“In 1972, women coached more than 90 percent of collegiate women’s teams. Today, they coach fewer than half. Where are the women?” asked Rachel Stark, Assistant Editor of the NCAA’s Champion Magazine.
This past weekend, TSU hosted its first tournament in Kean Hall. It also served as the first time Kean Hall welcomed four female head coaches of NCAA Division I volleyball teams. Furthermore, all four head coaches were African-American.
Tiger Head Coach Donika Sutton was joined by New Orleans Head Coach Millicent Van Norden, FIU Head Coach Rita Buck-Crockett, and Alcorn State Head Coach Chelsea Lucas.
The competition was tough, the young athletes were talented, and the players present got to experience something many women in collegiate athletics will not – seeing four African-American female coaches leading dominate teams in one arena.
“There aren’t a lot of female coaches in Division I at all, so it’s awesome to see history made. Obviously we want to keep minorities in the sport. We want to represent our personnel strongly, and I’m excited to be one of four that were here this weekend,” said Coach Van Norden.
Van Norden was the head coach at Alcorn State when the Tigers’ current head coach, Donika Sutton, got her start in collegiate volleyball. Van Norden, who played at Alcorn State, was coached by a female as well.
“Just being around those other coaches, all three of them are very experienced. It was a great opportunity for me to learn and it made my girls realize that we are an HBCU program, and sometimes people have the mindset that we aren’t able to be competitive at this level. It opened my girls’ eyes and that while they do go to an HBCU, they are a Division I volleyball team and they are able to [succeed],” said Coach Lucas.
“With our sport, women head coaches are becoming the minority. Just to be able to have four African-American Division I head coaches here [last] weekend, it’s something that I’m definitely proud of. When we booked all of the teams, I thought about it, but to have them here in the gym, it made the moment feel that much sweeter. In the future I would definitely love to have all of them back. They were amazing teams and coaches, and I feel like we all enjoyed the tournament,” said Coach Sutton.
Tennessee State has an athletic department ran by former women coaches including Athletic Director Teresa Lawrence-Phillips, who was the former Lady Tigers head coach, Senior Woman Administrator Valencia Jordan, also a former Lady Tigers head coach and Assistant Athletic Director Jennifer Bell, who served as an assistant coach for the Lady Tigers.