The Patriarchy of Women’s Sports

The gap may be shrinking, but it’s no secret that men still predominantly coach women’s sports. At Marist College, there are 11 official women’s athletics teams, nine of which are coached by men. All of these coaches have experience in their respective sports, but so do plenty of women, who clearly aren’t in the same amount of coaching positions as men.

Among the male coaches of women’s sports at Marist, two of the most prominent are softball coach, Joe Ausanio, and the water polo coach, Chris Vidale. Ausanio is a former New York Yankee who has been around baseball for decades and started at Marist in 2009. Softball is a sport that has the most noticeable differences to its male counterpart. This would make one think that a woman would be more likely to coach, but that’s not the case at Marist. Meanwhile, Vidale is a former water polo player himself and has been the coach of the Red Foxes for four seasons. The rules of water polo are relatively the same for both men and women, but Vidale noted that there certainly are big differences in the style of play.

“The women’s game has always been more tactical and technical,” Vidale adds. “Moving to create, putting people in zones, and trying to pick them apart.” Vidale is very passionate about water polo as a whole and enjoys coaching the women. He feels that the women truly put in the extra bit of effort to understand the game and why they do what they do. Simply put by Vidale, “you just feel it more.”

Ausanio came to love softball in a different way. He became enamored with the ins and outs of softball through umpiring. His curiosity took over and he became what he described as, “a student of the game.”  There is a special place in Ausanio’s heart for softball separate from baseball. He noted the subtle, yet important differences between cutoffs and relays, steal coverages and bunting, that take place in softball are due to the smaller field size.

Both of these coaches love the men’s and women’s side of their respective sports in different ways, but this does not mean that they treat their athletes any different based on gender. When asked if they were to coach men instead of women both were adamant about the fact that they wouldn’t change based on who is in front of them. Ausanio coaches under the golden rule stating, “I would treat everybody the same. I always wanted to coach and manage the way that I wanted to be managed.” Vidale similarly boiled it down to respect on all levels, regardless of gender. They feel no awkwardness between themselves and their athletes, and simply love to coach.

Both Ausanio and Vidale are optimistic about the future of women coaching men. Ausanio noted Becky Hammon, an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, as a pioneer for women coaching men, while Vidale brought up Cassie Wyckoff (W&J) and Colleen Lischwe (McKendree) as two women who are the head coaches of college water polo teams. They feel that the strength of the coach is what matters the most, and if both the players and coaches themselves can get past the hurdle that is gender, it really shouldn’t matter. Vidale stated that he experienced it first hand when he first arrived after a female coach had left. “They didn’t want to hear me…they were like this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Vidale explains. Yet today he has earned the respect of all of his athletes.

Ausanio and Vidale both feel that at the end of the day, who’s coaching who should come down to the quality and not the gender of a coach. It just takes the right woman or man, with the perfect amount of passion, knowledge, and ability to garner respect, just as Ausanio and Vidale have done. If coaches are already aware of the way that women can grasp men’s sports just as well as men, then it’s only a matter of time before we see women heavily involved in men’s sports.

Edited by Amelia Nick and Bridget Reilly

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