Revamping the Process for Hiring Coaches

March 13, 2019

Note: This is the second part of a series on Hiring Female Coaches within your athletic department.  The first article focused on the importance of having women well-represented on your coaching staff.

by Meg Seng

Even when we know that having both men and women coaching our student-athletes is important, many of us run up against constraints, not the least of which is time. Let’s go back to our approach for hiring head coaches. After posting the position and not getting many applicants, we turn to our own network for leads.

With good reason, we then often go with the first viable candidate that comes our way. However, if our network is limited to people like us, we probably won’t develop a diverse pool of applicants. To do so will require a little extra effort on our part.

We can learn a good deal from our diversity coordinators and their best practices for hiring. We need to consider our own implicit biases and actively work to counter them. If we are truly committed to hiring more female coaches, we need to start by identifying barriers and then work to remove them. A good first step is connecting your athletic department mission with the need to hire more women and making your commitment public. Make the case that hiring more women can lead to program excellence for educational athletics.

I also recommend having someone outside your department conduct an audit of your hiring protocols with an eye towards improving the process and expanding the pool of applicants. This could be a colleague at your school (a department chair, assistant principal, or program director) or a trusted colleague at another school. I have found that fellow administrators are usually willing to get out of their own buildings for a few hours and are interested in seeing how other programs function. Often, all it will cost you is an offer of a free lunch.

Specific hiring practices that tend to lead to more diverse candidate pools include:

• Advertising the position more widely

• Being more proactive in seeking out qualified female candidates

• Developing a network of potential candidates in advance of openings

• Pushing your administration to prioritize faculty coaches for teaching positions in your building or district.

And what about the role of hiring committees? Any committee you use must be a partner in the process. Make sure to have women on your search committee and relay to everyone your hiring procedures. Having more people reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates can counter bias, both real and perceived.

WIDER CIRCLE

Since we tend to hire people we know, it’s essential to have as wide web of connections as possible. Expanding your professional network sounds daunting, but it really isn’t all that difficult. Even small steps can go a long way toward uncovering more female candidates.

One strategy is to go to job fairs and contact local colleges and universities. Each year I attend the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology Career Fair, which keeps me in touch with the university faculty and allows me to see and interact with many soon-to-be graduates. I also contact college coaches directly to ask about their senior athletes or recent graduates. I have found that there is nothing like one-on-one personal contact to get potential applicants interested in a job.

To develop a broader female coach network, consider building relationships with local sport organizations and coaches associations. For example, reach out to the presidents or directors of your state’s coaches organizations in girls’ sports. Consider calling successful female coaches in your area and inquiring about their assistant coaches and their alumnae.

In Ann Arbor, we are lucky to have several universities nearby. I have had great success reaching out to college coaches and asking about athletes who may still be working towards a degree but who have completed their eligibility. For example, we hired a former college softball player who was a three-sport athlete in high school to coach one of our basketball teams. She was confident, knowledgeable about the sport, and a wonderful role model for our athletes.

Further, you can find ways to bring more women to your school by hosting contests, clinics, camps, or similar events for females. Getting potential candidates onto your campus can make your school feel more welcoming and attractive to female candidates. If your school has great curb appeal or a terrific sport culture, then by all means use that as a recruitment tool! This is an ongoing process and creating an inviting and comfortable place for potential candidates is always a good practice.

Don’t forget to let your colleagues at other nearby schools serve as a source of potential female coaches. When you have a specific opening, they may have ideas from their own circle. Maybe they have an assistant coach ready for a head position or candidates who were second choices for a recent hire they made. While there may be some hesitation to share potential candidates with the competition, ultimately we are all in this together—to help our student-athletes be the best they can be. I have had luck finding sub-varsity or middle school coaches in this way.

I would also suggest having a solid mentoring program in place to recruit rising stars. This ensures a line of succession for coach openings. I always encourage my veteran coaches to have a plan in place for their departure. Tell them this is a part of their legacy and a gift to their program. Support the mentor-protégé relationship whenever possible. 

GRASSROOTS GAIN

Reaching out to a wider circle is a critical step, but an even more powerful idea involves creating a bigger pool of female candidates! In Michigan, The Academy for Sport Leadership (TASL) is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a career pathway to coaching for young women. This grassroots organization aims to champion, educate, and attract young women to the coaching profession. Our vision is to move women’s sports to the next level by recruiting and training a new generation of outstanding female coaches.

With the help of high school athletic administrators throughout Michigan, each year we recruit high school girls to our flagship program, the Future Coaches Camp. This four-day residential camp combines coaching education, networking, mentoring, team building, and leadership training specifically for girls. The curriculum is both challenging and inspirational and serves as an excellent first step on the path to a career in coaching. The volunteer female faculty includes athletic administrators, college coaches and professors, high school coaches, doctors, athletic trainers, and other female professionals.

TASL also offers other educational programs, internships, mentoring, and advocacy. We’ve had good success with this grassroots organization and we believe this is a model that can be replicated anywhere. You might be pleasantly surprised by the willingness of professional women in your area to educate or mentor young girls.

If this seems too ambitious a project for you right now, you might consider simply asking your current female coaches to develop their own coaching tree. They can reach out to former athletes or ask their current athletes to sponsor a skills clinic at the middle school or youth level. Planting the seeds now will reap benefits in the future and your student-athletes will know that you support them in their endeavors.

 

Meg Seng, CMAA, is Athletic Director at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, Mich. She served as President of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA) in 2013-14 and was honored with the Michigan High School Athletic Association Women in Sports Leadership Award in 2018 and the MIAAA’s Jack Johnson Distinguished Service Award in 2012. In 2001, she co-founded the Academy of Sports Leadership, which provides education and training for young women interested in becoming coaches. She can be reached at: mseng@greenhillsschool.org.

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