More On Women’s College Sports And Abusive Coaches

Apparently basketball has a worse problem than hockey. Fewer than 40% of players in one survey found their head coaches trustworthy. I was about to link to the opinion piece in SI where that stat was quoted, but I did not at all like the perspective, which I felt was one-sided, or the attitude evinced by the piece. Coaches quoted, but no players. B****** just be crazy whiners, amirite?

As I said in my prior post on this topic, one reason we’re seeing more of these cases is that both female and male athletes are ceasing to take as gospel the idea that coaches can treat them any old way in the name of toughening them up. But I also think that while men are much, much more likely to suffer through this kind of behavior because fighting it will cause idiots to question their masculinity, there are complicated power dynamics with women as well. First off, there is still a preponderance of male coaches supervising female players, which can replicate the sexism found outside sports as well as sit in a weird relational limbo (Fatherly? Romantic? Professional? Some bizarre amalgam of all three?). Many female coaches feel they must emulate the worst of the toxic behavior in order to be taken seriously. Or they’re just power-hungry martinets, which is not uncommon in the higher-up coaching ranks. Add to this the insecurity of a female athlete’s life. There are fewer opportunities for scholarships, and this is probably the last step in their athletic careers. Their place in the team hierarchy takes on a special importance. A coach is in control of naming that place. In basketball, as well, players are often black and coaches white, which adds an extra layer of possibility to coaching abuse.

There’s a lot we can do to address these problems, but the first and most important step is continuing to see them as problems rather than something to be sucked up.