Changing the Game: Balkovec, a Woman as a Hitting Coach in Minor League Baseball.

When it comes to coaching and administrative staff within sports programs, women are highly underrepresented throughout the majority of sports. This has been the case within both major and minor league baseball, until the recent hiring of Rachel Balkovec as a full time minor league hitting coach by the NY Yankees. Balkovec is one of the first women ever to be hired by a major ball league team, which in itself is a reflection of masculine dominance and control in sport programs globally.

Balkovec offers an impressive background in the sport. She played college baseball, held the role of strength and conditioning coach for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014, in addition to working with Houston Astros and Chicago Whitesox teams. Balkovec also holds a bachelors degree in Kinesiology, a Masters in Sport Administration and a Masters in Biomechanics, making her an extremely qualified candidate for the position.

Her road to the new position, however, has not been without struggle. Balkovec reports on the many obstacles she has had to overcome as a woman in the sports coaching world. She reports changing her name from Rachel to Rae on many job applications so that she had a better chance of being considered for the position, as female candidates are most often overlooked- regardless of their qualifications.

Rachel Balkovec in action (Source: trainwithpush)

The inequity in opportunities in coaching roles for male and female coaches in sport exists within recreational sport, university sport, and professional sport. There are many reasons why this inequity exists, such as sports being typically organized around the values and experiences of men, lack of support for females already in admin/coaching roles or for those who wish to start, as well as men typically having more established connections within the sport organization to further them, compared to women (Coakley & Donnelly, 2009). However, with a rise in women’s sport participation, female athlete fan bases, and corporate interest in women’s sport, addressing the underrepresentation of female coaches becomes increasingly important. Women in coaching positions adopt roles as leaders (for young girls and boys to look up to) and help to fight gendered stereotypes within all sports.

Despite the historic and still current gender issues surrounding coaching admin in sport, Yankees hitting coordinator, Dillon Lawson affirms Yankees hiring decision by stating that Balkovec is “a good hitting coach, and a good coach, period.” It is hopeful that this progressive decision will pave the way for future female coaches within additional sports and inspire young women within sports to chase their coaching dreams.

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Featured Image: Rachel Balkovec coaching at Houston Astros training facility. (Source: New York Times)

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