ASK THE STAFF

I was wondering if you knew of any references or articles that discuss the benefits of having mothers involved as coaches. Our soccer club is primarily coached by men and I would like to get more women involved.

Thanks!

Coach L. McS.

I graduated high school in 1970, when Title IX did not exist. In high school, there were two sports available to me, tennis and volleyball. Though athletically gifted, I was encouraged to participate in neither.

When I matriculated to college in the fall of 1970, there was no varsity athletics program for women at my school. With the passage of Title IX in 1972, I thankfully became the last of a generation of women denied the opportunity to participate in school sport.

I played in my first soccer game at the age of 27. At age 37, I became one of the first women in Texas to receive a national coaching license. I was subsequently appointed to the South Texas Youth Soccer Association Coaching Education Staff, as they were desperate for female coaches. My first few years of teaching soccer clinics were uncomfortably played to all-male audiences, but slowly, the number of female faces grew. Eventually, so did the number of female clinicians, as well as the number of young girls playing the game.

Coming from this background, I certainly applaud and encourage this woman’s efforts to share her interest in coaching with other mothers in her organization! I believe that sport is a microcosm of society, and that too often parents, coaches, and youth sports associations fail to recognize the important role they can play not only in building strong players, but strong members of society, as well.

As a parent, it is obvious to me that mothers do have an important role to play in all this. While I am not aware of any research done specifically on this topic, I am aware of a new book, Home Team Advantage by Brooke de Lench, that this youth coach might be interested in reading and sharing with others. Here is a brief excerpt:

Chapter One:
“...some of the parents, once they learned that I was to be the coach, immediately challenged my ability as a forty-three-year-old mother to coach a team of twelve-year-old boys. One father had called to tell me his son was going to sit out the season rather than play for me: ‘He deserves better. He deserves a top-level coach,’ the father said. Most told me not to be surprised if their son quit after the first few practices: ‘He is angry and embarrassed to be on a team of also-rans, especially one coached by a mother,’ they told me.

“The only glimmer of hope they gave me was that their sons loved soccer, and that they thought that they had the potential to be good players. Instead of scaring me off, however, all the negativity simply strengthened my resolve to turn what everyone expected to be a disastrous season into something special; to give this group of outcasts a season to remember, to give them a reason to keep playing soccer by making it fun again, to show them the very best that sport had to offer, and to teach them lessons through sports that would enrich their lives.”

While I have not yet read this book in its entirety, this story certainly rings true from my own experience, and my professional interest only grew as I read what the publisher had written in promoting the book:

“Over the past decade, the stakes in youth sports have reached startling heights; the pressure to win often eclipses the desire to have fun. Sports injuries have increased tenfold; aggression on and off the field -- between kids, parents, and coaches -- is at a fever pitch; and drug and alcohol use among young athletes is on the rise. While there are plenty of books that help the best-intentioned parent, most of them are written by men, for men. They do not address concerns specific to mothers, nor empower them to confidently step onto the out-of-control playground to assume whatever role they choose -- spectator, advocate, administrator, coach, fund-raiser or team mom.”

Home Team Advantage is an essential resource manual that will inspire women to confidently tackle some of the issues preventing their kids from enjoying sports. Brooke de Lench authoritatively covers issues ranging from ensuring playing time and confronting out-of-control coaches, to countering the "winning at all costs" mentality. Packed with real-life anecdotes and information from experts, Home Team Advantage provides constructive, practical and forward-thinking advice to help mothers understand the critical role they can play in putting the words “fun,” “game” and “play” back into youth sports.

Below is the ordering information for what I am sure will prove to be a thought-provoking book. It is available from Amazon.com and other on-line booksellers.

Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (Paperback, $14.95), Brooke de Lench

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