There were some thought-provoking statements and questions posed at the inaugural Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Women in Athletics Leadership Symposium June 26-27 in Dallas, Texas.
The 40-plus participants and distinguished presenters explored many in-depth subjects related to the roles of women in sports leadership positions. The event was funded in part by the NCAA Division III Strategic Initiatives Grant Program.
“It is my hope that every attendee of our symposium left feeling more empowered,” said SCAC Commissioner Dwayne Hanberry. “We hope they will take some nugget of information back to campus that will assist them to move forward as a student-athlete, a coach, or an administrator.”
The keynote speaker was Nicole LaVoi, co-director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport, located at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The center published a study which stated that the percentage of women’s head coaches at the collegiate level coaching other women is near an all-time low of 40%. LaVoie commented on what she hoped were some takeaways from those in attendance at the symposium.
“There are barriers that women coaches face,” LaVoie said. “Everybody has a responsibility and obligation to create change for women coaches in the sport landscape, in my opinion….One of the things we hear is that women coaches get blamed for the lack of women in coaching. We want to change the status quo by placing the blame for the lack of women in coaching to those in positions of power, who do the hiring, that make it difficult for women to succeed.”
Linda Schirmeister-Gess is director of development for Strive: How You Lead Matters, located in Wilmington, Delaware. The organization “strives to uncover new potential in each athlete and coach.” Schirmeister-Gess spoke of strengthening the skills of women in the sports industry.
“We focused on personal vision and success statements, as well as leadership styles,” Schirmeister-Gess said of her symposium sessions. “The main focus was communication tools - how to have difficult conversations, what communication style you favor, and which ones you need to practice and try on.”
Schirmeister-Gess, who was accompanied by Strive’s program associate Raven Scott, said the participants spoke about the camaraderie and opportunity to build relationships with other strong and powerful like-minded females.
Trinity was represented by women’s tennis head Coach Gretchen Rush ‘86, head cross country Coach Emily Daum ‘09, and assistant cross country coach Lauren Loeffler. Rush spoke of her key takeaways from the symposium and hopes to organize regular get-togethers with Trinity’s female coaches for improvement purposes.
“What was encouraging for me was the thought of having a female role model,” Rush said. “When girls see a female coach, they know they can do it as well, if they choose to enter the coaching profession."
Panel discussions were conducted by Glada Munt, associate vice president for intercollegiate athletics at Southwestern (TX) University; Lesley Irvine, vice president and director of athletics at Colorado College; and Anne Goodman James, senior woman administrator and head swimming & diving coach at Colorado College.