Here's a shocker for you: the 2017 American World Championship coaching staffs are out and there are no women. As usual, Teri McKeever is the biggest snub, but the fact that she stands alone as a female with a strong objective argument for being on the team is a problem of its own.
So let's discuss McKeever's case first, before we get into the extremely alarming state of women in coaching. The decision to leave McKeever was probably made on some objective grounds, so as to avoid any sense that this was personal.
It's worth noting that head coach Greg Meehan was rightfully lauded for using his powerful position at Stanford to promote female coaching.
USA Swimming's official selection criteria does not specify how coaches were chosen, so the following is an educated guess on my part.
Coaches were selected by having the highest level performer- This system is used across the world in many cases and many different forms. Perhaps swimmers were rank-ordered in terms of FINA points, the measure that purportedly compares performances in different events.
They also could have made the coach selection based on number of events qualified for, in which Leah Smith of Virginia has more events than Abbey Weitzeil and Kathleen Baker of Cal.
Selection on such criteria reveals a deep flaw in the way in which we evaluate coaches, all the way down to the lowest levels. We tend to single out coaches best possible result instead of the totality of their work.
McKeever's longstanding track record of producing top international results would be a huge asset to the US squad. Any subjective criteria should have selected her to the staff, as she would provide much needed "big meet" experience to the squad.
To the larger point, male coaches need to continue to advocate for women at all levels to right this situation. On the college level, this means going beyond the silly "quota hiring" and actually finding and retaining top female coaches.
At the club level, we should all be pushing together to make coaching swimming less of a "family killer" because that would be better for all of us, not just women.
Warren Buffet famously said that he only had to compete with half the population, and the same could be said for many of the elite male coaches out there. If you truly love the sport of swimming, you want to see the best coaches on the deck. It's on us to make sure that this far from fair system.
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