When women’s hockey was first introduced to the Winter Olympics in 1998, the U.S. took home gold. Canada’s team has won every gold medal since. The rivalry between the two teams is well-documented and, much like any major NFL rivalry, fights on the ice aren’t uncommon. A match between the two teams in late December turned into a brawl. After the “melee,” the referees handed out 10 fighting majors and infractions. Jayna Hefford, who has played for Team Canada since the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, says it is one of the best rivalries in sport because the two teams push each other to get better.
“It’s intense, and it’s the games you want to play in as an athlete,” she says. “I think, as a fan, those are the games that people love to watch, so it’s the best game to be in for sure.” Four years ago in Vancouver, Canada and the US dominated the rest of the field by such a large margin (86-4) that the International Olympic Committee was actually considering dropping women’s hockey from the program.
But while the rivalry between the hockey women of Canada and the US has taken center stage this Winter Olympics, believe it or not, this will be the first time the U.S. women’s team is actually coached by a woman. Team USA coach Katey Stone has coached 19 seasons at Harvard and is the all-time wins leader in women’s college hockey with 402 victories. And Coach Stone isn’t just the first woman to coach the US team, she’s the only female coach in their entire tournament. “I wish I wasn’t the only female coach in the tournament but that’s the way it is. I hope that I’m not the last because this is an incredible opportunity.” said Coach Stone.
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, in 1972 just 1 in 27 girls participated in high school sports; today, roughly two in five do. And the number of women playing at the college level since the passing of Title IX has skyrocketed by more than 600%. With so many more girls and young women spending years, or even decades, involved in sports it begs the question—where are all the female coaches?
A survey of NCAA schools by two Brooklyn College researchers found that while women coached more than 90% of women’s teams in 1972, today that number has dropped to about 43%. One theory is that as the salary for being coach of a women’s high school team raised, assistant coaches on the men’s team decided to take the head coach role of the girls’ teams. Obviously Coach Stone is coaching at an incredibly high level for her day job, and has now entered the Olympic arena as well. But why are there so few female coaches working in the “big” leagues?
Some coaches have become legends in the sports world, with reputations almost as big as their star players. And while there have been a few unstoppable female coaches, such as Pat Summitt, head coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball, the number of female coaches who coach college and professional teams doesn’t even compare to the number of men in head coach roles. According to University of Minnesota, it is estimated that less than 20% of youth sport coaches are female. Even at the levels where coaches are mostly parent-volunteers, it seems that men are more likely to be carrying the clipboard.