Congrats to Helena Costa, the new head coach of the French men’s professional soccer club Clermont Foot!
The Portuguese 36 year old, who most recently has been coaching Iran and Qatar’s national women’s teams, will be the first woman to coach a professional club in France, as well as the first to coach a top or second division team in any of Europe’s five major leagues. She’s only the second woman to manage a pro team in Europe period – Carolina Morace coached a third-division Italian team for two matches in 1999 before the “constant media pressure” became too much.
Despite the rise of women’s sports over the last few decades, coaching at all levels remains extremely male-dominated in the US as well. As ThinkProgess notes, “There has never been a female head coach in any major American pro sports league, and none in major college basketball or football either. Only about 3 percent of men’s sports teams at the college level have women coaches.” In fact, the proportion of women’s teams with female coaches is lower than ever. Ironically, while Title IX lead to incredible new opportunities for female athletes, it was not good for female coaches — in 1972, women coached more than 90 percent of women’s college teams; today that figure has dropped to 43 percent.
Good luck to Costa and Clermont next season, and may she be the first of many.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.