Homophobia in Women’s Intercollegiate Basketball: Views of Women Coaches Regarding Coaching Careers and Recruitment of Athletes

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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This is an examination of how homophobia and the lesbian label impact the professional careers of women basketball coaches at Division I universities. In-depth telephone interviews were conducted with 10 women who were head coaches of women’s intercollegiate basketball programs. Two areas in particular were explored in this 75-minute interview: (1) coaching careers, and (2) recruitment of athletes. Relative to coaching careers, coaches discussed how the homophobia in women’s sport narrowed career choices for women and impacted decisions related to the hiring of both head and assistant coaches. The lesbian label also was a concern in terms of the image projected by a basketball program. Secondly, coaches discussed how various aspects of the recruitment process were influenced by the lesbian label. Inquiries by prospective student-athletes, parents, and high school coaches about lesbians on a coaching staff or team were common. The practice of using insinuations about the presence of lesbians on rival teams was mentioned as a frequent negative recruitment technique. Concerns relative to lesbian issues also were identified as being influential in the recruitment decisions of some coaches. In general, most coaches preferred to discuss how lesbian issues impacted other coaches rather than relay accounts of their own experiences in coaching. Fear, silence, denial, and the apologetic were noted to underlie many of the responses provided by coaches.

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