While serving as co-panelists at Friday’s “Equal Pay, Equal Play” presentation at the Sarratt Student Center, Vanderbilt head coach Stephanie White and associate coach Carolyn Peck provided insight on the progress that has been made in the promotion and exposure of women’s athletics.
The two coaches also made it clear that there is still much work to be done.
During the session, White and Peck were asked a series of questions that pertained to a wide range of topics, including their own experiences as women in the sports industry and the impact of Title IX.
White talked about the importance of successful female coaches serving as teachers for the next generation of potential coaches. She said she believes this is one way – and perhaps the most important way – to bring about an increase of female coaches.
“For some reason, women don’t generally seem to share knowledge (with aspiring female coaches), and we’ve got to change that,” said White, who recently completed her first season at the helm of the Commodores after a two-year stint as head coach of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. “I believe that my job as a coach is to help (the players) gain as much knowledge from me as possible. It’s my job to prepare them to be coaches. That’s my responsibility.”
White said former Indiana Fever head coach Lin Dunn is a perfect example of how female coaches can groom their players and assistants to become head coaches. White said Dunn has served as a mentor throughout their long friendship. “She taught me so much about what it takes to be a coach. And we need more of that.”
Peck said there is evidence that things are moving in the right direction, and cited South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley, who recently led her team to the national championship, as a prime example. “We needed another woman head coach to win a title this decade,” said Peck. “Hopefully it will show some people that, hey, you know what? Women can coach this game.”
Peck herself is proof of that. As head coach at Purdue, she guided the Boilermakers – led by superstar guard Stephanie White -- to the 1999 NCAA championship.
“To me, it’s all about women empowering women. That’s where it starts,” said Peck.
When asked about her thoughts on Title IX – which will celebrate its 45th anniversary next month – White said: “I think it’s very easy for people who haven’t been affected by it to say ‘oh, we don’t need it.’ But the truth is, Title IX is a must. We’ve gained a lot of ground, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
Added Peck: “I think Title IX can be improved. But without it, we’ll go backwards.”
Peck said that the purpose of Title IX often gets misconstrued. The rule was not intended to be detrimental to male sports, but rather to help facilitate women’s athletics, Peck said.
“People need to realize that we aren’t trying to beat the men’s team,” said Peck. “We’re trying to beat Tennessee and Georgia and the other teams in the SEC.”
Looking to the future, White and Peck both said that female coaches needed to be afforded the same second chances that many male coaches are given. White and Peck said that development could change the landscape of women’s athletics and lead to an increase of female coaches.
“People have to realize that failing isn’t a bad thing,” said Peck. “It’s an opportunity to get better.”