University of Maine women's basketball coach Amy Vachon cheers her team on during the March 2019 America East quarterfinal in Bangor against New Hampshire. Vachon is putting together a virtual workshop to help build cohesiveness among female basketball coaches in Maine. Credit: Pete Warner | BDN

Amy Vachon participated in a podcast recently during which she was told how few female coaches there are at the high school level in the state.

The University of Maine women’s basketball head coach was asked why there are only 28 varsity coaches among the state’s 133 schoolgirl programs, or 21.1 percent.

“I was shocked. That really got to me. That number concerned me,” said Vachon, who in 2011 coached the girls basketball team at the now-defunct Catherine McAuley High School in Portland to a Class A state championship.

In 1975, the first year of the Maine Principals’ Association-sanctioned schoolgirl basketball tournaments, 51.1 percent of the coaches were females (68 of 133).

The low number of female coaches prompted Vachon to reach out to five of her closest female friends in the coaching world. They will join her on a panel during a Sunday, June 14, virtual workshop for current and former coaches or women who are interested in coaching at any level.

The session will be held via the Zoom platform and is scheduled to run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The other panel members will be Husson University women’s coach Kissy Walker, Bowdoin College coach Adrienne Shibles, South Portland High School coach Lynne Hasson, Falmouth High coach Dawn Armandi and Karen Magnusson, the head coach at Maranacook Community School in Readfield.

Hasson said she was “blown away” by how many fewer female coaches are leading Maine basketball teams compared to 1975. She doesn’t know why that is the case.

“That’s what we’re going to try to figure out,” Hasson said.

“Our goal is to use this workshop and future initiatives to create awareness and, in turn, increase the amount of female coaches in the state,” Vachon said.

Vachon said the workshop will establish a support group for female coaches at all levels, try to empower them, and to elicit feedback from the participants.

“This isn’t going to be a one-shot-and-we’re-done [project],” Vachon said. “We want this to grow. We want ideas about what to do in the future. We want to talk to everyone who participates in the call and see what works for people.”

Walker recently completed her 29th season as the head coach at Husson.

“We want to get more females involved in coaching,” Walker said. “We want to know what their obstacles are and what we can do to help them overcome them.”

Hasson is the only female coach among the state’s largest (Class AA) programs after the recent resignation of Lewiston coach Lynn Girouard.

“We just want to begin by reaching out to females and connecting with them,” Hasson said.

“This has been a long time coming. I’m excited,” she said.

Hasson said one factor is that men continue to coach when they have children while women take time off to take care of their children.

Walker agreed a lot of support is needed at home to continue coaching after having a child. She also speculated that the high number of men coaching girls teams can be intimidating to a female coach.

Walker said women may not be as confident going after coaching jobs. And with few female coaches, they’re spread out geographically.

“The coaches don’t have a lot of females to chat about basketball with,” Walker said.

Vachon said many basketball coaching clinics are attended and run primarily by men, so some women might feel intimidated because nobody knows them.

“With a support system, we are trying to create a place where women can feel confident and comfortable,” she said. “We want to grow the game.”

Walker said the panel has already discussed eventually developing a mentoring program for women so they help female coaches deal with things like handling difficult parents or juggling motherhood, work and coaching.

Hasson said having Vachon leading the group is a big plus. The two-time America East Coach of the Year led the Black Bears to back-to-back conference championships and NCAA Tournament berths.

“That’s really important. She has done great things at Maine,” Hasson said. “All her connections are going to help us move forward.”

Having female role models like Vachon can spur interest among young women in coaching, Hasson said.

Hasson can foresee a day when they have a coaches retreat for women where a discussion of X’s and O’s and strategy will come to fruition.

“We will get to that at some point,” predicted Hasson.

Those interested in signing up for the Zoom workshop or contacting Vachon for more information can do so via email at amy.vachon@maine.edu.