The under-representation of Black females in NCAA Division I women's basketball head coaching positions

Date of Completion

January 2008


Black Studies|Women's Studies|Sociology, Social Structure and Development|Education, Higher|Recreation




The purpose of the current study was to examine factors that contribute to the under-representation of Black women in head coaching jobs and other leadership positions in Division I women's basketball. Data were collected through in-depth, semi-structured interviews involving Division I assistant basketball coaches that are also Black females. The qualitative method used was exploratory in nature and designed to gather information about the personal experiences of assistant coaches and their aspirations to ascend to positions of leadership in college athletics. ^ The current study sought to give voice to these marginalized women regarding the barriers they face and the supports they receive in college athletics. The personal experiences tapped in the interviews provided an examination of the intersectionality of sport with multiple social identities, an area of research that is lacking in the sport management literature. The data collected from the interviews elucidated four overarching themes: supports, barriers, intersecting identities in collegiate sport and strategies for change. The women discussed sources of support that made their work experiences positive and provided them with hope for the future. Mentorship, networking opportunities, the ability to self-express and positive hiring trends were all mentioned as sources of support. However, the women also revealed several barriers to their ascension to a leadership position in sport. Barriers included access discrimination, stereotypes and lack of consistent support systems. Many of the barriers they faced were tied up the intersecting identities of race, gender and sexuality that the Black women either possessed or discussed. Sexuality emerged as a pervasive barrier to women, both Black and White, as they try to move up the career ladder in collegiate sport. But sexuality quite possibly serves as a larger barrier to Black women, who are already discriminated on the basis of race and gender. Heterosexism served as a third discrimination. Not being married was enough to hurt their chances for a head coach position, the women reasoned. It did not matter if they were lesbians or not. Strategies for change recommended by the women included more talent identification, more developmental programs and more formal mentoring. ^