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NorCal’s Female Coaching Initiative Takes the Next Step

As part of an ongoing effort to increase the amount of soccer coaching opportunities for women, the NorCal Premier Soccer Women’s Committee met during last month’s NSCAA Convention in Los Angeles to discuss strategies on how to increase the number of female coaches in Northern California.

Roughly 20 high school, club, college, and professional coaches showed up for the meeting, held in a conference room at the JW Hotel, for an hour-long conversation.

“Our committee is about empowering women, not only getting more women into coaching, but retaining them and helping them advance into elevated leadership positions if interested as well” said San Juan Soccer Club ECNL Director Erin Sharpe during the meeting. “Many female coaches are interested in moving into Director of Coaching or similar positions, but feel as though they aren’t afforded the same opportunities as many of their male counterparts.”

Added UC Davis Women’s head coach Twila Kaufman: “It’s making sure that less-experienced coaches get the opportunity…and making sure that coaches who are at the top get the opportunity to advance as well.”

The problem that Sharpe and Kaufman spoke about is backed up by raw numbers, namely that most male soccer teams are coached by men in this country, but many female soccer teams are coached by men as well.

In 2016, only 24 percent of NCAA women’s soccer teams in the United States featured female head coaches, while just 40 percent of women’s NCAA teams in any sport were coached by women. The drop off for the latter number is shocking — when Title IX laws were enacted in 1972, a whopping 96 percent of female NCAA teams had female head coaches.

But while Title IX increased opportunities for female athletes, it also ensured that female NCAA teams would have salaried coaches, driving more men to coach collegiate women athletes.

Perhaps even more telling is the fact that just four of the nine coaches in the history of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team have been female, while only one of the 10 current coaches in the National Women’s Soccer League is a woman.

“The challenge of being a female coach in a male-dominated profession is that even if the female coach is equally or better-qualified than a male, the institutional factors that have kept women from achieving better positions has prevailed,” said Marcia “Tafa” Tafarel, a former Brazilian National team player and current youth coach at Diablo FC. “Men are more likely to hire other men across different professions and this continuing path sends a message that men make better leaders.”

To combat the issue, NorCal Premier Soccer created the committee, which has held regular meetings such as the one in January, as well as coaching education sessions aimed towards women.

One of the first in this series of education was a “chalk talk last fall led by the USWNT coaching staff ahead of their 8-1 friendly victory over Romania in San Jose.

Currently, the committee plans to further this coaching education by proposing to embark on a European trip sometime this year similar to that of one NorCal Premier Soccer put together in December that was not gender-specific, but included mostly men.

Another goal is to host more meetings like those at the convention, which coaches like Sharpe found useful.

“I think that the meeting was very productive,” Sharpe said. “With our committee comprised of members from all over Northern California, we haven’t had much of an opportunity to meet in person, and the ability to do so was a refreshing change from communicating via conference call.

“The opportunity to also have a meeting with non-committee members sharing their experiences and ideas gave us new and important perspectives. Many of us came to the meeting directly from the NSCAA Women’s Breakfast with Julie Foudy as the keynote speaker, and her message of ‘leading by choice, not chance’ resonated with and energized a lot of us.”

According to Sharpe, though, there is still much work to be done even though a the committee has proposed a scholarship program from NorCal that would be aimed at female coaches.

“We believe that we can make the biggest impact at this stage with this NorCal scholarship program for licensing and coaching education opportunities for women,” Sharpe said. “That said, this NorCal scholarship program should not be the only avenue for assistance for our female coaches. Unfortunately, a lot of feedback we have received is that a lot of women aren’t getting much support at the club level from this perspective.

“Feedback indicates that few clubs are assisting their coaches financially with the increasingly more-expensive licensing courses and other coaching education initiatives,” Sharpe added. “Many female coaches that are being denied this assistance critically need to advance their licensing in order to make a career out of coaching, but are finding the costs impossible and/or don’t have the support of their clubs to take the time away from their club duties to attend these licensing courses and conventions. We intend to encourage and educate clubs to make their assistance in coaching education opportunities at all levels more equitable to male and female coaches alike.”

“We are committed to all aspects of our mission and vision vision statement, which includes providing increased resources, mentorship, networking, support, education and professional development for aspiring women in all capacities of the game of soccer.”