“Don’t try to be the best female strength coach in the room, make it your goal to be the best strength coach in the room.”
Angie Brambley-Moyer, Director of Strength and Conditioning for Princeton University
I’m often asked what it’s like working in a male-dominated field. It was a female intern who asked me the first time, and I replied, “Uh…I don’t know…” because the thought had never crossed my mind. Sure, I worked every day in a weight room and had realized that most collegiate strength coach staffs are predominantly men but coaching has always just been coaching to me.
After reflecting on it more, I realize how I’ve been fortunate to work with men on two collegiate staffs who are supportive, who push themselves to be better coaches, never baby me or dismiss me, and treat one another with respect. However, I’ve had my fair share of challenges. Administrators have told me I’m stupid, men have told me the “professional way” to wear a ballcap (which is: ponytail through the hole, in case you were wondering), I’ve had male and female coaches challenge me, I’ve had colleagues express that they believed I got interviews or job opportunities because I’m a woman.
While athletes usually take to their coaches, the struggle in this field is usually with colleagues and administrators who have an old-school mentality. It’s frustrating to fight that prejudice but the only thing that has helped me to change someone’s mind is putting my best effort forward and building genuine relationships with the people I work with. We cannot change everyone’s opinion but hopefully, over time, the positive relationships will crowd out the negative.
More recently, I was working for the youth football camp (that’s hosted by our college football staff) and was put in charge of warming up the specialists/perimeter players before each session. After the first day of camp, one of the coaches came into the weight room to tell me that he and the other coaches were very impressed with how I commanded the group and they were “really surprised” with how great I started the session. I thanked him but told him that I was simply doing my job. I wasn’t trying to put on a show for anyone.
When I’m in a weight room, I’m there to coach and make the athletes stronger, faster, and help them to realize their potential both physically and mentally. Likewise, when I’m on the floor with my Kaia Girls, my job is to help them reach their goals and realize their potential both physically and mentally. No matter the athlete’s age or goals, they are people first and foremost. Brene Brown is one of my favorite authors/storytellers. She reminds us that we cannot put a value on everyone’s opinion of us; I find that if I do, then I overthink and stop growing by trying to please them all.
The (Wo)man in the arena: Teddy Roosevelt’s famous quote/speech about not worrying about spectators and judgment, only those who get down in the trenches with you can weigh in
Strive to be your best: Be the best coach, engineer, mechanic…whatever it is, don’t go into a room “armored up” because you feel better than or less than, rather, honor and own your craft by treating everyone as a person.
Find a mentor: we are fortunate to have many strong, incredible, and successful women who have helped pave the way; ask them about their struggles and find out more about what you can do to grow and how you can support the up-and-coming women in your field
Surround yourself with love and authenticity: find your tribe, embrace them, let them embrace you
Be strong, be patient: embrace the process and its challenges, victories, stand-stills, etc. by remembering how far you’ve come and that everything happens as it should.
Nicole Shattuck, is the Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Wofford College, she also writes workouts for us here at Kaia FIT. After years of personal and group training, Nicole decided to take on a new challenge of collegiate strength and conditioning. “I love coaching, I love strength training. It’s taught me patience, honesty, and helped me to realize my inner and outer strength.”