The Huddle: My Top Five Takeaways

written by Erica Quam

This month, I had the opportunity to attend an event called, The Huddle, in Kansas City, Missouri. This was the fourth national annual conference for The Alliance of Women Coaches. The conference featured an amazing lineup of speakers - all of whom provided relevant information to an eager-to-soak-it-all-up crowd of women coaches. The conference is open to all women coaches of all sports and all levels. Executive Director of the Alliance - Marlene Bjornsrud - and her incredible staff executed a highly successful event.

Here are my top 5 takeaways:

1. Remember the coaches & people who have influenced you as a coach

Renee Brown - Chief of Basketball Operations & Player Relations of the WNBA- shared her “coaching family tree”.  She had us take the time to do the same. Take time to acknowledge the people in your life who planted the seed for you and encouraged you to get into the coaching profession. Reflect on what about that person contributes to your current success as a coach. This was a powerful exercise and a reminder that none of us got to where we are today by ourselves. 

2. Your actions and your words are powerful

Your actions and your words are powerful - both for your athletes and for yourself. Renee talked about players need consistency from you - when things are going well and especially when things are hard. 

NACWAA CEO, Patti Phillips talked about being intentional about what you say - especially what you say to yourself. "Keeping your self talk positive can change your life overnight."

3. Creating a positive team culture and having fun are important

We watched the ESPNW documentary, The 99'ers produced by Julie Foudy and then got to hear from her via Skype. Julie talked about how she and her teammates reached out and encouraged the current Women's Soccer World Championship Team.

Julie's motto to create this positive team culture are: 1) never be bigger than the game 2) never be bigger than the team 3) be fiercely competitive 4) have a ball.

We started day two by playing games with Blair Bloomston, Vice President, game on Nation. She set some simple ground rules to create a safe environment and kept us laughing and having fun for 90-minutes! Having fun and laughing is definitely a great way to stay inspired!

4. There is a war on women in coaching right now

There is a war on women in coaching. We can all play a role in taking steps to fight this battle. There is gender bias in how women are hired, fired, and treated in the workplace. There needs to be more discussion to create an awareness about this.

Dr. Nicole LaVoi, Associate Director, Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport shared the latest research showing the number of women in coaching is in serious decline. It is up to us all to do more. 

We heard directly from two courageous coaches who have been wrongfully fired this past year: Tracey Griesbaum, former Head Field Hockey Coach at Univ. of Iowa and Shannon Miller, former Head Ice Hockey Coach at Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth. 

Having two lawyers share more about Title IX law was invaluable. Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Advocate, Olympian, and CEO, Champion Women and Kristen Galles, Title IX Attorney are working together collaboratively and making a difference in the lives and careers of female coaches and women in sports.

The Women's Sports Foundation is developing a plan of action to have resources in place for coaches to call to ask about gender bias. They are also funding an important survey that we all need to take the time to complete AND forward to any coaches we know - currently coaching or retired. This research will be incredibly important to continue to build awareness on women in coaching.

5. We are stronger together

One of the themes from the Huddle was #StrongerTogether. We split up into groups to come up with ideas of how we each can do more for women coaches. Then, we came up with one action step to take and how we would hold ourselves accountable to that and follow through.

No matter where you are this can be a powerful exercise for groups of women coaches - both big and small - to come up with ways to support one another.

We are powerful when we combine our ideas and our actions in unison for a similar cause. That is how change will happen.

What is one action that you can take to do more for women coaches? Share that action below.