The Arizona Coyotes appointed Dawn Braid as their skating coach today. Joining the ranks of NHL franchises like the New York Islanders to hire a woman coach.
Back in 1977, the New York Islanders had their own version of Dawn Braid. That year, the Islanders hired Barbara Williams to be their skating coach.
Williams was a Brooklyn native and worked with the Islanders during their dynasty years. Helping coach the golden generation of Islanders players. She would go on to work with players one-on-one for “three to four mornings a week”.
Along with the Islanders, Williams would also go on to coach the New Jersey Devils.
It’s now 2016 and Dawn Baird, a woman, is hired by the Arizona Coyotes. She’s a fantastic hire for the Coyotes and will undoubtedly make a great addition to their coaching team. It’s rather unfortunate in a way that such a hiring is so widely celebrated.
Because a woman being hired in any coaching capacity, at least in a men’s league, is incredibly rare. Women often face barriers when it comes to entering the workforce, let alone when it comes to joining a sports franchise.
We’ve seen hires like these become more commonplace. Although they don’t always last, and unfortunately they reveal the trials and tribulations women face when trying to enter positions of authority in sports.
The Arizona Cardinals hired linebacker coach Jen Welters back in 2015. It was taken as a sign of a highly conservative game opening to new ideas and opening to the modern world. The hiring did nothing to dispell the NFL, and it’s fanbase’s fervent grip on the old ways.
Welters would be relieved of her duties just five weeks later.
Then there’s Helena Costa who took over French side Clermont Foot 63. Who left after only 49 days in her position as manager of the French second division team. Her departure was clouded with tales of misogyny, disrespect, and “amateurism”.
The Success Stories
Not every venture into coaching or management is met with the same burdens.
Shelley Kerr is the manager for Scottish fifth-tier side Stirling University. She was the first woman to manage a senior mens side at any level in Britain. And she still remains in her position today, just over two years to the date.
Becky Hammond, a former WNBA player, became assistant coach to none other than Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs. She’s also been in her position for just over two years.
These are just two examples, more are certainly out there.
The playing field is not level for women. The ease of access to the labor market in major sports leagues is significantly bared for them. But appointments like that of Barbara Williams some 39 years ago and that of Dawn Braid in 2016, are steps in the right direction.
Braid’s appointment needs to be celebrated. It’s a step towards integration, towards equality, and moves the NHL in line with history. Braid may not have been the first (she is the first full-time female coach however), but she certainly won’t be the last female hire for a coaching position.