Fredonia women’s basketball coach continues the fight for gender equality

(Linda MacDonald is the head coach for the Fredonia women’s basketball team. Photo courtesy of athletic director Jerome Reilly.)

AVRIL KING

Social Media Manager & Assistant Sports Editor

 

It is no secret that the world of athletics tends to hold a bias towards men’s sports. This is true at the professional level, but also in DIII sports, for both coaches and players.

According to Linda Hill-MacDonald, head coach for the Fredonia Women’s Basketball team, things are only getting worse.

“When I first entered the coaching profession, about 98 percent of the coaching positions in women’s basketball were held by females,” she said. “The most recent statistic I have heard indicates that currently, in Division III, only 56 percent of the head coaching positions are held by women. However, back when the statistics showed that over 98 percent of the coaches of women’s basketball were female, the statistics also showed that the salaries of those women were dramatically less than the salaries of their male counterparts.”

Getting her start in coaching at her own school, Ridley High School, Hill-MacDonald would go on to serve as the head coach for Temple University, the University of Minnesota and University at Buffalo and the assistant coach for the University of South Carolina. Not to mention, she also was the head coach for the WNBA’s Cleveland Rockers and the assistant coach for the Washington Mystics before coming to Fredonia in 2013.

Since becoming the coach at Fredonia, she has left strong impressions on her players, prioritizing them and their lives over the game.

“She always wants what is best for all of us,” said Anna Chiacchia, a sophomore basketball player. “Not just basketball-wise, in all areas, she’s always looking out for us and making sure we’re all doing okay.”

And her emphasis on equality is not lost on her players.

“She’s been coaching since before Title IX, then during, then after and has seen the progression and obviously sees the tendency towards males when it comes to sports, coaches, and all of that,” said Chiacchia. “She tries really hard to emphasize women’s sports. Even just little things, like when you play ‘man defense,’ she makes sure to call it ‘player defense.’”

Hill-MacDonald has been sure to show her players what it will take to bring equality to the sports that these young women are passionate about.

“It will be their responsibility in the future to make sure that the next generation of athletes have the same benefits of participation that their male counterparts have enjoyed forever,” she said. “They need to be diligent in holding those in power responsible for providing female athletes with equitable treatment, opportunities and experiences that male athletes enjoy.”

Although Hill-MacDonald has seen numerous accounts of gender inequality during her time as a coach (and even as a player), she also has ideas for how this issue can be solved at the administrative level.

“There has to be a concerted effort by those in decision-making positions to be committed to providing equitable opportunities and experiences for female athletes,” she said. “Those decision-makers need to also be committed to finding and hiring qualified female candidates when hiring coaches of female sports. Let’s face it, when decision-makers consider hiring coaches for their men’s teams, they are not including females in their pool of candidates.”

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, Fredonia will be recognizing National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD). As an event that is recognized by colleges and universities around the country, Hill-MacDonald sees it as an occasion to acknowledge female athletes and the struggle that they are fighting simply by being women.

“NGWSD is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the importance of sports participation in the lives of women and girls throughout the nation,” said Hill-MacDonald. “If the program motivates even one additional young person to become interested in participating in athletics in some capacity, the event is worthwhile. We hope that our NGWSD event at Fredonia will inspire the girls and women in our community to become involved.”

Plus, it is also a way to encourage women to continue participating in the sports they are passionate about as they make the transition from high school to college.

“Not many girls who play sports in high school continue into college and our [men’s] team always has so many people that try out and get cut and we basically keep everyone who tries out,” said Trisha Lane, a sophomore on the basketball team. “We need more women in sports, obviously, to continue from high school into college.”

Looking beyond equality issues at the administrative level, now, more than ever, women need athletes to look up to. Hill-MacDonald has fought to make the same opportunities available to women as there are to men. This can only go so far.

Perhaps Chiacchia summed it up best when she said, “We need more female role models.”

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