Nearly 50 years ago, a federal civil rights bill – now known as Title IX – was signed into law as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. Also known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, the law stated:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
It was a revolutionary moment in U.S. history, as it made clear the need to give female students of all ages an equal opportunity to not only participate, but excel in athletics. Today, women’s sports continue to evolve, and much of this evolution is thanks to the selfless dedication of coaches.
When Nancy Lieberman began her high school sports career, Title IX had just recently been enacted. This proved to be very beneficial for Lieberman, as she went on to excel as one of the greatest college athletes of all time, a star WNBA player, and now, an extremely accomplished coach.
Lieberman, who has years of coaching experience in the WNBA – along with stints in the NBA, G League, and the newly established BIG3 where she’s the head coach of the Power – offered the following tips when it comes to coaching female athletes:
Skills and athleticism can only get athletes so far. For this reason, it’s crucial for coaches to help promote confidence in their players.
“Confidence is very important to instill in young girls,” Lieberman says. “It’s a huge quality that makes female athletes excel, both in and outside of their sport.”
Whether it’s constant positive affirmation, smart goal-setting or other psychological techniques, experiment with different ways of support to help your athletes build resilience and succeed.
2. Teamwork and leadership
While it’s beneficial to inspire players to focus on their self-growth, Lieberman thinks it’s equally as important to encourage values such as teamwork and leadership.
“For female athletes sports builds leadership and teaches girls how to work together as a team,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional or amateur, it’s important for them to believe in not only themselves, but also their teammates in order to achieve greatness, which every young girl should strive for.”
As our society continues to progress socially and push for equality, coaches should do their best to be role models and mentors for their female players.
Lieberman finds it especially important to inform the next generation of women of relevant statistics, recent laws and more. This could include talking about the low percentage of female CEOs in comparison to men, and how we’re pushing for continued growth. She also reiterated details of the Equal Pay Act and disappointing wage differences that have been statistically documented between women, people of color, and their peers.
In addition to mentoring their athletes, coaches should also encourage them to someday inspire the next generation.
“They need to know that it’s OK for them to be strong, confident, healthy female role models,” Lieberman says.
4. Continued participation
Although participation in athletics has dramatically increased since Title IX was established, many women still see sports as something they simply want to try out or experiment with. This is why Lieberman recommends talking with players about continuing their athletic careers, as the benefits can be lifelong.
“Peer pressure is very difficult for girls of all ages,” she says. “Being an athlete can help offset that by encouraging them to participate in sports and healthy active lifestyle.”
Added Lieberman: “Studies have shown that high school female athletes have more of a positive body image than non-athletes.”
BSN SPORTS Women
At BSN SPORTS, we realized there was a clear need to elevate women’s sports at all levels – from providing more support to coaches of female athletes, to connecting women working in the sports industry. Because of this, we’ve made it a priority to uplift and empower women in sports through our key partnerships, programs and content.
Learn more about our other women’s sports initiatives here.