University of Minnesota

2016 Fall TC Newsletter

Mary Jo KaneAs I write this column, a new semester is beginning and the Great Minnesota Get-Together has just ended. There are a number of ongoing initiatives we’ve been working on since last year. We continued to build on our previous scholarly efforts and strengthened our partnerships with local and national organizations to fulfill a core part of our mission—engagement in public service. One important issue we examined involves the absence of women in sport leadership positions, particularly at the college level. Spearheading our efforts is Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi, a leading scholar and public advocate for bringing renewed attention to the dramatic decline of women coaches following the passage of Title IX. Beginning in 2013, Dr. LaVoi began conducting a series of Research Report Cards that assign universities a letter grade based on the number of female coaches each institution employs in their respective athletic departments. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that far more schools received failing grades versus high marks regarding their employment practices.

Speaking of Dr. LaVoi and her innovative research, she will be the keynote speaker for our Fall Distinguished Lecture on October 19th. Though women’s participation is at an all-time high, the number of female coaches is at an all-time low in terms of head coaching positions in women’s sports. She will make the case that these participation and employment trends reflect a troubling paradox. How is it possible that as each new generation of females becomes increasingly involved in sports—especially at elite levels of competition—they simultaneously become less qualified to enter the coaching profession? Dr. LaVoi will address the important implications that result from women being locked out of coaching and highlight strategies for hiring more female coaches nationwide.

This past summer we worked with two remarkable individuals. Matea Wasend is a first-year Master’s degree student who joins the Tucker Center after completing her undergraduate degree at Macalester College. The other member of our “summer team” is Caroline Heffernan, a Ph.D. student majoring in Sport Management. Caroline was awarded the second Pam Borton Fellowship for the Promotion of Girls & Women in Sport Leadership. Like Matea, Caroline made significant contributions to another key part of the Tucker Center mission—linking our research to issues that have a direct impact on girls and women participating sports and physical activity.

To keep current on all of our various initiatives, visit our website regularly and follow us via social media. Happy Fall!

—Mary Jo Kane, Director

Nicole M. LaVoiIn 1972, the year Title IX was passed and the Summer Olympics were held in Munich, only 90 of the 428 athletes representing the United States were female. They won 23 medals, compared to the 71 medals captured by the men. Fast forward to the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics where the U.S. team amassed the largest women’s contingent in Olympic history—292 women vs. 263 men—and the women took home 61 medals (27 gold) compared to the 55 medals (19 gold) won by their male counterparts (click here for more highlights of U.S. female athletes’ accomplishments in Rio). Can we attribute the unprecedented success—and world dominance—to the passage of Title IX? Many would argue “Yes!” including swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Title IX expert and winner of three gold medals and a silver at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. In an interview she points out that, “What the history of Title IX shows us is that if you provide women with quality sports opportunities, they’ll come and they’ll excel.”

This summer, sports columnist Jeré Longman wrote in The New York Times, “The United States is one of the few countries to embed sports within the public education system. And equal access to sports for women comes with legal protections, gained [through]…Title IX and the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act of 1978.” Title IX has also led to historic participation rates as one in every two girls is currently engaged in high school sports, and of the 213 American medalists in Rio, nearly 85% participated in publically funded sports. “Those [opportunities] don’t exist elsewhere in the world,” says Donna Lopiano, a former Executive Director of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “We have the largest base of athletic development. Our women are going to dominate [because]... Girls see role models to emulate and success perpetuates success.”

Nicole M. LaVoi giving introductions from the podium during the 2016 Womens Coaching SymposiumIn sharp contrast to these participation opportunities, the opposite is true for females in sport leadership positions which have precipitously declined since the early 1970s. While the percentage of women in leadership positions in nearly every other profession has increased over the last 40+ years, women occupying leadership roles in the sports world is the unfortunate exception. Many female athletes today report never having had a female coach, while nearly 100% of their male peers benefit from a same-sex role model.

With this background in mind, over the last five years the Tucker Center has made the critical issue of women in sport leadership—and coaching positions in particular—a strategic priority. We have done so as part of our broader mission of research, education and community engagement. Spearheading this groundbreaking initiative is Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi, who has dedicated her professional career to making a difference in people’s lives, empowering women leaders in sport, and increasing the number of female role models. These goals spring from Dr. LaVoi’s passion and past experiences as a youth, high school, and collegiate tennis coach.

Women in Sports Coaching book coverIn March of 2016, LaVoi edited and published the first scholarly book of its kind, Women in Sports Coaching (Routledge), which has been a sales leader for the book series. Drawing on original multi-disciplinary research from across the globe, including first-hand accounts from coaches, Women in Sports Coaching examines the status of women in coaching, explores the complex issues they face while pursuing their careers, and suggests solutions for eliminating the barriers that impede women entering the coaching profession. Dr. LaVoi’s scholarly book complements the longitudinal research of Drs. Vivian Acosta and Linda Carpenter, who have documented the continued nationwide decline of women head coaches in intercollegiate athletics from over 90% in the early 1970s to 43% currently. Alarmed at this occupational trend, and at the urging of USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan, in 2013 LaVoi launched the Women in College Coaching Report Card Series. The purpose of the report card is to document the percentage of women coaches of women’s teams at the college level, track the effectiveness of initiatives aimed at reversing the decline, bring awareness to the issue through evidence-based research, start a national discussion, and hold decision makers such as athletic directors accountable for their hiring practices. This latter goal was accomplished by assigning each institution’s sports program with a letter grade of A through F reflecting the percentage of women head coaches of their women’s teams. As Brennan stated, “I knew the report card was going to have an impact right off the bat when I received an email from a college sports administrator arguing his school deserved a C-minus, not a D-plus. Almost every school is lagging far behind in hiring women to coach women, and the [Tucker Center] report card doesn’t let them hide anymore.”

Numerous hiring trends have emerged over the last five years:

  • For “big time” D-I institutions in 2012-13, the percentage of women coaches declined as the position became more powerful and lucrative from assistant (49.6%), to associate (44%), to head coach (40.2%).
  • Within major D-I institutions between 2013-16, 62.1% of all newly hired head coaches were male.
  • Each year, more Ds and Fs were assigned to institutions, sports and conferences than were As and Bs.

Covers of the six women coaches report card series reportsThe Report Cards have been downloaded over 8,000 times from the Tucker Center's website. The impact of these documents can also be measured by widespread media exposure, and increasing awareness and accountability among conference commissioners, coaching associations, athletic directors, and trustees who do not wish for a failing grade. Megan Kahn, Executive Director of the Alliance of Women Coaches (AWC), a partner in the production of the Report Cards, stresses their importance. “The numbers can be impactful storytellers. We’re hopeful these data are used by administrators and coaches alike to increase awareness and enhance cultures to be inclusive of women.”

Employing the data to leverage competitive departmental success is another way the Report Cards are being used. Lesley Irvine, Director of Pomona-Pitzer Athletics, stated, “Their impact relates to visibility and accountability. On university campuses, significant conversations about diversity and inclusion are taking place and having an A or B on the Report Card is a way to be affiliated with diversity. It helps in hiring to have a good grade, as you are viewed as a leader. Athletics is a very a quantitative, outcome-oriented industry and the Report Card speaks our language.” It is clear that this innovative research project is making a difference as the Tucker Center works diligently to make both the data and solutions accessible to key decision makers in charge of recruiting, hiring and retaining women coaches.

Attendees at the 2016 Womens Coaching SymposiumAs a public scholar, Dr. LaVoi is committed to translating her research into action and thus increasing the accessibility of her work. She frequently speaks to community stakeholders about the absence of women in the coaching profession and conducts numerous professional development sessions for female coaches across the country. LaVoi stated, “Through my research, my work as a board member for the AWC, and as teaching faculty for the NCAA Women Coaches Academy, I have learned from women coaches that they often feel isolated and want and need all-female professional development opportunities, a space to network and be supported, and a place to build ‘the Old Girl’s Club.’”

Building on this sentiment, for the past three years the Tucker Center has hosted an annual, sold-out Women Coaches Symposium (WCS) on the University of Minnesota campus, which is co-sponsored by Gopher Athletics and the AWC. This regional event includes high-level speakers and has quickly become a “can’t miss” gathering for women coaches of all sports at all levels of competition. The 4th annual WCS will be held on April 21, 2017. As one attendee stated, “I enjoyed the quality speakers and being surrounded by other female coaches. It was a well-rounded, educational and inspirational event.”

Lin Dunn speaks from the podium at the 2016 Womens Coaching SymposiumA marquee component of the Symposium is the Jean K. Freeman Keynote Address which honors the legacy of Jean Freeman, the much beloved Hall of Fame Gopher Head Swimming Coach from 1973-2004. Freeman epitomized a student-athlete centered approach and felt strongly about community service and mentoring young coaches. Past keynote speakers include Sue Enquist (former softball coach at UCLA and 11-time NCAA D-I champion) and Lin Dunn (Hall of Fame Women’s Basketball Coach and WNBA Champion with the Indiana Fever).

As women’s athletic accomplishments continue to amass and be recognized around the globe, Dr. LaVoi and the Tucker Center are working hard to ensure that females have a “place at the table” beyond sports participation. As we move into the 21st century, one of the most important ways to honor the legacy of Title IX is to increase the number of women who occupy sport leadership roles such as head coach. These women will then become leaders and role models for legions of female sport participants.

TC 2016 Summer Interns Caroline Heffernan next to Matea WasenOne of the most important components of the Tucker Center is our Summer Internship program sponsored by the Live to Give Gender Equity Fund. This past summer we welcomed Matea Wasend as our latest intern. We also announced the second Borton Fellow, Caroline Heffernan, who was supported through the Pam Borton Fellowship for the Promotion of Girls & Women in Sport Leadership. This unique Fellowship fund is designed to mentor, educate and provide a quality research experience to aspiring students by pairing each new Fellow with TC faculty and Affiliated Scholars. Wasend and Heffernan made invaluable contributions to a number of ongoing research and educational projects ranging from preparing a manuscript for publication in a prestigious peer-reviewed academic journal, to collecting and analyzing data related to occupational employment trends for women coaches in NCAA D-II and D-III institutions. This latter effort added great depth and scope to our Women in College Coaching Report Card Series.

Matea Wasend is currently a first-year Master’s student in the School of Kinesiology being advised by Dr. LaVoi. Matea majored in English and Media Studies at Macalester College in St. Paul. Since graduating in 2012, she has held a variety of positions in communications and nonprofit development in addition to coaching with the St. Paul Blackhawks Soccer Club. Matea is excited to be involved in work that empowers and inspires female coaches and their young athletes. As she stated, “It was an honor to contribute in some small way to the Tucker Center’s work this [past] summer. I was able to work with and learn from some of the preeminent scholars in the field of gender equity in sports and feel like I was making a difference in the process.”

Caroline Heffernan is currently a doctoral student in the School of Kinesiology’s Sport Management program. Caroline graduated with a degree in Psychology from Bryn Mawr College where she played field hockey, basketball and lacrosse. After graduation, she served as Bryn Mawr’s Assistant Field Hockey Coach and attended Temple University where she earned a Master’s Degree in Sport and Recreation Management. Her dissertation will examine how men and women can work as allies within sport organizations to create more opportunities for women in leadership positions. This is what Caroline had to say about her experiences as a Borton Fellow: “Last summer was an incredible learning experience where I was mentored by Dr. Kane and Dr. LaVoi. They both allowed and encouraged me to contribute to the incredible work the Tucker Center regularly produces.”

These young women join a distinguished group of summer interns and fellows who have all gone on to make a difference in their respective careers ranging from clinical psychology to public health to sport sociology. To learn more about our summer internship program and the Borton Fellowship as well as see what our past interns are doing now, click here.

Honors & Awards

  • Dr. Austin Stair Calhoun, TC Affiliated Scholar, has taken a new position at the University of Minnesota’s School of Medicine as Chief of Staff for the Office of Medical Education. Calhoun came to the Tucker Center as a doctoral graduate student working under Professor Kane and completed her Ph.D. in 2014. During her time as a doctoral student, Calhoun spearheaded the creation of the Tucker Center’s website, was instrumental in our influential social media presence, and founded the annual Tucker Center Film Festival. Upon graduation, Calhoun was hired as the School of Kinesiology’s newly created Director of eLearning + Digital Strategies. Congratulations and best of luck to Dr. Calhoun!
  • In August, Yahoo! Finance named TC Co-director Nicole M. LaVoi as one of “6 Women in the Sports Business World You Should Follow,” due to her Twitter following and for spreading the word on cutting-edge happenings in the world of women in sports. You can follow Dr. LaVoi on Twitter: @DrSportPsych.
  • Since October of 2014, the Tucker Center/tptMN Productions’ Emmy Award-winning “Media Coverage and Female Athletes” documentary has run over 650 times on more than 100 nationwide television channels covering 30+ states and was available to over 50% of the nation’s population. In the top 25 TV markets alone, the documentary reached over 70% of the viewing public. #HERESPROOF
  • Chelsey Thul, TC Affiliated Scholar, Elizabeth Bye (Professor & Department Head, Apparel Design Program, University of Minnesota), Jennifer Weber (Volunteer Coordinator/Athletic Director, Cedar-Riverside Community School), and Mary Marczak (Director, Urban Family Development and Evaluation, U of M Extension), received a $75,000 U of M Extension Block Grant for their co-lead, 2-year project, “Impact of an East African Mother-Daughter Physical Activity Program and Co-Designed Activewear.” The project engages 10-15 urban, East African mother-daughter dyads in an intergenerational physical activity program to increase physical activity and provide healthy living education, practice, and the co-design of culturally sensitive activewear.
  • This summer, Thul was elected to the Executive Board of “Girls on the Run-Twin Cities,” a program inspiring 3rd-8th grade girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.

Research Presentations

  • Last May, Thul presented a webinar entitled “Co-Developing Physical Activity Opportunities with East African Adolescent Girls: Listening, Living it, and Lessons Learned” to an interdisciplinary maternal and child-health audience. Her presentation was sponsored by MN-KPAH (Minnesota Knowledge to Practice in Adolescent Health) from a grant awarded to Dr. Lyn Bearinger at the U of M’s School of Nursing.
  • Last July, TC Affiliated Scholar Jo Ann Buysse (U of MN, Kinesiology) was featured on local cable channel The CW23 in Rana Kamal’s program. Dr. Buysse discussed “Our Issues Twin Cities: Breaking Barriers in Women’s Sports.”
  • Throughout the spring and summer, LaVoi gave multiple presentations pertaining to women coaches: 1) “Behind the Numbers: Recent Research on Women Coaches” at the NCAA Inclusion Forum in Indianapolis last April; 2) “Strategies for Successfully Navigating the Coaching Profession” at the NCAA Women Coaches Academy held in June in Washington, DC; and 3) “Recruiting & Retaining Women Coaches: An Evidence-Based Model” at the National Coaching Conference in Seattle last June.
  • Last June, TC Affiliated Scholar Kent Kaiser (University of Northwestern, Communication) and research assistant Ryan Wienk presented a paper, “Genderlect in Context: Men’s and Women’s Final Four and Frozen Four Player Tweets” at the 6th Annual Sport in Society Conference at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu.
  • Last August, TC Director Mary Jo Kane presented “Does Sex Really Sell Women’s Sports?” at the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication’s Annual Conference in Minneapolis.
  • In November, Kane and LaVoi will go to Tampa, FL to present a paper at the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport’s Annual Conference entitled, “An Examination of Intercollegiate Athletic Directors’ Attributions Regarding the Declining Number of Female Coaches in Women’s Sports.”


  • Last summer, TC Affiliated Scholars Drs. Lisa A. Kihl (U of MN, Kinesiology), Vicki Schull (MN State University, Mankato, Sport Management) and Sally Shaw (University of Otago, New Zealand, Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences) published a book, Gender Politics in U.S. College Athletic Departments: The Case of the University of Minnesota Merger (Palgrave MacMillan). Their book provides an in-depth analysis of the nuanced gendered political processes within a radical change event—the 2002 merger of the men’s and women’s athletic departments at the U of M.
  • TC Affiliated Scholar Doug Hartmann (U of MN, Sociology) published a book entitled Midnight Basketball: Race, Sports, and Neoliberal Social Policy by the University of Chicago Press.
  • LaVoi edited a book published by Routledge entitled Women in Sports Coaching. The book includes chapters written or co-written by TC Affiliated Scholars Laura Burton (University of Connecticut, Educational Leadership), Schull, and Calhoun, and also includes a chapter by Kane entitled “A socio-cultural examination of a lack of women coaches in sport leadership positions.”
  • Kaiser has a research paper in press, “Sports Reporters in the Twittersphere: Challenging and Breaking Down Traditional Conceptualizations of Genderlect.” The paper will appear in the journal Online Information Review this fall.
  • TC Affiliated Scholar Elizabeth Daniels (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Psychology) wrote a recent blog post for the Association for Size Diversity and Health’s Healthy at Every Size blog entitled, “She’s Strong and Powerful and So Am I.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 • 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Cowles Auditorium, Hubert H. Humphrey Center
University of Minnesota West Bank Campus

A coach speaking forcefully to her two playersA puzzling paradox exists when it comes to women occupying sport leadership positions—particularly coaches. Two generations removed from Title IX, female sports participation is at an all-time high, yet the number of women coaches is near an all-time low. At the college level alone, female coaches are in the minority, representing just 43% of all head coaching positions in women’s sports nationwide. It is simply not possible that as each new generation of females becomes increasingly involved in and shaped by their sport experience—especially at the most elite levels of competition as evidenced by the dominance of the U.S. female athletes at the 2016 Rio Olympics—they simultaneously become less qualified to enter the coaching profession. So where have all the women coaches gone and why does this paradox matter? Research indicates that far from being less qualified, women are discouraged, impeded or locked out of coaching due to discriminatory beliefs, policies and practices. This has profound and damaging results: Same-sex role models are highly beneficial and while research shows that nearly 100% of male athletes enjoy a male coach role model, many girls and women never benefit from having a female coach. Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi will examine this “coaching paradox” by highlighting systemic gender discrimination, unfair double standards, and both explicit and unconscious gender bias in the hiring process. She will also address the significant implications that result from the dramatic decline of women in the coaching profession and offer strategies for recruiting and retaining females coaches.

About the Speaker

Nicole M. LaVoi, Ph.D., is a Senior Lecturer in the area of social and behavioral sciences in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota, where she is also the Co-director of the Tucker Center. Dr. LaVoi is one of the nation’s leading scholars who has published extensively on the occupational landscape of women coaches. She has authored and collaborated on numerous research reports, scholarly journal articles, and book chapters—including the annual Women in College Coaching Report Card—and the groundbreaking edited book, Women in Sports Coaching. As an award-winning teacher and sought-after public scholar, Dr. LaVoi speaks on issues related to recruiting, hiring and retaining female coaches, and was recently named by Yahoo! Finance as one of the top “6 Women in the Sports Business World You Should Follow.” She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Alliance of Women Coaches and is a member of the teaching faculty for the NCAA Women Coaches Academy.

The five multi-colored Olympic ringsOn Team USA, females represented 52.6% of all U.S. athletes and women captured 52.6% (61 of 116, 27 gold) of all medals won, not including equestrian and tennis mixed doubles. Many “firsts” and notable individual and team performances were recorded by U.S. women at Rio including:

  • Shooter Kim Rhode became the first woman from any nation to win a medal at six straight Olympics.
  • Triathlete Gwen Jorgensen, a St. Paul, MN native, and wrestler Helen Maroulis gave the United States its first gold medals in their respective sports.
  • Simone Manuel became the first African-American female swimmer to win Olympic gold.
  • Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first U.S. Olympic athlete to compete in a hijab, winning a team sabre bronze.
  • Gymnast Simone Biles and swimmer Katie Ledecky took home five medals each.
  • Runner Allyson Felix earned three medals to become the all-time winningest woman in Olympic track & field history with six golds and nine medals overall.
  • The U.S. Women’s Basketball team included four WNBA Minnesota Lynx players—Siemone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles, Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen—as well as Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, and extended its Olympic record to six straight gold medals.
  • Kerri Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball) and Venus Williams (tennis) became the most decorated Olympic female athletes in their respective sport with four and five medals each.

Congratulations to an amazing group of U.S. women!

October 19: The 2016 Fall Distinguished LectureParadox, Pitfalls & Parity: Where Have All the Women Coaches Gone?” Wednesday, October 19, 7-9pm at Cowles Auditorium on the West Bank.

TBD in February: The 7th Annual Tucker Center Film Festival will be held on a yet-to-be-determined date in February, 2017, to celebrate National Girls & Women in Sport Day. For more information or to submit a film, please click here.

April 21: The popular and annually sold-out Women Coaches Symposium will be held at TCF Bank Stadium on Friday, April 21, 2017. For more information, click here.