In this 2018 file photo, head coach Amy Vachon celebrates with University of Maine players (from left) Dor Saar, Julie Brosseau and Blanca Millan during their America East women's basketball semifinal game against New Hampshire. Credit: Steve McLaughlin Photography

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Even with most sports on pause during the coronavirus, a group of female basketball coaches from around the state are finding a way to inspire. 

In June, University of Maine women’s head coach Amy Vachon hosted a virtual workshop for active, aspiring or former female basketball coaches. After a successful first Zoom meeting aimed at providing a support system for female coaches, another is scheduled for Sunday. We encourage any Maine women or girls interested in this conversation to reach out to Vachon and join the discussion.

At the high school level here in Maine, only 21 percent of the women’s basketball head coaches — 28 out of 133 — were women. In an interview this week with the BDN editorial board, Vachon said that one of the biggest barriers that female coaches may face is a lack of confidence stemming from those lopsided numbers.

“Most of the time, you’re looking around and not seeing a female,” she said about the coaching imbalance.

It’s powerful to see coaches around the state come together to share their experiences, collectively identify and work to address barriers, and grow confidence among women coaches and those who might want to become coaches.

“The decline in the amount of female coaches, not only in the state but the nation, is astounding,” Lynn Girouard, former girls coach at Lewiston High School, said in a BDN story. “Hopefully, this will build some confidence and networking for all female coaches.”

Husson women’s coach Kissy Walker was also among the panel of head coaches involved in the first workshop.

“One of the big takeaways was that we are going to be a group where female basketball coaches can collaborate in an environment that feels safe and not intimidating,” Walker said.

This Maine-specific effort is reminiscent of a powerful press conference moment provided by former Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw in 2019, when she was asked about the importance of hiring women for coaching roles — and connected it to the need for more visible women leaders across society.

“How are these young women looking up and seeing someone that looks like them, preparing them for the future?” McGraw, who retired earlier this year, said in that response. “We don’t have enough female role models, we don’t have enough visible women leaders, we don’t have enough women in power. Girls are socialized to know when they come out, gender roles are already set.”

“Men run the world, men have the power, men make the decisions,” she added. “It’s always the [man] that is the stronger one. And when these girls are coming up, who are they looking up to to tell them that that’s not the way it has to be? And where better to do that than sports?”

The interest in the first virtual workshop was impressive, with more than 100 women signing up. We hope that enthusiasm continues, and this initiative becomes a continued source of connection and empowerment.

“We definitely want to form something where it has some structure to it,” Vachon told the BDN in June.“We really do have a lot of ideas moving forward on how to best support coaches.”

“We want it to be sustainable,” she added this week. We do, too. It would be great to see this effort continue to gain momentum and attention.