Two seniors minoring in coaching education used their personal experiences as women in sports to collaborate on a class project to help current and future coaches. In COED 4305 Contemporary Issues in Coaching with Dr. Ashley Allanson, assistant professor of instruction in Recreation and Sport Pedagogy, students were assigned to delve into a modern problem in the industry. Lacy Burke and Ashlyn Ohm were inspired to create a professional webinar to address how women are perceived in the athletic industry and how to empower women through sport.
Burke keeps herself busy with three majors and two minors. She is majoring in management information systems, business analytics, and business economics, and along with coaching education, she is minoring in economics.
From Albany, Ohio, Burke learned about management information systems from her parents. Her parents are both Ohio University alumni and work as computer programmers. Her mom works for Ohio University as well. Burke’s parents had an influential role in her college and career choice. Burke is also a Lead Peer Mentor in the Peer Mentorship program.
Burke, who played basketball and volleyball in high school, has always enjoyed playing sports. She found that when she arrived at college, she missed having a sense of team community. Burke agreed to help a friend coach a local club volleyball team.
“I really liked being with a team again,” Burke said. “I liked passing on what I knew and seeing their development as the season progressed.”
Burke’s personal passion for coaching led her to add the minor in coaching education. As an athlete as well as a coach, Burke has always been aware of the stereotypes surrounding female athletes.
“We see the side of it where women are so underrepresented in sports, and the double standards that come with it. The pay is different, the media coverage is different, the resources are different. There are preconceptions of who women are and how we should act, and that is totally different from how men are supposed to act in the same situation. So, coaching women versus men would obviously be very different. We focused on how to coach women and why coaching women is important and why it’s different and how it is important to realize those differences,” she said.
Her partner for Dr. Allanson’s project was Ashlyn Ohm. Ohm is from Huron, Ohio, and she is majoring in family and consumer science education and minoring in coaching education. She participates in the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and is the treasurer for The Patton College Student Ambassadors. She chose her area of study in The Patton College because she appreciates and acknowledges the important life skills that young learners need to develop, such as health, wellness, and financial management.
“I think that it is an important subject area for young learners to dive into so that they’re ready for life after high school,” Ohm said.
Ohm decided to pursue a minor in coaching education as an additional way to connect with the students she plans to teach in the future. As a former athlete, she is passionate about the way young people are impacted by their experiences in sports.
“In high school, my primary focus was cheerleading, and I loved my coaches. Throughout other experiences, I’ve had great coaches; I’ve had not so great coaches. So, I just always envisioned myself doing that and being the best that I can for kids, especially since I’ll already be in the school system. I feel like that’s a better way to connect with them,” Ohm said.
As a former cheerleader, Ohm witnessed firsthand the stigmatization of women athletes, specifically in her sport.
“When I was in high school, my first two years with cheerleading I was at the freshman and JV level. I had a great coach. I loved her a lot; she really reinforced that cheerleading isn’t just a ‘girl activity.’ She really emphasized conditioning and the athletic aspects of it,” Ohm said.
For the second half of her high school career, Ohm had a new cheerleading coach with different values. Her second coach was more concerned with the preconceived “girly” aspects of the sport, rather than the physical. This experience allowed Ohm to envision the type of cheerleading coach she would like to be.
“My focus is to really engage in the physical aspects of it and make it more respected. Especially since it is primarily female dominated, and I feel like a lot of times sports in general aren’t nice towards girls,” she said.
When asked how coaches can improve their approach with young women, Ohm responded, “I think just really engaging with the athletes on a personal level. For me, a lot of my education in the coaching program has mirrored my education through my degree. When it comes to women specifically, I think really educating male coaches and professionals on the experiences of young women, and to another level, the experiences of people of diverse backgrounds. Taking that into the funds of knowledge that they’re giving their athletes makes a world of a difference.”
Ohm is currently completing her teaching placement at Alexander Local Schools in Albany, Ohio, where she also serves as a mentor to the cheerleading team.
With similar opinions on how coaching should address young women, Burke and Ohm were passionate about discussing the topic as a coaching professional development seminar.
“We both have had tremendous experience, considering we’re both girls,” Ohm said. “Once we got started on it, we both really enjoyed what we were talking about. We learned a lot of different ways to empower women, especially through sport. We really learned a lot through the project, which inspired me personally.”
Burke and Ohm collaborated to combine their views on coaching young women into their seminar. They conducted data research on female athletes and coaches and compiled studies done by the NCAA and other universities. They also looked into measures already being taken to address the issue, which they have both experienced firsthand.
Their professor, Dr. Allanson, was impressed with their approach and accomplishments.
“I did not know what to expect in terms of topics, delivery, and/or format,” said Dr. Allanson. “I left it up to the students to be creative. What these two women produced left me in awe—the quality, the content, the passion, the purpose…just incredible.”
Both students hope that their research has an impact on the way young women are continued to be coached in sports.
“I hope that it encourages others to really think about those aspects. There’s lots of boys in those [coaching education] classes, and I don’t think any of them picture themselves coaching girls,” Ohm said. “So, I really hope that maybe with some boys in the program it strikes a chord with them, and I hope it encourages other women in the program to really reach for those goals of breaking boundaries.”
Burke, who still coaches volleyball, acknowledged that her coaching style has changed quite a bit since the project, and she has a stronger sense of her own values as a coach.
“‘Men battle to bond and women bond to battle’ is generally a true statement in athletic teams,” Burke said. “Women have to have that connection with their teammates to be able to work with them. It’s really important for a coach to build the foundations for that and make it a culture and a team environment where they can know each other, trust each other, and work well together. Coaches that have only coached men before wouldn’t know that or understand the importance of it. We really want to emphasize the whole team environment, and cohesiveness starts with the coach.”
Both Burke and Ohm will be graduating this spring. Burke plans on attending graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in data analytics. Ohm intends to move to Columbus to find employment in the education system.