African American women have been at the forefront of women’s college basketball since its inception. Despite that, we don’t get a chance to see that highlighted when it comes to African American women as head coaches.
A study done by Richard Lapchick for Diversity and Ethics in Sports showed 11.4% of head coaches in women’s college basketball were African American women back in the 2016-2017 season. That is only 37 of the 315 head coaches (at the time of the study).
This brings up a fundamental question: where are the black coaches?
“They are not getting very many opportunities and it’s not usual for an African American woman to get a second chance let alone a first,” Lapchick detailed to USA Today. “Too often what’s happened with African American head coaches is if they aren’t successful in the first two or three years they get a shorter period to (succeed) in. It’s problematic for sure.”
Fortunately, we were able to see some hires of African American women in the coaching ranks.
- Tina Thompson – University of Virginia
- Velaida Harris – Weber State University
- Alex Simmons – Gardner-Webb University
- Tasha Pointer – University of Illinois at Chicago
- Audra Smith – South Carolina State University
- Marisa Moseley – Boston University
- Yolett McPhee-McCuin – Ole Miss
- Ravon Justice – Sam Houston State University
- Tomeika Reed – Jackson State University
- Sandy Pugh – Prairie View A&M University
Of the African American women who were hired to start the season, only Audra Smith, Sandy Pugh, and Yolett McPhee McCuin have prior head coaching experience. Although the rest of the coaches will have first years as head coaches, this is still a move in the right direction. First chances might be considered as important as second chances.
At the same time, it remains an arduous task for African American women to become a head coach. There are still certain barriers they must get around to get those positions.
“Black women in coaching positions are held to higher standards – especially because there are so few opportunities,” noted Dawn Staley noted in The Players’ Tribune. Staley is the head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks. “There are stereotypes we have to navigate – like being the angry black woman – even on the sidelines.”
Last season, Staley was one of the six African American women who were head coaches in the NCAA Tournament.
Staley has become one of the most successful head coaches in the women’s basketball pantheons. Since becoming the head coach at South Carolina, the Gamecocks have compiled a record of 250-87 with four consecutive SEC championships and a national championship. Prior to her stint with the Gamecocks, Staley was the head coach at Temple. The Owls were 172-80 under Staley, with four Atlantic-10 championships and six berths in the NCAA Tournament.
Nonetheless, Staley knows what she represents with the wins and losses.
“I’m very aware of what my success represents,” Staley declared in The Players’ Tribune. “I’m also very aware of what my failures would represent.”
That’s a pressure the majority of the coaches in the country don’t have to deal with.
Dawn Staley and the other African American coaches know they can reach new heights with how they lead the young women of their programs. After all, many of these women can relate to what it’s like to be a young basketball player in college. The molding of these players rest in the hands of these coaches.
Growing the players as people and talent should be priority one, but they must also be able to navigate through muddy waters and achieve great success, as the room for error is thin. The same benefit given to other coaches, as the numbers suggest, aren’t extended to African American women coaches.
Carolyn Peck is a coaching disciple of the late Pat Summitt. After spending two seasons as an assistant coach at Tennessee and one year as an assistant coach at Kentucky, Peck moved on to Purdue. Following one year as an assistant coach, she became the head coach in 1997. Going 28-1, the Boilermakers won the national championship in 1999. Peck would become the first African American women to coach a Division 1 national championship team. In addition, she won all the major Coach of the Year awards.
C. Vivian Stringer is the most prominent example of consistency from African American women overseeing a program. Stringer has been a head coach for 41 seasons at three different schools (Cheyney, Iowa, Rutgers). She has amassed over 1,000 wins in her coaching career. She has led all three schools to the Final Four during her stints there.
Furthermore, Stringer has been able to earn numerous accolades during her tenure as a head coach. She is first African American Division I coach (men’s or women’s) to reach 1,000 wins. She has made 25 NCAA Tournament appearances with nine NCAA Tournament Regional championships. The Hall of Fame coach is the true model of excellence for aspiring African American women head coaches.
There are numerous examples of African American women head coaches who are changing how schools view these women in the profession. Although this may be true, there is still the thought of making it better.
“How do we get more black people – especially women – in head coaching positions? How can our sport reflect back to young black girls what they see in the mirror? What their own hopes for success may look like?” Coach Staley asked in The Players’ Tribune.
Provided that these women get the first chance, you will begin to see how well they thrive in those positions.
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