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The Future of Sports is Female: Women in Sports and Strength Training at Merrimack

Kara Haase

As some of you may know the world of sports is a male-dominated industry. Whether it be in professional sports, coaching, or sports management. Being a woman in a male-dominated occupation can be a difficult obstacle to overcome, but many sports leaders at Merrimack have done just that and have inspiring stories on how they got their starts.

At Merrimack, we have many women in sports leadership roles. For example, in the weight room, Molly Mulcahy, Jessica Burlingame, and Meghan Collins take on the major responsibility of representing some of the strength and conditioning coaching staff. 

Seeing women in male-dominated positions is important for getting more women involved. Coach Mulcahy explained that she wanted to be like her sister, who is a strength and conditioning coach.“I just thought that was normal, a woman being a strength coach. I’ve always had female coaches, so being a woman never bothered me or imitated me at all in my line of work,” said Mulcahy. 

During her time working with the strength program at Westfield State, there were times when she was the only woman. “It felt good because I’m doing something different that not a lot of people would,” said Mulcahy. “Yes, it is scary, but to be a woman coach you need to have that confidence level and know you can do anything.” 

According to Mulcahy, in the past males would hire males because that’s what everyone was used to, but now the industry is growing and changing. 

Merrimack has what many other strength and conditioning places don’t have: women. An advantage of being a woman in this field, according to Mulcahy, is that “more and more females are getting hired because everyone has males, so when places are looking to hire they ask themselves ‘what can we do to make things different or have our program stand out.’” 

Coach Meghan Collins talked about how the demand for female strength and conditioning coaches has increased in recent years. Also, Coach Jessica Burlingame expressed how there is an advantage when it comes to being a female strength coach. 

Coach Jessica Burlingame says there are advantages to being a female strength coach. She is able to relate to female athletes in a way that male coaches cannot. 

“The biggest way to make someone treat you the same as a female strength coach is to show that you are just as capable and competent as a male,” said Burlingame. Burlingame also noted that she has grown as a person while working in a male-dominated field. She no longer underestimates herself and is confident in her coaching. 

“It’s not about your gender, it’s about the coach that you are. If you are a good role model, a good coach and have full intentions of wanting to help your student-athletes be the best athletes and people they can be, then you are a quality coach,” said Mulcahy.

Alongside the strength coaches are female student-athletes. Erin Tyldesley, Sara Macfarland, and Sophie Meyers represent female athletes here at Merrimack. Tyldesley and Macfarland, who are both sophomores on the Women’s Soccer team, expressed how important it is for young women to participate in sports. 

“Joining sports definitely can help boost your confidence in yourself, teaches you to work hard and work towards a goal. Sports have a lot of great life lessons that you can carry with you forever,” said Macfarland. 

 “Definitely join. Be confident in yourself no matter how small you are. Be tough, be confident, and don’t let anyone make you feel small,” said Tyldesley. 

 Sophie Meyers, a sophomore on the Women’s Volleyball team added, “Go for it. Don’t be afraid of what people might think of you just because you are a woman. Just remember you are capable of anything a man does and more.” 

The media has a huge impact on what society thinks and how we view women. “When I first started to watch sports, such as soccer when I was little it was mostly just men’s teams on, but as time passed it’s been awesome watching the women’s game keep on increasing,” said Macfarland. “It is great for us women to advocate for women’s sports and promote it on television and in the media. Keep the stories going so everyone just remembers that women’s sports are just as important as the men’s.” 

Today there are many strong female athletes who inspire millions. Simone Biles, Serena Williams, and the whole Women’s National Soccer Team are just some examples of women achieving greatness in sports.

 “There are so many amazing women to look up to in the sports industry, so just keep looking up to them and one day you could be an inspiration to young women,” Tyldesley said. 

Despite such advancements, Coach Mulcahy believes stereotyping is still a big problem in society today, particularly “notion that women need to do cardio or get skinny. Instead of lifting weights and being strong. You can still be feminine and be strong.” 

Coaches and players hope this stereotype fades along with the notion that sports and strength training are primarily places for men.