions, 2017-18. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M., Lapchick, R., &Capel, N. (2017, June). Gender, race & LGBT inclusion of head coaches of women’s teams: A report on select NCAA Division I conferences for the 45th anniversary of Title IX. Minneapolis, MN: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M., & Wasend, M. (2017, March). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams: A report on Haverford Group Institutions. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M. (2017, February). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams: A report on select NCAA Division-I institutions, 2016-17. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport. [2016-17 D-I FBS INFOGRAPHIC]
LaVoi, N. M., & Heffernan, C. (2016, September). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams: A report on select NCAA Division-II institutions, 2016-17. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M., & Wasend, M. (2016, July). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams: A report on Select NCAA Division-III Institutions 2016-17. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M. (2016, January). Head Coaches of Women's Collegiate Teams: A Report on Select NCAA Division-I Institutions, 2015-2016. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M. (2015, October). Head Coaches of Women's Collegiate Teams: A Report on Select NCAA Division-I Mid-Major Conference Member Institutions, 2014-2015. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M. (2015, February). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams: A report on select NCAA Division-I FBS institutions, 2014-15. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M. (2015, February). The status of women in collegiate coaching: A report card, 2014-15 [Infographic]. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M. (2014, August). Minnesota State High School Coaches Association report 2013-14. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls &l Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M. (2014, July). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams: A report on NCAA Division-III MIAC institutions 2013-14. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M. (2014, January). Head coaches of women's collegiate teams: A report on select NCAA Division-I FBS institutions, 2013-14. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M. (2014, January). The status of women in collegiate coaching: A report card, 2013-14 [Infographic]. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
LaVoi, N. M. (2013, December). The decline of women coaches in collegiate athletics: A report on select NCAA Division-I FBS institutions, 2012-13. Minneapolis: Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport.
Moral exemplar collegiate coaches
Coaches have the potential to influence athletes’ moral development, especially at the collegiate level—a powerful period of growth in young adults’ lives. As central agents in athlete moral education, coaches’ moral development and understanding of professionalism is currently unknown. The purpose of this study was to increase understanding of the ethical professional identity development of sport coaches. In-depth interviews based on moral exemplar and moral identity development theories were conducted with NCAA Division-I collegiate head coaches (n = 12) in the United States who were peer nominated ‘moral exemplars’. Read more about our findings in the articles below.
Maya G. B. Hamilton & Nicole M. LaVoi (2019) Coaches Who Care: Moral Exemplars in Collegiate Athletics, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, doi: 10.1080/10413200.2018.1557763
Maya G. B. Hamilton & Nicole M. LaVoi (2017) Ethical professional identity and the development of moral exemplar collegiate coaches, Journal of Moral Education, 46:2, 114-128, DOI: 10.1080/03057240.2017.1313724
Barriers and Supports for Female Coaches: An Ecological Model
A vast amount of literature exists pertaining to female coaches at all levels of competition from around the globe. Within this article, using Brofenbrenner’s ecological systems theory, the complex and multidimensional barriers that affect, impede or prevent females from seeking or remaining in coaching positions, in addition to factors that support and facilitate career advancement and retention, are summarized. Barriers and supports represented in the literature are organized from most proximal (individual) to most distal (socio-cultural) to the coach. We conclude by identifying gaps in the research. The model can be used as a reflective heuristic to educate about the numerous dynamic organizational and societal barriers and supports engaged with by female coaches. In doing so, productive coping strategies can be learned and solutions and policy changes generated in order to increase opportunities for female coaches and make the environment within which they work increasingly inclusive, positive and supportive.
LaVoi, N. M. (Ed.). (2016). Women in Sports Coaching. London: Routledge.
LaVoi, N. M. (2013). Female coaches and economic inequality. Click here to download poster.
LaVoi, N. M., & Dutove, J. K. (2012). Barriers and supports for female coaches: An ecological model. Sports Coaching Review, 1(1), 17-37.
Dutove, J. K., LaVoi, N. M. (2011). Barriers and supports for female coaches: An evidence-based ecological model. Click here to download poster.
Female Coaches & Economic Inequality
College coaching is lucrative for both men and women, yet many women fail to envision coaching as a possible career pathway and face many barriers to initiate, develop and maintain their coaching careers which can result in impeded and limited economic earning potential. Overall, women are under-represented in all coaching positions, and have limited access to coach men’s teams—the most lucrative positions in college sport. Women need legitimate opportunity to pursue dual pathways to coaching careers and encouragement to apply for coaching positions of men’s teams. The following question guided this inquiry: Do salary disparities exist between male and female head coaches of women’s teams who coach the same sport in the same conference? To answer this question, salary data for BIG 10 coaches was obtained and analyzed.
LaVoi, N.M. (2013). Female Coaches & Economic Inequality. NCAA Scholarly Colloquium, Dallas, TX. Click here to download poster.
Exploring the Scarcity of Female Coaches and Mother-Coaches in Youth Sport
Most previous research on women and coaching has focused women who are in—or have left—coaching at the elite or NCAA levels. It is estimated that less than 10% of youth sport coaches are female, and this number over the last decade has counterintuitively decreased (Messner, 2006). Mothers have strong influence on children as role models yet the impact of the mother-coach role remains under examined. In the absence of female coaches and role models, female athletes may devalue their own abilities, accept negative stereotypes, fail to realize their potential, or consider coaching as a viable career path. It is important for children to see and experience mothers in a wide variety of roles, especially in contexts where men in power are the norm, such as sport. Women’s visibility in such positions may help to create social change, challenge outdated stereotypes about leadership and gender, as well as expand possibilities for how to interact and relate to women in positions of power.
MomEnough podcast interviews LaVoi on sport parent behavior
Nicole M. LaVoi, Ph.D., faculty in the School of Kinesiology and co-director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, was interviewed in podcast for a Mom Enough website article, “Being a Good Sport Parent: Practical Guidance on Bringing Out the Best in Your Young Athlete.” LaVoi is cited for doing work to improve “positive attitudes and behavior to support children’s development as athletes and people of character.” Listen to the MomEnough podcast interview...
Juggling balls and role, working mother-coaches in youth sport: Beyond the dualistic worker-mother identity
Despite the ubiquitous presence of mothers in sport contexts, mothers’ voices are often absent in the sport literature, particularly at the youth sport level. A phenomenological approach was used to explore the experiences of working mother volunteer youth sport coaches. A role-triad model based on the work-family enrichment and role enhancement literature provided the theoretical framework. The purpose was to understand how and why working mother-coaches manage this role triad and to identify mother-worker skills which may transfer to youth coaching and vice versa. Semistructured interviews were conducted with eight working mother-coaches and analyzed for themes. Findings suggest that notions of being a good mother and reasons for coaching are very similar, including spending time together, developing life skills and role modeling. Participants negotiated multiple roles using cognitive tools, such as reframing and separation of roles. The reciprocal benefits of motherhood, working and coaching for themselves and others were highlighted.
Leberman, S., & LaVoi, N. M. (2011). Juggling balls and role, working mother-coaches in youth sport: Beyond the dualistic worker-mother identity. Journal of Sport Management, 25(5), 474-488.
LaVoi, N. M., & Leberman S. (2015). A rationale for encouraging mothers to coach youth athletes. Canadian Journal for Women in Coaching, 15(1).
Mother-Coach Generated Strategies for Increasing Female Coaches in Youth Sport [one page handout]
Policy Recommendations for Increasing Women Coaches in Youth Sport [click here to download]
Where Have All the Post-Title IX Mothers Gone?: Exploring the Scarcity of Female Coaches in Youth Sport
A large majority of youth sport coaches are parent-volunteers with little-to-no coaching experience, and variant levels of playing experience. The scarcity of female coaches at all levels of sport is well documented, but little research has examined this phenomena at the youth level. Given that female participation in sports across competitive level has reached an all time high (Ascota & Carpenter, 2006; NFHS, 2006), it is disconcerting that more females are not entering the ranks of youth sport coaching. The lack of coaches includes former female collegiate athletes who clearly have vast experiences and expertise to offer youth athletes but are failing to enter the coaching ranks in proportion to their sport participation numbers. When females are involved in youth sport, it is in primarily gendered ways—with males predominantly in coaching positions and females in 'helping" positions such as ‘Team Mom’ (Chaftez & Kotarba, 1999; Messner, 2006; Thompson, 1999). While the gendered division of labor in youth sports is documented, rarely have mother-former collegiate athletes been asked directly about their choices and negotiations in arriving at the decision to coach or not to coach at the youth level. Challenges, barriers and negotiations women face when deciding to coach, or not to coach, their children are discussed.
LaVoi, N.M., & Becker, E. (2007). Where Have All the Post-Title IX Mothers Gone?: Exploring the Scarcity of Female Coaches in Youth Sport. Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) Conference in Louisville, KY. (poster session) Click Here to Download Poster
“Coaching Girls”: A Content Analysis of Best-Selling Popular Press Coaching Books
Given the lack of nationalized and required coach education programs for those involved with youth sports, self-help coaching books are a common source of knowledge. With the exception of critiques of young adult sports fiction (Kane, 1998; Kreigh & Kane, 1997), sport media research has lacked investigation of mediums that impact non-elite youth and adolescent girls, and youth coaches and parents of young female athletes. The purpose of this study is to examine ‘coaching girls’ books—specifically how differences between female and male athletes are constructed. A content analysis was performed on selective chapters within a criterion sampling of six best-selling, self-help ‘coaching girls’ books. Results indicate coaching girls books are written from a perspective of inflated gender difference, and represent a simplified, stereotyped account of coaching girls. Four first-order themes emerged from analysis: Problematizing Coaching Girls, Girls Constructed As “Other,” Ambivalence, and Sustaining the Gender Binary. Implications of these themes are discussed.
LaVoi, N. M., Becker, E., & Maxwell, H. D. (2007).Content analysis of best-selling coaching girls books. Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, 15(4), 8-20.
To examine developments relative to Title IX and gender equity.
The (de)evolution of Title IX in the media: How Title IX has morphed from a symbol of equality for women’s sport to a lexicon of sexualized violence in U.S. colleges
Unequivocally, the poster child of Title IX in the last 43 years has been the thousands of girls’ who now participate in sports. However, in 2002, Tiffany Williams, a student at the University of Georgia, sued one of the institution’s male basketball players, Tony Cole, for sexual assault. This incident snowballed into a succession of hundreds of Title IX lawsuits against U.S. colleges and universities. One could argue, then, that in recent years, the mediated image of Title IX has shifted from being an All-American girl playing soccer to a young woman protesting campus sexual assault. The fundamental aim of this paper is to better understand the discourses being produced—and in turn, heard—around Title IX within the United States over the last ten years with particular attention to the topics of sport and sexual violence. This study analyzed the written media productions of four national sources in the United States: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The Chronicle of Higher Education to prove empirically the shift in mediated narratives around Title IX over the last decade. While the average percentage of articles written about women in sport was relatively equivalent to the percentage written about sexual violence, a vast majority (88% of 397) of the articles written about sexual violence and Title IX were written in 2013, 2014, and 2015. In sum, more has been written about sexual violence in the last three years than was written in the last decade about women in sporting environments.
Baeth, A. (2015, March 22). The (de)evolution of Title IX in the media: How Title IX has morphed from a symbol of equality for women’s sport to a lexicon of sexualized violence in U.S. colleges. Poster presented at 2016 CEHD Research Day, Minneapolis, MN.
Playing but Losing : Women’s Sports after Title IX
Girls and women have more opportunities since Title IX, but the playing field is still far from level. The authors explore how major inequities remain, especially in terms of media attention, distribution of institutional resources and opportunities to coach and lead in the world of sport.
Cooky, C., & LaVoi, N. M. (2012). Playing but losing : women’s sports after Title IX. Contexts, 11, 42-45
Deliberative Democracy and the Secretary of Education’s Commission on Opportunity in Athletics
On the 30th anniversary of Title IX, the Secretary of Education established a “milestone” Commission on Opportunity in Athletics. The Commission was mandated to examine ways to strengthen enforcement of the law and expand opportunities to ensure fairness for all college and high school athletes.Based on public opinions heard at four different Town Hall meetings, the Commission developed a report that recommended revisions of Title IX standards. Our examination of the Commission will review its legitimacy in terms of realizing ideals of a deliberative democratic process. Deliberative democratic principles suggest that in legitimate policy making procedures require that citizen deliberations meet a set of procedural conditions, which minimally include communicative competence, reciprocity and inclusiveness (Cohen, 1989; Gutman & Thompson, 1996), and a willingness to be persuaded to have ones preformed preferences transformed in the face of better argument, and thus to set aside strategic concerns and behavior in the pursuit of these preferences (Dryzek, 2000). Furthermore, policy decisions should be underpinned by the principles of sound argumentation (Habermas, 1975). The deliberative context of the commission will be viewed through the three lenses; 1) the representative nature of the commission hearings and town hall meetings 2) the quality of deliberations in terms of the focus of discussions and procedural influences, and 3) impact the commission recommendations had upon changes in public policy. The outcomes of this study will have implications on how citizens communicatively generate power in counteracting administratively employed power in formal legislative decisions. Additionally, this information will assist the public to gain a better understanding of and realization of gender equity in intercollegiate and interscholastic athletics. Dr. Lisa Kihl (PI), Libby Sharrow, Matthew SorokaClick here to read the 2007 North American Society for Sport Management abstract of "'Open to All' and 'Closed to Many': Legitimacy of the Secretary of Education's Commission on Opportunity in Athletics."
Gender Equity of Women in Positions Power Within Olympic Sports: A Comparative Study
Few women world-wide hold national or international level appointments in sport management (Acosta & Carpenter, 2006; Cameron, 1996; McKay, Messner, & Sabo, 2000; Thompson, 1990) due to “assumptions about appropriate leadership characteristics, the organizational environment, and reward practices” (Shaw & Hoeber, 2003, p.348). Having women actively involved in sport management and represented in decision-making within sporting organizations goes beyond any issue of gender balance or quota setting. Rather, it is a matter of increasing diversity and, thereby, the quality of considerations and decision-making (Singh, Vinnicombe, & Terjesen, 2007). Research (Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt, 2007) and practice suggest that, on the whole, women are credited with bringing styles weighted towards collegiality, compassion and relationship building and less towards hierarchy, roles and power and as such this can assist with overall organizational climate and culture and aid in the quality of considerations and outcomes. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has, as one of its core objectives, the issue of gender balance in Olympic sports. The IOC has for some time expressed concern at the level of women’s involvement in decision-making roles within member sports organizations and has a commitment to achieve a 20% participation rate of women in decision-making positions in national and international sports organizations. The IOC believes that unless women are in leadership positions at a national level, there is little chance that they will contribute at an international level. The research objective was to ascertain the extent of involvement of women in leadership and decision-making positions in Olympic sport in New Zealand and the United States—including policy-making, management and national coaching roles. A web search and a telephone survey, of 47 Olympic and Commonwealth sports was carried out between March - June 2007 in New Zealand. This research is being replicated during October- December 2007 in the United States. Dr. Sarah Leberman (Massey University, New Zealand), Visiting Fulbright Senior Scholar in the Tucker Center October 2007-January 2008.
The Legitimacy of the "Secretary's Commission on Opportunity in Athletics" as a Deliberative Democracy Process
In 2002, the former Secretary of Education established a “milestone” commission to examine ways to strengthen enforcement of Title IX law and expand opportunities to ensure fairness for all college and high-school athletes. Four town hall meetings were held where “expert” opinions from invited speakers and testimonies from the public were heard about the issues pertaining to Title IX’s application and effect on equal opportunity. Subsequently, the Open to All: Title IX at Thirty report was released, which provided findings and recommendations for “improving the enforcement of Title IX” (Secretary’s Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, 2003). A minority report was also released by two Commission members, as they were dubious about the process and outcome of the Commission. Whilst the co-chairs of the Commission characterized the procedures as “open, fair, and inclusive,” the overall credibility of the Commission was questioned by various critics and participants in term of representation and procedural fairness (Rosenthal, Morris, & Martinez, 2004; Staurowsky, 2003). Although Commissions are an important means for gaining citizen input about state issues, little is known about how this type of public deliberative process realizes deliberative democratic principles. The purpose of this study was to examine the legitimacy of Commissions as a deliberative democratic process through the examination of the Secretary of Education’s Commission on Opportunity in Athletics. The following research questions guided the study: 1) What were selection criteria for individuals to participate in the Commission? 2) How did communicative competence impact deliberations? 3) How did procedure impact the quality of deliberations? and 4) How did procedure impact the credibility of the Commission? Dr. Lisa Kihl (PI), Matt Soroka [Click Here to Download Executive Summary]
To examine how physical activity contexts impact girls and women.
The 2018 Tucker Center Research Report
Developing Physically Active Girls: An Evidence-based Multidisciplinary Approach
To celebrate our 25th anniversary we released The 2018 Tucker Center Research Report, Developing Physically Active Girls: An Evidence-based Multidisciplinary Approach. This report connects research-based knowledge to strategies and practices which helps ensure that every girl has ample opportunity to fully engage in sport and physical activity. The overarching focus of the report examines two essential questions: 1) What does the research tell us about critical factors (e.g., societal, environmental, interpersonal, intrapersonal) that influence adolescent girls’ physical activity in the United States; and, 2) What are the outcomes (e.g., psychological, physical, social, emotional, moral) that participation in sports and physical activity have on adolescent girls?
The scope of our 2018 Report includes eleven chapters written by leading multidisciplinary scholars. Evidence-based chapters include psychological, sociological, and physiological dimensions of girls’ physical activity participation, as well as chapters on sports medicine and the influence of mass media on girls’ health and well-being. Because “girls” are not a singular, monolithic group, chapters focus on girls’ intersectional identities and include invisible, erased, and underserved populations such as immigrant girls, girls of color, girls who identify as lesbian, transgender or queer, and girls with cognitive and physical impairments. The report contains the Ecological-Intersectional Systems Model of Physical Activity for Girls, to guide thought and organize the vast literature about girls’ physical activity participation, and ends with a Best Practices chapter and a Positive Model for Developing Physically Active Girls to guide program development, interventions and research.
East-African Girls + Physical Activity Research
With the release of the 2007 Tucker Center Research Report, Developing Physically Active Girls, it became evident that diverse populations of girls were the least active of all youth, and little was known about the physical activity behaviors of racial-ethnic sub-populations of girls, such as East African girls. The report called for more research from girls' own perspectives to reverse the trend of physical inactivity disparity. The Twin Cities Metro Area (Minneapolis and St. Paul) is home to the largest Somali diaspora in the United States—one subgroup of East Africans living in the area—and little information was available regarding East African adolescent girls' perspectives and experiences of physical activity. Using a Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach, TC affiliated scholar Dr. Chelsey Thul worked alongside the girls and community members to evaluate their needs and to create strategies for increasing physical activity participation. Based on the girls' desire to be physically active, in 2008 Fatimah Hussein, a Somali-American Muslim woman, along with Thul's involvement as a volunteer research consultant, established the Girls' Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports (G.I.R.L.S.) Program, a female-only culturally relevant physical activity program. The research continues to develop and evolve with a consistent focus on listening to and working with the girls and their community.
Youth Sport Report: Parent Perceptions of How Frequently Youth Sport Interferes With Family Time
Youth sports informed by sport science and “done right” can provide a positive, meaningful context for youth development and family engagement. Yet for some families, concerns about the professionalization of youth sport are intensifying due to overuse injuries, early specialization, pressure to achieve, and increased commitment and time demands, which place the health and well-being of children and youth at risk. However, little is known about parents’ perceptions of how youth sport interferes with family functioning. The data in this report aims to fill that gap. Based on the data herein and contrary to some scholarly and media reports of “overscheduling” problems—namely maladaptive child outcomes, and interference with family meals, vacations, and attendance of religious services—due to participation in youth sports, parents in this sample perceived youth sport minimally interferes with family functioning. Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi, Alyssa L. Norris (January, 2011).
Sports Based Youth Development Benefits for Girls: A Factsheet
LaVoi, N. M., Strong, A., Pearson, L., Skeen, A., Bruening, J., & Lerner, P. (2009). Sports Based Youth Development Benefits for Girls. A factsheet provided the Up2Us Center.
The 2007 Tucker Center Research Report, Developing Physically Active Girls: An Evidence-based Multidisciplinary Approach
This the 10-year update of the very popular Physical Activity & Sport in the Lives of Girls: Physical & Mental Health Dimensions from an Interdisciplinary Approach which was produced in collaboration with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sport in 1997. The new report features updated chapters which summarize research on the psychological, sociological, and physiological and metabolic dimensions of girls’ participation in physical activity. The report also includes an important extension from the original—a “Best Practices” chapter which synthesizes research from the author chapters and integrates some of the best practices, approaches, and programs that are presently helping increase physical activity for girls. Contributors to the report include: Dr. Nicole LaVoi & Dr. Mary Jo Kane (Project Directors) and Dr. Diane Wiese-Bjornstal (University of Minnesota); Dr. Margaret Carlisle Duncan (University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin); Dr. Barbara Ainsworth (Arizona State University - Polytechnic Campus); Dr. Jeanne Nichols (San Diego State University); and Dr. Kelley Pettee (Arizona State University). Click Here to Download the Report
Background Anger: Does Gender of Youth Athlete Influence Vulnerability?
Unarguably the behavior of some coaches and sport parents is undesirable. Given the prominence and value of sports in the lives of many children and their families, this line of research maps background anger onto the context of youth sports. Background anger involves an angry verbal, nonverbal, or physical interaction between two or more people that does not directly involve the observer (Cummings, 1987). Our evidence documents that coaches, parents, and children frequently observe and experience background anger in some youth sport environments (e.g., yelling at the ref, coaching from the sidelines, embarrassing behavior, yelling child's teammates, yelling at or fighting with other adults), yet little is known about the influence of background anger on the attrition, sport experience, performance and psychological health of children and youth— and particularly girls. Currently we are examining age and gender differences in the magnitude of associations between background anger and youth athletes’ psycho-social and physiological outcomes. Dr. Nicole LaVoi (PI), Jens Omli
Omli, J., & LaVoi, N. M. (2009). The perfect storm: Background anger in youth sports. Journal of Sport Behavior, 32(2), 242-260.
Omli, J., & LaVoi, N. M. (2012). Emotional experiences of youth sport parents I: Anger. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 24(1), 10-25.
The Relationship Between Perceived Parent-Created Sport Climate and Competitive Youth Male Hockey Players’ Good and Poor Sport Behaviors
The aim of this study is to examine achievement goal orientation (Duda & Nicholls, 1992), parental influence (Babkes & Weiss, 1999) and the parent initiated motivational climate (White, 1996; 1998) in combination to broaden understanding of competitive male youth hockey players (N = 279) perceptions of the parent-created sport climate and its relationship to their self-reported good and poor sport behaviors (GPSB). Exploratory factor analysis revealed a multidimensional measure of GPSB. Multiple regression analyses indicated that athletes’ GPSB were significantly predicted by different forms of parental influence. Canonical correlations revealed a complex picture of the contributions of goal orientation and the parent-created sport climate on boys’ GPSB in youth hockey. Results expand knowledge of the influence that parents have in youth sport and emphasize the importance of understanding how children’s interpretations of parental beliefs and behaviors affect their choices to engage in good and poor sport behaviors. Analysis of data from youth girls’ hockey is currently underway to examine and compare how parents influence their sons’ and daughters’ good and poor sport behaviors.
LaVoi, N.M., & Babkes Stellino, M. (2008). The Influence of Perceived Parent Created Sport Climate on Competitive Youth Male Hockey Players’ Good and Poor Sport Behaviors. Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary & Applied, 142(5), 471-495.
To examine the changing elements of the women’s sports industry. This research connects ownership, marketing (e.g., branding, sponsorship, merchandising), digital technologies, strategic communication, community partnerships, athlete voices, and fan engagement.
Lebel, K., Mumcu, C., Pegoraro, A, LaVoi, N. M., Lough, N., & Antunovic, D. (2021, October 11). Re-thinking women's sport research: Looking in the mirror and reflecting forward. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living.
Antunovic, D., LaVoi, N. M., Lebel, K., Lough, N., Mumcu, C. & Pegoraro, A. (2021, June 29). Research in progress: Corporate social advocacy in women's sports. The Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication. Penn State University.
LaVoi, N. M. (2020, December 22). How COVID-19 in 2020 Could Impact the Future of Sports. Aspen Institute.
Lebel, K., Pegoraro, A., Antunovic, D., Lough, N., LaVoi, N. M. (2020, December 20). What pro sports should learn from resilient women athletes post-pandemic. The Conversation.
Lough, N., LaVoi, N. M., Pegoraro, A., Lebel, K. (2020, November 2). Proof in the data: New model emerging for women’s sport. Sports Business Journal.
Leberman, S., LaVoi, N. M., & Shaw, W. (2020, May 11). As sport resumes after lockdown, it's time to level the playing field for women and girls. The Conversation.