There’s a great article out of the USA Today this week about the significant lack of female tennis coaches for female professional tennis players (and NCAA-level women’s tennis teams.) Despite the fact that both high-profile players Victoria Azarenka (ranked #1 in the world) and Taylor Townsend (winner of the 2012 Junior Australian Open) have female coaches, very few women coach the top female players. And those that do are usually related to them (see, e.g., Serena and Venus Williams’s parents, who are both listed as coaches.)
Bobby Chintapalli writes that there are likely a number of factors, but one of the primary ones is that coaching tennis is a demanding lifestyle, and that women with children are reluctant to take on the role.
[W]omen currently account for 30% of women’s tennis team coaches [in the NCAA.] Says Diane Elayne Dees, who writes about women’s tennis on her blog Women Who Serve: “I think sexism is at work here, in a much broader and deeper way than some might think. If men leave their families and travel for their work, they’re considered ‘good providers.’ If women do, they’re considered ‘bad mothers.’”
Another problem is a lack of demand amongst the female players: many female players state that they “want someone they can hit with” and that they think women can’t do that. Chintapalli spoke with retired Hall of Famer Natasha Zvereva via email, who said “I would prefer to have a male coach. Just like I would never go to female dentist if the choice was given.” So…a female tennis player said basically the most sexist thing ever. Great!
The article doesn’t really offer many solutions to this problem, and I certainly can’t, because I am very unfamiliar with the ins and outs of pro tennis. But surely awareness that it is an issue is a good first step.