Year of Publication


Date of Thesis


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Exercise and Sport Sciences


In the 43 years since the implementation of Title IX, the number of women participating in sport at the college level has grown from 16,000 to 200,000 athletes (Acosta & Carpenter, 2014). Despite this increase in participation, the proportion of women’s teams coached by a female head coach has dropped from more than 90% in 1972 down to 43.4% in 2014 (Acosta & Carpenter, 2014). A number of reasons contribute to this decline. Sport historically served a social purpose for males and reinforced the notion of heteronormativity (Griffin, 1998). Additionally, unclear career paths, a lack of formal hiring practices in coaching, a lack of role models, unequal compensation (Drago, Henninghausen, Rogers, Vesciao, & Stauffer, 2005), and discriminatory practices (Hemphill & Symons, 2009; Knight & Giuliano, 2003; Muir & Saltz, 2004) all contribute to the barriers facing women who might enter the coaching profession. Mentoring has been shown to promote the advancement of women in other professions and is therefore a viable option for women in sport (Tharenou, 2005). This study examined the lived experiences of women in coaching. Specifically, eight head coaches, five assistant coaches, and two administrators from one institution were interviewed, describing their path into athletics and their experiences over time. Using the constant comparative method, four themes emerged: the developmental pathway, gender inequity, attaining balance, and the supporting cast. The results of this study identify the importance of mentoring to promote growth for women in sport and expand the literature by focusing not on what has driven women out, but on the tools used to make working and remaining in athletics a rewarding choice.



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