By Meaghan Kirby
More than 40 years after Title IX was enacted, women coaches are still trying to get a foothold in Boston’s Division I schools.
Today, in the city of Boston there is only 52 head female coaches are represented at the Division I level in Boston area colleges and universities. Harvard leads the group with a total of 12 female coaches as Northeastern only has four.
The number of women coaching in female sports today has dropped dramatically since Title IX was passed. In 1971, 90 percent of women’s teams were coached by women and now today less than 43 percent of women’s teams were coached by women, according to Acosta and Carpenter’s Women in Intercollegiate Sport study in 2014
Over the years, stories have emerged of women coaches being forced out of their NCAA jobs. But some of the reasons from the schools’ athletic administrations are politically correct such as tight budgets, not enough wins and coaching philosophies that do not fit the university. Yet the stigma still lingers that female coaches are not as good as or as strong as male coaches.
Many ponder and question, why, in a society today where women are making strides in other careers, are female coaches declining at a dramatic rate?
There are many factors for the decline, from discriminatory hiring to the social roles a women is suppose to play in society.
Some women indicate the biggest factor for the decline and lack of female representation of women coaches in college athletics is the balancing act of coach and mother. Women, more than men, carry the burden of parenthood and life at home.
“Trying to pull a mom away from her kid is a lot harder than trying to pull a dad away from a kid,” explained Head Coach Ashley Phillips of Northeastern University women’s soccer team. “Some female coaches feel that doing both can be difficult.”
For many, the work-life balance as a collegiate head coach is difficult with travel, long practices, games, recruiting around the country and sometimes internationally all taking a toll. Women may feel the weight of children and home life on their shoulders more than a male coaching counterpart. But now more schools and athletic departments are addressing female coaches’ balancing of work and motherhood.
Yet, in recent years men seek the jobs in female college athletics and many men run collegiate athletic departments.
With women sports on rise because of Title IX, female college sports became more appealing job to male coaches. Higher-profile positions as coach in sports like softball and women’s basketball are receiving more desirable salaries.
It’s not that there are not plenty of women to hire for the coaching position, but its now become who is the most qualified and will fit and buy into the programs dynamics.
Many athletes their whole athletic career have only seen maybe men as coaches. But many past female college athletes have argued that having women coaches provides guidance for young women on and off the field. Female coaches can become positive role models, showing players that they can too obtain positions of leadership and authority.
Ashley Phillips— Women’s Head Soccer Coach at Northeastern University. A former goalkeeper for the Boston Breakers soccer team, she was named Northeastern Women’s Soccer head coach in 2016. Her path to head coach of the Huskies was an easier one than most other female coaches. Phillips came to Northeastern in 2010 as an assistant coach for the Huskies. She was then promoted to associate head coach in 2015, then interim head coach in February 2016. Under the guidance of former coach Tracey Leone who was the head coach of the Huskies for six years, Phillips became involved in the recruiting, training, scouting, conditioning and goalkeeper development.
Phillips also has been the assistant and goalkeeper coach of the Boston Breakers, where she played for in 2009-10 season. Originally, coaching was not in the plans for Phillips.
“I came back to Boston to play professionally and the Coach (Tracey) Leone had called me and asked me to come help out with the goalkeepers at Northeastern,” Phillips explained . “Eight years later after being with the Huskies, I’ve been able to move up in the standings to head coach.”
When Phillips began coaching she said it was a hard transition. When she began by helping out the goalkeepers at Northeastern, she close in age of the players.
“The way you communicate with people as a goalkeeper, you can kind of say what you want to get your point across,” she said. “But as a coach, you have to relate to them, build relationships, and have your players buy into your system.”
It took Phillips a few years to adjust to the coaching aspects of soccer. But once she gave up playing and began solely coaching, she said she discovered that she loved coaching more than playing.
Karen Boen— Men & Women’s Head Cross Country & Track Coach at Stonehill College. The track coach has been no stranger to the coaching world of college athletics. Boen has been leading lady of the Skyhawks track and field program now for 21 seasons. But her way to head coach was one that she did not expect.
Her accolades of awards have shown that she is one of the best in the area.
Her women’s program has captured 16 Northeast-10 championships, 14 NCAA East Regional titles and appeared in 18 NCAA championships. Her men’s teams also have won eight NE-10 championships, four NCAA East Regional titles and have appeared 15 times at the NCAA championships.
She most recently has led the women’s outdoor track and field team to its third-straight outdoor NE-10 championship, and its fourth in the program’s history. Boen has totaled 58 coach-of-the-year awards. She was named U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Assn. Men’s Cross Country East Region coach of the year, and NE-10 men and women’s coach of the year after winning both conference championships. This year was Boen’s fourth year that she won both men’s and women’s coach of the year awards in cross country.
Though Boen has made tremendous strides for herself as a coach, she said much of her pride and joy comes from what her athletes are able to accomplish and achieve during their time at Stonehill with her. Boen has developed and trained seven women cross-country All-American and numerous All-Conference and All-Region runners. She has also coached four NE-10 Rookies of the Year.
Academically, her men and women’s teams have made 11 appearances on the NCAA Division II All-Academic Team and a vast majority of her athletes have been named to the Stonehill Athletic Director’s Honor Roll.
Boen’s experience as a female coach coaching men and women college athletes has been one for the books.
Lindsey Couturier— Women’s Head Softball Coach at Bridgewater State University. Nerves was the first thing that set in for Coach Lindsey Couturier when she first started coaching. Couturier currently is the head coach of the Women’s Softball team at Bridgewater State University. This past season for the Bears was Couturier first season as head coach.
Lindsey started her career at Bridgewater State University in the summer of 2016 as the coordinator for athletic external relations. Prior to that she was graduate assistant softball coach in 2015 and 2016. While attending University of New Haven and playing softball for the Chargers, she realized that coaching was her passion.
“It didn’t take me long to realize I wanted to be a college coach one day. I was lucky enough to have a coach that inspired me and loved what she did,” said Couturier. “By second semester of my freshman year I knew that immediately following graduation I wanted to become a softball coach.”
The transition from player to coach was a rather a difficult track for Couturier. It was difficult in the beginning because as a graduate assistant she was coaching players who were possibly her age or a few years younger. She quickly had to learn draw the line from player to coach.
“Physically, mentally, emotionally I could still be out on that field playing…but I was then a coach,” Couturier said. “I found playing in intersquad scrimmages and jumping in practice to demonstrate filled that void quickly.”
Being a first-year coach has had its ups and its downs for Couturier. She said the first thing she had to do was create a positive culture for her team. Couturier cares about the well-being of her athletes, so she said she takes the opportunity to get know them, their families and goals for the future. As a coach she believes that if connect with he players she is helping them for their future.
“I am making a difference in the lives of these young ladies, and that is more rewarding than anyone can imagine,” Couturier said.