AVCA Executive Director speaks to Tech student-athletes about gender roles

AVCA Executive Director speaks to Tech student-athletes about gender roles

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Gender equality seems to be something of the past, but is it really?

This is the topic that Kathleen DeBoer, Executive Director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association, discussed on Monday evening in the latest session of the Dr. M. Dianne Murphy Leaders for Life Program.

DeBoer, a 23-year coach and administrator in college athletics, a former professional basketball player, and one of the nation's top speakers on gender roles and impact in competition, captured the audience with her humor, her personal experiences, and her completely true and relatable statements about the way men and women deal with competition.

Gender roles are visible in the work place, home, and athletics; how one addresses the roles is what makes the difference.

DeBoer opened with a story about a time she watched her nephew compete at a basketball camp, and how a whistle is an analogy for power. When a man is being told what to do via whistle, they listen and try to figure out how to have the whistle, and when they get the whistle, how are they going to use it. Whereas if a whistle is used on female athletes, they ask if the whistle is necessary, they ask if the person who has the whistle is deserving of it, and then if they get the whistle, should they use it. This analogy opened up the idea that when put in the same situation, men and women think differently, proving that coaching them the same way will not work.

DeBoer then asked the question, “How do you feel about the whistle (power)?

This question was the first of four she used to help the student-athletes assess their current gender roles tendencies based on a bell curve. How you feel about the whistle (power) impacts your desire to lead.

The second thing she talked about was the difference between men and women’s self-confidence. Coaches who lead men’s teams always have to tell players they are not as invincible as they think they are, while coaches of women’s team are always having to tell players they are better than they see themselves. DeBoer then asked the student-athletes to rank their self-confidence levels for the second part of the assessment.

Thirdly, DeBoer asked, “Is there still a difference in how society views males and females in leadership positions?” and the student-athletes unanimously voted “yes.”

This led to her asking the student-athletes how aware they were of the bias and if they could identify it, what would they do about it, for the third part of the assessment.

The fourth and final question of the assessment was, as a female, what is your reaction to the ‘manliness’ charge? By this she meant, being called bossy, or pushy, and trying to get ahead.

While DeBoer said there is no right or wrong answer to the assessment, it served as a view point for the student-athletes who will be dealing with gender roles in different capacities as they exit college and move into the work force and the real world.

DeBoer ended her talk with this, saying, “If you are completely unaware of gender-based responses, you don’t see them, and you won’t know how to deal with them.” Giving the female student-athletes a charge to be aware of how situations are being handled, and not be afraid to take action on them.

Dr. M. Dianne Murphy Leaders for Life Program

Each semester, Tennessee Tech University Athletics hosts an event as part of the Dr. M. Dianne Murphy Leaders for Life program, inviting distinguished guests to speak to all TTU female student-athletes, along with faculty and community members, on the role of successful women in athletics. The establishment of this lecture series has been made possible by a generous gift to Tennessee Tech Athletics by one of our alumni, Dr. M. Dianne Murphy, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Physical Education at Columbia University in New York City.

Recent speakers in the Leaders for Life Program:

Spring  2011  / Dr. M. Dianne Murphy
Spring  2011  / Dr. Lanise Rosemond
Fall  2011  / Beth DeBauche
Spring  2012  / Natalie Ivey and Kristen Schabert
Fall  2012  / Pam Kilday
Spring  2013  / Donna Lopiano
Fall 2013  / Joetta Clark Diggs
Spring 2014 / Kathleen DeBoer