Athletics News

A Look at GW's Female Coaches 40 Years After Title XI

GW women's tennis head coach Dawn Buth (pictured left): 'Title IX has greatly increased the opportunities for these young women to compete in the sport they love, share in university and team camaraderie, build confidence and learn enduring skills that will help them in accomplishing their life goals.'

April 3, 2012

by Julia Parmley, GW Today

In 1972, Title IX - the first comprehensive federal law to prohibit sex discrimination in schools - was signed into law.

One of the greatest impacts of the landmark legislation was its requirement of equal treatment and opportunity for women in high school and collegiate athletics.

With the 40th anniversary of Title IX coming in June 2012, George Washington Today spoke with four of the university's seven female head coaches - soccer coach Sarah Barnes; tennis coach Dawn Buth, M.P.A. '09; softball coach Stacey Schramm; and coach for men's and women's squash Wendy Lawrence - about what led them to their current positions and what Title IX has afforded them as female athletes. The quartet is joined by fellow female head coaches Amanda Ault from GW volleyball, Tara Hannaford from GW lacrosse, and Margie Foster-Cunningham, who is completing her 27th season with the GW gymnastics team in 2012.

Q: What inspired you to become a coach?
Coach Buth: I first began coaching when finishing up my final year of undergraduate studies at the University of Florida. To earn additional income I taught tennis at a local country club. After graduation, I accepted the assistant women's tennis coaching position at the University of Pennsylvania, intending to go to law school. When the head coaching position opened up at GW, it helped me rethink my career goals and also offered the opportunity to experience one of the greatest cities in the world.

Coach Lawrence: The first sport I coached seriously was sailing/racing. I sailed all my life and competed during the summer, then taught sailing and racing summers through high school and college. I played on both the tennis and squash varsity teams in college. My first year out of college, I worked in a Wall Street law firm in anticipation of applying to law school. After a year in the firm I realized I was not excited about becoming a lawyer so I started coaching squash to pay bills while playing in professional tournaments. That was the turning point. I have been coaching ever since in squash clubs, high school and now college.

Coach Schramm: I immediately began coaching following my playing career in college. Throughout college, I admired my coach and thought it was the coolest job ever. I wasn't sure that I could coach at the collegiate level because I played at a small Division I school. I never thought seriously about pursuing it until I coached at a high school in New Jersey while I taught eighth grade. I became obsessed with it. After one year, I resigned from teaching to pursue a college coaching position.

Q: What are your favorite aspects about coaching?
Coach Barnes: The best part of the job is working with the players and watching them grow and develop over the course of their careers. Between the recruiting process and graduation, you've known them for six years during a time when they endure a significant amount of change and personal development. It's fantastic to see how far they've come. The next best part is having the opportunity to remain in a competitive environment, which has always been a big part of my personality.

Coach Buth: One of my favorite aspects of coaching is the continual learning and problem-solving process. Problem identification is the low-hanging fruit in collegiate coaching; problem-solving and behavior change, on the other hand, is the most challenging but also rewarding part of the job. It is also particularly rewarding to observe and be a part of the growth, development and evolution of our student-athletes as they navigate one of the most dynamic parts of their lives.

Coach Schramm: My favorite aspects of coaching are the relationships that I build with my players. It's a 'tough love' relationship during their playing days that evolves into a very close friendship beyond their graduation. I get to teach, which is what I went to college for, and best of all I am able to teach a subject that I am so passionate about.

Q: What lessons beyond sports (if any) do you instill in your athletes?
Coach Schramm: We recently had a practice in which the team was split into groups. One group had to field 10 balls cleanly in a row, while the other group had to do intense conditioning. The sooner the first group reached 10 ground balls, the sooner the second group could stop conditioning. At the end of practice we talked about how that drill was representative of what (sometimes) happens in games: The kids show up to a game and think about so many other things: tests, boyfriends, families, etc. By not being 100 percent present in the moment, their teammates are 'still doing the intense conditioning' and suffering.

They learned the lesson that every time they walk on the field, they are not just playing to play the game because it's "fun" for them. They are playing the game for each other, their coaches, their parents and the university. It clearly builds teamwork, empathy, accountability and work ethic.

Coach Buth: Collegiate athletics allows its participants to learn and practice critical life skills, and I'm a big believer in the role collegiate athletics plays in the confidence and empowerment of women specifically. I look to instill this empowerment by fostering an environment that values hard work, honesty, accountability, problem-solving and an 'I can do anything' and 'never give up' approach.

Coach Lawrence: Because I coach both a men's and a women's team, I really work hard on making sure all my athletes learn to respect each other for reasons well beyond their athletic ability. Both teams work together and travel, [so] I want them to understand that everything they do affects the team, whether it's working hard on academics, supporting a teammate on and off the court with issues of drinking or dating, to something as simple as the way they speak to each other and how the language they choose affects each other.

Q: How did Title IX help you as a female athlete?
Coach Buth: As a former student-athlete myself, I was a direct beneficiary of Title IX. Because I continue to be positively impacted personally and professionally by the opportunities I had as a student-athlete, I consider myself an ongoing beneficiary. Similarly, our current student-athletes are greatly impacted by Title IX. While the playing field is still not level, Title IX has greatly increased the opportunities for these young women to compete in the sport they love, share in university and team camaraderie, build confidence and learn enduring skills that will help them in accomplishing their life goals.

Coach Barnes: Title IX has given women the opportunity to continue to play sports at a high level. In the grand scheme of things, college and professional sports for women have not existed all that long. This is especially true in a sport like soccer where some programs around the country are still "teenagers." Some of these schools started college programs after our current players were born so it's an important law that made an impact first by opening doors for women into the athletic arena and continues to do so as women's sports gain popularity and support.

Coach Schramm: Title IX helped me continue to pursue my career in college athletics. There were many times that I thought of giving up, but the more emphasis that was placed on Title IX and giving women the support to participate in college athletics made the field very promising for me to continue.

Title IX has also made a huge impact on our players. We do, however, need to remind them of what it's about. Sometimes they forget what was done prior to them in the sport to allow for the support that they're getting now...Without the support and recognition for women's sports, we would not be able to instill the kind of pride it takes to play the game the way it should be played. I would not have been able to tell my team, 'The game deserves more out of you, because it has given so much to you' were it not for Title IX.