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Give Them a Chance

By Winny Brodt-Brown, 11/24/15, 10:45PM CST


Seeing the girl inside the lady behind the bench


Creation No. 0009

When I got the call to write the very first article for The Ponytail Society, I’ll admit I was a bit hesitant. While I was excited to publish the first piece on a hockey blog written exclusively for women by women, I wondered what I could possibly have to say that would make a difference. I’m just a girl from Roseville who played hockey because she loved the game. Then I realized, maybe that’s the point.

I’ve watched girls’ and women’s hockey change a lot throughout the years. Most of that change has been for the better. In fact, when I played for the National team in 1996, most of the players on our team were still playing with the boys because there were no girls’ teams available to them. And when girls’ high school hockey finally did arrive, very few players had a lot of experience on the ice. Clearly the level of play has steadily increased since then, and the growth of the girls’ game has been staggering. 

But one thing hasn’t changed much. There seems to be a double standard that exists between male and female hockey coaches, and I find that troubling. In my opinion, this is one of the contributing factors for the low numbers of young women signing up to become coaches themselves.

It’s no secret that the percentage of female hockey coaches is significantly less than the percentage of female hockey players in our game today. (Editor’s Note: 13% of players registered with USA Hockey for the 2014-15 season were female compared to just 4% of coaches who were women.) I believe one reason for this is a double standard that exists, along with what seems to be prejudice against female coaches.  At face value, many parents buy in to the general idea of having a female coach.  It makes sense on paper to have a former female player coach their daughters. They like the idea of a woman as a role model and someone who can relate to their girls.

But reality is different from what we see on paper. Time and time again I’ve watched female coaches, many of them my friends, be pushed out of the game by those same parents who originally liked the idea of a female coach. These women are more likely to be doubted, second-guessed, and even bullied at times. Too often there is a rush to judgment, and these women are run right out of town by frustrated and overzealous parents.

Wnny Brodt-Brown

This is a real shame because I firmly believe if girls have a female role model early on, they will stay in the game longer. When a young girl sees a woman in an important position like a coach, she learns that becoming a coach is an option for her later in life, and she may want to aspire to it.

Personally I was lucky to have had a mentor in former University of Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson. I was able to see a female coach firsthand. I saw some of the things she went through and realized that it wasn’t easy. I look back to a pioneer like Halldorson, and it’s easy to see the impact she had on the young women she coached because many of her former players are currently coaches themselves.

The reality is, there aren’t a lot of options for girls to continue playing after high school or college, depending on their ability. They do have the choice to become a coach or a referee. A few of them may be good enough to play on an elite team and/or get paid by one of the professional women’s teams. However, those options are new and still a far cry from what is available to the men.  I would love to see coaching become a more viable and attractive option for these young women after their playing days are over. It’s a great way for them to stay in hockey and give back to the game. With each successful female coach we get into the game today, we make it easier for the female coaches of tomorrow to follow in her footsteps.

It’s a generally understood fact that girls need to be coached differently than boys, so really it’s not such a stretch to realize we need to treat our female coaches differently, too. I write today asking for respect and patience for these trailblazing women coaches and all the things they do to pave the way for those who will come after them. They have unique challenges because they don’t fit the mold of the typical male coach. Yet they care about their players and pour their hearts and souls into their work.  The good ones are focused on developing young minds and bodies and helping their players grow both on and off the ice.  Give them a chance to make a difference.

When you come across a female coach, I’d just ask you to treat her the same way you’d want your own daughter to be treated. Because if we don’t start seeing the little girl inside that lady behind the bench, I’m afraid the women who do try coaching won’t last long, and new girls won’t ever even give it a shot. 

About the Author

If Minnesota had a Mt. Rushmore for women’s hockey, you’d find Winny Brodt-Brown’s smiling face chiseled into it. Winny was a high school state champion for Roseville in 1996, winning the inaugural Ms. Hockey award. She’s played for the National team and won two NCAA national championships. After her college career, Winny helped build OS Hockey Training, the Upper Midwest Elite League, and the Minnesota Whitecaps. These programs have helped raise the level of girls’ and women’s hockey throughout the state.  

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