Editorial: Blue Knight boys club

HELP WANTED—Southington High School is seeking an experienced girls varsity coach. He must have his coaching permit and required first aid training. Responsibilities include team building, instruction, practice of skills, and record keeping. He must have practical experience to serve as a knowledgeable advisor, mentor, and role model for the female student-athlete. WOMEN NEED NOT APPLY.

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It’s been a few weeks since Southington High School’s athletic department announced its newest girls basketball coach, and—surprise, surprise—it’s another man. Although there hasn’t been any public outcry at recent town meetings, we’ve had a number of conversations with frustrated readers about the seemingly sexist hirings for local girls teams. It certainly looks sexist. We challenge town leaders to address it.

Southington has 26 varsity sports but only five female head coaches (all on girls teams). Even the assistant coaches are predominantly male (24 men versus 14 women according to the SHS website). Swimming is the only boys team to have a female assistant coach. Co-ed track programs have three female assistants, but all head coaches are male.

There’s even disparity depending upon the sex of the head coach. With a female head coach on a girls team, women assistants outnumber men, 5-1. With a male head coach, it’s split evenly, 4-4. It certainly looks sexist, doesn’t it?

Even at the youth level, we see a problem. Southington Youth Basketball lists 10 men and no women on its executive board. Every girls travel team (with the exception of the seventh grade team) is coached by men. See a trend here?

To be fair, we have no way of knowing if any women applied for the girls basketball position or if any candidate had more experience coaching girls, but shouldn’t that be a factor in hiring? We love seeing former female stars pass on their personal experience as student-athletes, along with a unique understanding about the adversity and challenges faced by female student-athletes. It’s a perspective that men can’t provide. Even when it comes to winning, local women have way more experience than our men. Since Title IX was passed in 1972, local girls teams have captured 34 of Southington’s 44 state titles—and six of the eight state titles since the turn of the century. We should be recruiting alumni for our teams. Shouldn’t we prize these women as coaches?

We want to be clear that Howie Hewitt is a respected boys coach and a legitimate candidate for any coaching job. On the other hand, he’s a rookie with high school girls. Other than one season as an assistant softball coach, he’s never played in or coached a single girls varsity contest. Yet it was his experience that earned him the job? Maybe we’re reading between the lines, but it seemed to us that school officials prized the fact that Hewitt was male. SHS athletic director Greg Ferry told one area newspaper, “I’m excited for a good male role model to teach these girls the game of basketball.”

While we agree that it’s always good to have good male role models for girls in their formative years, this argument only seems to get thrown around to justify men coaching girls teams. We think that it’s just as important to have good female role models for our local boys, but we never hear that a coach was selected because she would be a good female role model for our boys teams. Doesn’t that sound hypocritical?

There’s no shortage of good, male role models at the high school or any other local level. We think there’s a shortage of good, female role models in our system. We think that we should demand more for our town’s daughters…and sons.

To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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