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Diane Scavuzzo

You Are My “Giants”

SoccerToday takes great pleasure in welcoming Kristi Beckman as a new columnist with this refreshing and personal take on being a female in a still male-dominated soccer world.

Isaac Newton says, “If I have seen further … it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

In my coaching career, I have stood on the “shoulders of giants for years”. Those giants were always men: men who were brave enough and secure enough to elevate a woman.

These are interesting times for us all. I find myself defending men when your entire gender is called male chauvinists, or accused of being bullies. I smile sweetly and say, “Not my guys!” I’m smart, and I have surrounded myself with the best leaders and humans in the industry. You.

Both male and female coaches often reach a point during their career where they question, “Why do I coach?”

I coach because I believe with every fiber of my being that “success, like happiness, cannot be perused. It must ensue and only as a direct result of devoting one’s life to a greater cause or another person.” – Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor.

One of my strengths (and weaknesses) is that I’m incredibly communal and not transactional at all. I wanted the players that I have built raised, trained, and cared about for years to have the best environment to train and the biggest opportunity to get looks in college. So I pointed toward the best club in the area and said, “Go.”

I do not expect or want any transactional fee, this was the right direction.

And I’m thrilled for the kids and the clubs. But I didn’t find those kids walking down the street. I invested my time and energy in them and built them myself, and they and their families followed my advice because they respect me and because I’ve developed a connection with them.

I don’t want to be paid for that.

It’s my responsibility to lead these young men and help their families. And, if you have guys in your club who are paid to only “bring kids to your club,” you should fire them immediately. That’s not ok.

Another one of my strengths (and perceived weaknesses) is my ability to authentically connect with teenagers and show vulnerability. I am a damn good teacher because I’ve been blessed with the ability to transfer challenging ideas to teenagers. Thousands of students would agree.

I am a mom, and sometimes the guys need a mom. I am also super direct and sometimes the guys are willing to hear me because I’m not a threat to their maleness. I care a lot about their relationships with their mothers, girlfriends, and sisters and thus teach them how to treat women. And, I teach leadership and teamwork because it is that energy that connects us all.

More importantly, I can coach; here are just a few things former D1 college athletes are saying or have said about me in the past few years:

“I love her sessions more than any other coach I’ve ever trained with because she can really teach the game. “

“You are supposed to go to college and get better coaches than your high school coach. But that didn’t happen for me. At all.”

“She is the most creative, tactically brilliant coach I’ve ever met.”

“Because she’s willing to adjust, she out coaches the other coaches every day and teaches us how to think the game.”

“She’s everything to me. She’s my mom, dad, Coach, best friend. She’s the only person tough enough and soft enough to walk through hell with me. Willingly.”

John O’Sullivan, founder of the Changing Game Project says in his book, Every Moment Matters that “when asked to rate whether they <players> ‘really like’ or ‘really, really like’ their coach, female coaches outperform male coaches 82% to 73%.”

Jerry Lynch writes in his book, Win the Day that being your authentic self and leading with a loving, kind, caring, servant’s heart is critical to becoming a better coach; effective coaching leads to more successful, high performance, championship teams. That’s what we all want, right?

Tony DiCicco had this same connection with the women’s national team. Anson Dorrance has this same connection with the UNC women’s team. Countless, high-quality male coaches are able to connect with girls and women very well. No one ever questions their motives or ability.

In 2018, of the roughly 2,600 coaches employed by the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, and MLB, only 6 were women and none of them as a head coach.

That’s less than 1/4 of a percent.

Today, that number has risen to 28.

Historically, the percentage of men coaching women (in collegiate and higher athletics) was less than 10%. That’s changed over the years. Now men coaching women has risen to over 65%. Only 9 of 24 teams in the Women’s World Cup are coached by women so the men have shattered the gender bias in that regard.

But for women, gender bias is still exhausting.

There may only be 28 women on men’s coaching staffs in our professional sports today … and a similar percentage coaching men’s athletics in collegiate and high school age spors, but there are millions of girls who are greatly impacted every day by seeing them coach these male teams. Can you imagine how many young girls are receiving that impactful message daily?

One thing we can agree on is that most clubs in the US Youth Soccer have dozens and dozens of male coaches coaching boys’ soccer. Some are really talented, and others need to grow and develop and learn how to connect with kids.

One side note that I can share, having coached girls for years, I can promise you that coaching girls and girl parents will absolutely make all coaches connect better. They require their coaches to work on soft skills like communication, eye contact, belonging cues, vulnerability, and purpose.

You appeal to my servant’s heart and offer me girls coaching jobs while reminding me of the obvious. Girls deserve good coaches too. And, I whole heartedly agree. But if you are honest with yourselves, many guys see coaching girls as a downgrade instead of as an opportunity to grow and develop soft skills. Maybe directors of coaching should consider stretching their male coaches and forcing them to grow. The girls deserve good coaches and you have dozens of self-proclaimed quality male coaches already on staff.

For 27 years, my daily narrative has been different than my “Giants” I have tried to steer away from all “topics” female because I’m not a fighter or activist. My topics or “dissertations” during master coaching classes are soccer topics, never a female empowerment topic.

And you must know that I long to fit into any box.

But in my relentless obsession to find purpose and meaning in my own life combined with my inability to be anything other than my authentic self force me into a struggle daily with the signals the world gives me.

The post WHERE ARE THE WOMEN SOCCER COACHES … IT IS 2020 appeared first on SoccerToday.

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