In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, girls ice hockey experienced tremendous growth in Minnesota and across the United States. Today, those efforts have created a girls’ hockey landscape that many of the early pioneers previously only dreamed of. For example, there are now nearly as many girls ages 8 & under playing hockey in Minnesota alone as there were total registered girls hockey players in the entire United States in 1990.
The growth continues to produce exciting new achievements and opportunities for girls and women’s hockey. From women’s college hockey teams filling their arenas to a women’s professional hockey league in the U.S. (and Minnesota!) to a women’s hockey team winning an ESPY, it’s an incredible time to be a girls’/women’s hockey player or fan.
However, there are also areas and opportunities to continue to strengthen the sport. One of those opportunities is increasing the number of female coaches involved in youth hockey.
Many youth hockey associations wish they had more female coaches but aren’t sure how to accomplish that goal or even how to start pursuing it.
The good news, according to leading researcher on the topic and co-director of the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport Nicole LaVoi, is it’s not as difficult of an endeavor as it’s perceived to be. Here are five strategies to increase the number of females coaching in your community, based on LaVoi’s research.
1. Ask or Invite Women to Coach
The first and most critical mistake most organizations make is failing to ask women to coach. Oftentimes coaching searches default to asking dads when there may be a few moms with (or without) hockey experience interested in coaching.
2. Get Girls Involved Early
One of the barriers to getting more female coaches in hockey are the responsibilities women have as a mom, even though dads may be capable of fulfilling some of those roles. A key to reducing this barrier is getting girls involved in coaching early on. Whether it’s serving as a student coach, mentoring young girls while in high school or getting young women into coaching before they start a family, women who have a better understanding of and more confidence in how coaching fits into their daily life before having kids are more likely to be willing to coach once they become a mom.
3. Provide a Support System
Individuals who are the minority in groups can often feel like they have less support or are left out of the group. Providing female coaches with opportunities to participate in women-only coach training sessions, mentorship programs or women’s coach meetings can help alleviate potential intimidation and ensure they feel valued.
As one mother put it, “just seeing other women doing it can make you feel more confident.”
4. Make It Easy
One of the other barriers, like with any potential coach, is the time commitment. Finding creative ways to manage the time commitment such as co-coaching, having more assistant coaches or running shared practices in which the head coaches alternate or share practice planning duties can all make coaching more enjoyable and less stressful.
5. Emphasize Importance of Female Role Models
Moms know how important it is to be a good role model for their kids. The same holds true for kids seeing positive female role models in public.
“For the kids, coaching really creates awareness that women can be in positions of authority and be successful. It’s probably a nice thing to see a mother in a leadership position,” said one mom.
Many youth hockey associations already employ some of these strategies to varying degrees for their coaches as a whole. Taking those efforts one step further and applying them with the purpose of targeting females significantly increases the likelihood more moms will be willing to pick up a whistle in coming seasons.