Summit develops personal connections with women coaches from around country


Photo of the participants from the 2013 Pacific Northwest Women's Coaching Summit held on Guemes Island. Back row, left to right: Sarah Woodbury (Tulane), Leslie Shevlin (Willamette), Danielle Tansel (Michigan), Tanica Jamison (Texas A&M), Suzanne Yee (Princeton), Casmera Wick (Villanova). Front row: Jeana Fucillo (LSU), Jenn Verser (Dartmouth), Kelley McCallum (Miami), Katie Robinson (Tulane), Lauren O'Donnell (Ruttgers), Naya Higashijima (UCLA)

ERICA QUAM — Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The number of female collegiate athletes is rising - a good thing, Erica Quam says. The number of female collegiate coaches, however, is in major decline - not so good, Quam explains.

According to a study by the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sports, the number of female collegiate athletes has gone from four percent in 1972, the year Title IX was signed into law, to 43 percent in 2013. At the same time, the number of female coaches coaching women's sports has declined from more than 90 percent to 40 percent over the same period.

"Title IX has been a good thing and participation and positions are up, but more men are getting positions than women," Quam said in a phone interview. "A lot of times, these women who coach put everyone before themselves, so there's some burnout. Women aren't staying in coaching quite as long, so that's my mission."

Quam, who lives in Bellingham, is the founder of The Coaching Experience, a company dedicated to addressing common themes and problems collegiate coaches experience. Quam also uses her company to set up coaching summits so small groups of seven to 14 coaches can meet and discuss problems and successes and establish a network they can call on when things aren't going well.

Quam's newest endeavor is the inaugural Whatcom County women's coaching summit, which will begin on Saturday, April 26, and conclude on Tuesday, April 29. It is Quam's fourth summit she will be a part of and the third she has organized.

The summit includes coaches from around the country including some as far away as Pittsburgh. All coaches in the Whatcom County summit are college swim coaches, the same position Quam held when she was a college coach, most notably at Washington State University.

"It's a weekend set up for coaches for them to come out, get together, collaborate, connect and hopefully establish a support system to take back with them for rest of year," Quam said.

The summit combines teachings from Quam with discussions that other coaches bring up about whatever they're dealing with. The combination in a relaxed setting, such as a rented house for the weekend, allows the women to bond and discuss problems on more personal levels.

The summit goes beyond what coaches' conferences cover. It's not just about the X's and O's.

"It's more about personal connection and what's really going on with people," Quam said. "It gives them an oppurtunity to be honest about things going on."

With a place for female coaches to meet, Quam hopes to improve the lengths female coaches stay in coaching and improve their coaching abilities. The less female coaches there are coaching women's sports, the less role models athletes have.

Quam originally got into coaching because her swim coach and role model advised her to think about it. The seed planted in Quam's head bloomed over time and coaching has become part of her life. Quam hopes her teachings allow other coaches to have that same effect on female athletes.

"I think that coaches have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of their athletes," Quam said. "Now that I'm helping coaches rather than the athletes directly. I just want to see a ripple effect of change in the world."

Quam must be doing something right. In the four summits she is a part of, only one person has ever not returned the following year.

Even coaches that can't take part in the summits have the opportunity to visit her website,, to get the programs she develops to help coaches and even interact with Quam to get advice.

Reach Joshua Hart at or at 360-756-2851.

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