Women left out of coaching jobs » Manila Bulletin Sports

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By Ding Marcelo

Tisha Abundo is not looking for a job. (Well, so what if she is?)  What she is really after are job openings for women like her — women skilled at what they do, possessing vast experience as well as people skills, and high-functioning even in tight situations.

What we’re talking about here are head coaching jobs for women in women’s teams. (But again, so what if it’s for men’s teams?) Sports for women have expanded dramatically over the years, but there has been no significant bump — not even a minor nudge, to be accurate about it — in coaching jobs for the female species.

The most obvious disparity is in local women’s volleyball. This segment of women’s sports has grown by leaps and bounds, with more teams participating now and more leagues formed, pushing the sport to a level almost as popular as basketball. Yet, only one woman holds a head-coaching job, over at Adamson University, and she’s an American.

The inequality in male and female coaching positions is, to say the least, dispiriting, especially because we know there are 12 women’s volleyball teams in the NCAA, 10 in the UAAP, 8 each in the professional leagues Philippine Superliga and Premier Volleyball League, and many more in the less-known college and high-school tournaments.

Against this backdrop, we’ve had countless women chief operating officers, women managers, women producers, women publishers—yet we’re nearly zero for women head coaches of women’s sports teams.

“Sports is a very male-dominated segment of society,” said Abundo, 68, whose glittering resumé includes being skipper of a UAAP women’s volleyball team, member of several national teams to the Asian Games and World University Games (Universiade), first woman commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission, founder of a sports league (NCRAA), and other impressive posts too long to enumerate. Incidentally, she is a former top-notch model for Karilagan. (Now, how many men can straddle both sports and fashion?)

Only thing missing from her resumé is head volleyball coach.

“I don’t know why no offers came,” she says calmly, “but, you know, there are many women like me who are just waiting for the knock on the door.” They all still wait for that knock, she says, but, just nothing. “We have not been given any opportunity to show what we can do.”

Asked why, she blames Filipino culture—a culture that deep down still sees women as weak and submissive, the same culture that looks at men as decisive and authoritative. This kind of thinking exists on many levels of Philippine society, she observes, but is more pronounced in sports.

 “Women,” says Abundo, “are also perceived to lack an intimidating presence.” She asks: “But how can they know what we can do if there is no opportunity for us to do our thing?”

Indeed, for women, even clear successes have failed to create coaching opportunities.

Take Vilet de Leon. She is the first woman to coach a major women’s volleyball team. And as coach of Foton, she led the team to the championship of the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix in 2015, a top-level professional competition in the country. Surprisingly, her feat never opened doors for more women to coach volleyball teams. What followed is even more dispiriting: She lost her coaching job at Foton last year, despite handing the team a championship, and is now in the market for another gig.

This leaves Airess Padda, an American, the only female coach of a major volleyball team. She will retain her job despite a less-than-stellar performance as coach of Adamson University in the UAAP, where she compiled a 1-13 win-loss record last season.

Abundo believes our local women coaches should be given opportunities to do what they do best — coach a team in whatever sport — similar to what women coaches in other countries like the US get. For example, in Women’s NBA, of 12 teams currently competing, 5 teams have women coaches. In the Philippines, there is no woman basketball coach in any league, major or minor.

Indeed, if we can have, in our republic, women presidents and women vice presidents, women lawmakers and women chief justices—why not women head coaches? And while we’re at it, let’s not have just one of them, let’s not make do with a token female coach, let’s have many of them.

Let’s get the best of the most qualified women out there coaching. We just might be in for a renewal in sports.

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