Coaches Academy Earns High Marks

By Staff

Coaching Management, 12.11, November 2004,

LaTaya Hilliard-Gray had been thinking about going back to school for a graduate degree. Lately though, she’s decided to stick with coaching. For one thing, her Winston-Salem State University Rams have found consistency and improvement. Another reason is her involvement in the second annual Women Coaches Academy.

"If you ever have a chance to attend this academy, do it," Hilliard-Gray says. "It changes your whole view of things. When anyone asks me what I got out of it, I tell them it inspired me and gave me more motivation. It also gave me an adviser, and a mentor."

The Women Coaches Academy is put on by the National Association for Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators (NACWAA) with a grant from the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics. Twenty-four coaches took part June 3-7 at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, and 19 were at the University of Denver June 19-23. Attendees came from all NCAA divisions, sports, and career stages—from two years in the field to 22.

The academy’s ultimate mission is to raise the number of women coaching. "Our goal is to motivate, and there are three things we try to do," says Celia Slater, Executive Director of the academy and Special Projects Coordinator at NACWAA. "First is to provide women with a skill base that will help them in their day-to-day challenges, from teaching methods to communicating with their athletic director, student-athletes, and staff. We’re trying to give them a relevant skill base that goes beyond X’s and O’s.

"Number two is to provide them with an opportunity to create a network with other women in athletics whom they can call on for support," Slater continues. "Many women feel isolated in athletic departments. Often, they’re the only woman in the department. We want to build a network of women who’ve been to the academy, and link them to the women who are pioneers in the field. The third thing is to inspire them and help them see their value in the world of women’s athletics."

Among the provocative class titles at this year’s academy in Wilmington were "Change is Good—You Go First, Mary," "How to Coach Yourself in a Losing Season," "Networking and Internal Politics," and "Title IX: Facts and Friction about Gender Equity." Other topics included public speaking skills, communication strategies, diversity, ethics, and methods of motivating.

Learning better ways to communicate with her supervisor, staff, and student-athletes was the greatest take-home lesson for Hilliard-Gray. "Today’s student-athletes are different from when I was playing," she says. "I realized I have to let them know that I’m here for them no matter what, as a friend, as a coach, as a mentor."

Since returning from the academy, Hilliard-Gray has kept in touch with coaches she met, talking about common concerns, both in their sports and out. In fact, they’ve pledged to raise money to help pay for at least one other coach to attend next year’s academy.

Plans for 2005 are in flux, largely because NACWAA isn’t sure how large the NCAA grant and other funding sources will be, Slater says. Many attendees receive financial support from their institutions, and some Division III schools use NCAA coaches’ scholarship funds as well. This year’s costs were $1,400 per coach, but that’s subject to change, and the entire program could look quite different next year. NACWAA is also talking to other organizations about creating a similar program for high school coaches, Slater says.

Details and applications are expected to be available by the end of 2004 on the academy’s Web site: