By Peter Langella
That's the number of women who are coaching Division III men's ice hockey teams. I'm not just talking about head coaches, either. I'm talking about every coach listed on every team roster.
This may not surprise you. You may be thinking that's it's pretty obvious that all of the men's coaches are – and should be – men. If you do think that, do you also think that all of the women's coaches should be women? Because they're not.
That's the number of women who are head coaches of Division III women's ice hockey teams. That's out of 55 teams (including all teams that play in D3 conferences). So, less than half of the teams in the country are led by women. And only 11 teams list an all-woman coaching staff on their rosters.
Where's the equity?
Now, I'm not trying to say that all women's teams need to be led by an all-woman staff. I completely understand that some coaches are the right person for the job, regardless of gender. Having said that, though, doesn't it then mean that a woman could also be the right person for a men's coaching job? Because if it's okay for men to coach women, then it definitely means women can coach men. Right?
Where's Title IX when it comes to coaching, anyway? I personally think some school administrators and athletic directors should be completely ashamed with their hiring practices. Too many women in this sport are being turned down in favor of men. The culture around hiring coaches is changing too slowly, and we need to help expedite the process.
We shouldn't stand for this one-way-it's-okay, one-way-it-isn't hypocrisy. Schools need to hire more women coaches. Period.
I work as a high school librarian and have a master's degree in writing. I'm not a neurologist or psychologist, sports or otherwise, and I'm not a gender expert, but I did give my graduate lecture on the topic of boys and literacy. While preparing my presentation, a good deal of my research centered on the similarities and differences between male and female brains and the way in which society creates and enables gender roles and gender stereotypes. I know much more about this topic than the average person on the street, and I care a great deal about it.
Most of the current research seems to agree that there aren't too many innate differences between male and female brains. Some, yes, but far few than we used to think. However, when you add up years and years of society's influence, the brain of a late teen/adult female can look and act very differently than that of a late teen/adult male due to the different ways the two genders have been perceived and treated during their lives. The most accessible of the fantastic resources I discovered is Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Chicago Medical School professor Lise Eliot.
So, I have to ask, are men really that much better at coaching hockey while mentoring and relating to young women than other, more experienced women? Because that's what colleges and universities seem to be saying. They have men coaching all of the men's teams and men coaching more than half of the women's teams, too. Here's something else to think about. None of these male coaches have ever played women's ice hockey. Granted, the sports aren't as different as, say, men's and women's lacrosse are, but still, there's a definite learning curve that is repeatedly and pervasively ignored.
Take Kevin Dineen's situation, for example. He was just named the coach of Canada's Women's Olympic Team only two months before the start of the tournament. Two woman assistant coaches were bypassed in order for Dineen, who had been fired by the Florida Panthers earlier in the year, to get the job. To me, it's completely baffling. Does he know the sport? Yes, he was a fine player and an NHL coach. Does he have the wealth of knowledge and experience of the women's game that Danielle Goyette and Lisa Haley have? Absolutely not. Team Canada has lost four straight exhibition games against the U.S since the coaching decision.
The same type of thing happens all the time in college hockey. I know you've seen it. A few former women's players with solid assistant coaching resumes are passed over for head coaching jobs in favor of the men's assistant coach already at the school, or, worse, a men's assistant coach from another school. Again, it's as if schools are saying that male coaches are just better, more often than not.
I don't buy it.
Maybe the problem is that schools are afraid that many of the women lack experience in the profession. After all, women's hockey hasn't been around that long, so, naturally, that means there are only so many woman coaches, and even less with loads of experience. But I look at that as a huge positive. We're at an exciting time where women's hockey is better than it's ever been. How do coaches gain experience if nobody hires them? Shouldn't schools be jumping at the chance to hire women into these leadership posts, in order to ensure the continued positive trajectory of the sport? To create a generation of women mentors for hundreds and thousands of future student-athletes?
I say yes.
If a man is the best candidate for a job, both in terms of his hockey acumen and his ability to mentor and relate to female students, then by all means he should be hired. But, if he's only being hired because of some archaic nonsense about him being a superior hockey coach and mentor simply because he's a man, or because he works at a certain school, then I cry foul.
It's 2014, people, which means that 0 out of 79 and 23 out of 55 just isn't going to cut it anymore. It just isn't.
Peter Langella played at Trinity College and Norwich University and has also coached at Williams. He is now a writer and librarian in central Vermont.