One of the things that we talk about at the WI Track Coaches Clinic every year, is how there are so few female coaches out there compared to male coaches. I'm in my 7th year of coaching, and I can probably tell you why there are not as many female coaches out there (as opposed to male). I've seen young female coaches who start coaching out of college, but then (in general) as soon as they have kids, they are done coaching. I have heard it over and over as the reason why many women I know (that I would have loved to have as assistants), won't coach. Dads coach. Moms don't.
I had my first kid 6 days before the track season started in 2013. I was assistant coach at Wausau East. My fellow coaches were supportive about it. I drove separate to nearby meets. I brought her to practice with me most days. I nursed before and after practice in the coach's room. She came to nearby meets and the student-athletes were supportive and liked having her there but never treated her as a distraction, or me as less of a coach.
Shortly after that first season with a newborn ended, we moved, and I have experienced, what feels like constant battles in defense of myself as a mom who coaches. I had my 2nd kid after the 4th day of track practice in 2015. I was now the sole assistant coach to my husband. I missed the next day of practice since he wasn't discharged yet, but I was there on Monday. And every practice after that. Because that is the crazy dedication I have to the kids I coach.
Things I have learned… despite the fact that WI law states that women can breastfeed in public places and cannot be asked to stop, move, or cover up (I’m never NOT covered if I ever breastfeed around people), apparently this does not apply to coaches, even when their newborn is less than a week old. Pumping is reality for breastfeeding moms, and during the track season it means that you then have to drive separately to meets in order to pump on the way, you’ll have to take a break during the meet to pump, and then pump immediately again on the way home (in the case of a newborn at least). For the volleyball season it means that you travel to tournaments with your pump and must find a private space to use that locks, has an outlet, and doesn’t have windows. This often means a cold, uncomfortable, and sometimes dirty, bathroom.
Children are not allowed in the weight room. At all. Even if you are supervising them and they are not running around. Yes, I understand the safety aspect of this. No, I do not get paid anything for working with athletes in the off-season in the weight room, but thanks for letting me know that I can put them in daycare at my own expense. This past volleyball season I was reprimanded for having my eldest next to me on the bench during a game. She wasn’t disruptive, hardly talked, and sat very well. If there is a complaint, it should be that I failed in my coaching somehow, not that I had my well-behaved kid next to me. Never did she keep me from my role as a coach.
Whenever the kids have been at track practices or meets in the past, I have not compromised my role as a coach. I’ll be honest; I think I’m a damn good coach too. But it doesn’t seem to matter; because what’s noticed is that I have kids. Does it matter that our volleyball program finally has consistency after me being their 4th coach in 4 years, and every year since I’ve taken over the program we have improved our conference standing and/or conference record? Does it matter that under my coaching, our track program has seen numerous school records fall? Does it matter that I coached a sophomore girl all the way to the podium at the State meet? Does it matter that we are chasing down a State Championship, and even a State Record? Does it matter that a freshman distance runner missed out on State by only 2 spots and is hungrier than ever to get there as a sophomore, and claim School Records as his own as well? Does it matter that I had a first-year senior break the school record multiple times and miss out on State by one miss? Do you think any of the athletes would say that I was less of a coach because I was a mom too?
|Coaching Daisy at the 2016 State Track & Field Meet|
Now I’m pregnant with our third child. Conveniently, my due date also coincides with the first day of track practice. And all my past failings of being a mom and coach are being drudged back up in anticipation of future failings. I thought I was a 30-year coach. I’ve had a long-term mindset from the beginning, and suddenly I went home after a meeting, on the verge of turning in my resignation. Defeated. That’s what society does to moms who coach. They make it as tough as possible, offer no real support, and make them feel like their kids are an unwanted nuisance and the mom is lesser of a coach and person because of it.
Statistically, Moms are less likely to take on roles that take them away from time with their kids. There are mothers out there who would make excellent coaches and positive role models for our student-athletes, but they do not feel like they belong in these coaching positions. So when you see a mom taking time away from her kids in order to coach your kids? Please support her. Because there are plenty of people who don’t, but she’s doing it because she’s passionate about what she’s doing, and she’s trying so hard to do her very best.