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DALLAS — The Life and Work Balance Task Force reviewed data from the 2006 NCAA Life and Work Balance Inventory, the Coaching and Gender Equity Project (CAGE) and other studies during its inaugural meeting in Dallas August 21.
The NCAA established the group earlier this year to make recommendations for institutional policy as well as tools for assessment that will help administrators and coaches recognize areas that can be improved in their own lives.
Of the more than 4,000 respondents to the NCAA survey, only 47 percent felt they were balancing their current life and athletics commitments effectively. Sixty-eight percent said they were managing their athletics commitments well.
"The inventory was a temperature check for the athletics environment," said David Klossner, NCAA associate director of education outreach/health and safety. "By looking at those numbers, it looks like a lot of energy is being focused on the athletics environment and is less likely to be focused on life commitments."
Respondents often shared personal anecdotes in the inventory, and many people expressed conflicts in balancing their work and life responsibilities.
"The biggest challenge is remembering that my team at home — my wife and kids — are my No. 1 priority," wrote one respondent. "The job will take as much as you give and many times they just ask for more. You have to know when it’s OK to say no, so you can say yes more often to your team at home."
Suzette McQueen, assistant athletics director for media relations and external affairs at Adelphi University, said that professionals in intercollegiate athletics sometimes plan major life decisions around a work schedule that often exceeds 60 hours per week.
"People always say that sports information directors have to plan their weddings in the summer," McQueen said. "When I had my daughter, people couldn’t believe I had her during basketball season. People plan their lives for the summertime."
McQueen has a young daughter who must be picked up from day care by 6 p.m. With a husband who works until 8 p.m., McQueen has a difficult time balancing the increasing number of evening athletics events with her responsibilities as a mother.
"If I didn’t have a qualified assistant, I would have had to quit my job when (my daughter) was born," McQueen said. "I’m not sure if there is a fix to working nights. It’s the nature of the job."
McQueen and others on the task force discussed the financial burden of day care, especially when children often need to be cared for after traditional work hours. The task force suggested institutions that offer tuition reimbursement for employees also could offer day care reimbursement.
Because of the strain on family life — as well as on the pocketbook — some athletics administrators leave the profession because they’re unable to find an appropriate balance. Retaining those employees emerged as a central focus of the task force.
"The investments we make in younger people are in many cases not being retained by institutions," said Carol Cartwright, task force chair and former president of Kent State University. "They’re taking their skills and going elsewhere, and they say that in many cases the reason they’re going elsewhere is to get some more flexibility."
The task force also familiarized itself with the CAGE report, which sought to identify the reason for a decline in the retention, recruitment and promotion of women in coaching and athletics administration.
"When Title IX passed in 1972, almost all female student-athletes were coached by women," said Lynn Hennighausen, presenter of the CAGE report and author of the book, Shades of Gray: A Mother’s Guide to Work and Family Choices. "By last count, it was 43 percent. That change was the whole catalyst for this study."
The report revealed that women working in intercollegiate athletics are 25 percent less likely to be married than their male counterparts. Female coaches also are half as likely as their counterparts who aren’t working in intercollegiate athletics to have children.
One of the respondents to the CAGE report expressed concern about her daughter, who works as a coach. She said her daughter "would like to get married and have a family someday... But it’s a tough life."
Student-athletes also voiced concern about the lack of balance they observe in their coaches’ lives. One said coaching wasn’t in her future because she couldn’t imagine not being a part of raising her children.
"The study found that the student-athlete focus group frequently said it would rather play for a man than a woman. That reaffirms to us that women aren’t in the ranks and women aren’t being coached by women," Hennighausen said.
While the CAGE study focused on the declining number of female coaches in intercollegiate athletics, the task force acknowledged that balance is needed for athletics administrators of both genders.
"The gender-neutrality component is important," Cartwright said. "We had as many men talking about these issues as women, all serving different functions in intercollegiate athletics."
The task force spent significant time discussing the culture of intercollegiate athletics, which often encourages coaches to call early-morning practices on the weekend and evening workouts during the week. For each of those practices, an athletic trainer must be present. When a game finishes at 9 p.m., the sports information director is the one headed back to the office to write the press release.
"Some of the teams practice at 6 a.m. and others at 10 p.m. and that affects the athletic trainers," McQueen said. "For someone like me, how do you plan your day when you have a child and you have tournaments to run, travel with the team and things take longer than they should? It becomes an issue."
It’s an issue that Cartwright, McQueen and the rest of the task force are working hard to resolve.
"We need to be realistic. There are deeply ingrained attitudes and you just don’t change those overnight," Cartwright said. "Over time, if we have a systematic communication campaign, we can win people over."
The task force will continue its discussions before making an initial report at the 2007 NCAA Convention.