The Importance of Role Modeling in Mentoring Women: Lessons from Pat Summitt Legacy

Open access


The role of mentoring for women in sports industry has gathered attention among researchers in the past years (Bower, 2009; Bower, & Hums 2009, 2014; Weaver, & Chelladurai, 1999, 2002). Since few women are in leadership positions (Acosta, & Carpenter, 2014), cross-gender mentoring relationships are more likely to happen (Hopkins et al., 2008). However, according to Kram (1985), cross-gender mentoring relationships are more complex in terms of individual development and quality of the developmental relationship. In particular, role modeling function is limited (Kram, 1985). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the functions of the same gender mentoring relationships looking at coach Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA Division I basketball history and a woman in leadership position (Becker & Wrisberg, 2008). Due to the exploratory nature of the study and the huge impact of Pat Summitt on sport (Janssen, & Dale, 2002, De Marco, & Mccullick, 1997), a single case study design to analyze her relationships from the staff and players’ perspectives was utilized as the method for data collection. This study collected data published on American news sites located using Internet search engines Google News ( for 7 days. The dataset included content published through national and regional online news media, radio, television and entertainment websites and blogs. Texts were qualitatively reviewed with a content analysis and coded (Patton, 2002). This study identified career and psychosocial functions that were important in developing an effective mentoring relationships. In particular, the psychosocial functions of “role modeling” was identified as the most important for the relationship. In fact a female mentor as a role model can be perceived as a woman that has successfully overcome discriminatory barriers to career advancement.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Acosta V.R. & Carpenter L.J. (2014). Women in intercollegiate sport: A longitudinal national study thirty-seven year update 1977-2014. Retrieved from

  • Becker A.J. & Wrisberg C.A. (2008). Effective coaching in action: Observations of legendary collegiate basketball coach Pat Summitt. Sport psychologist 22(2) 197.

  • Bower G. (2008). Mentor Functions and Outcomes: Advancing Women within Leadership Positions in the Health and fitness industry. Advancing Women in Leadership Archives 28(1). Retrieved from

  • Bower G.G. (2009). Effective mentoring relationships with women in sport: Results of a meta ethnography. Advancing Women in Leadership. Retrieved from

  • Bower G.G. (2011). The Examination of the Mentoring Relationship between the Head Coach and Assistant Coaches of Women's Basketball Teams. Advancing Women in Leadership 31 1.

  • Bower G.G. (2012). Gender and Mentoring. Journal of Physical Education Recreation & Dance 83(2) 6-12.

  • Bower G.G. & Hums M.A. (2009). Mentoring women to advance within leadership positions as international physical educators. Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal 18(2) 3.

  • Bower G.G. & Hums M.A. (2013). Career paths of women working in leadership positions within intercollegiate athletic administration. Advancing Women in Leadership 33 1-14.

  • Bower G.G. & Hums M.A. (2014). Examining the mentoring relationships of women working in intercollegiate athletic administration. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning 22(1) 4-19.

  • Burke R.J. McKeen C.A. & McKenna C.S. (1990). Sex differences and cross-sex effects on mentoring: Some preliminary data. Psychological Reports67(3) 1011-1023.

  • Cooky C. Messner M.A. & Hextrum R.H. (2013). Women play sport but not on TV a longitudinal study of televised news media. Communication & Sport 1(3) 203-230.

  • De Marco Jr G.M. & Mccullick B.A. (1997). Developing expertise in coaching: Learning from the legends. Journal of Physical Education Recreation & Dance 68(3) 37-41.

  • Fink J.S. (2015). Female athletes women's sport and the sport media commercial complex: Have we really “come a long way baby”? Sport Management Review 18(3) 331-342.

  • Geeraert A. Alm J. & Groll M. (2014). Good governance in international sport organizations: an analysis of the 35 Olympic sport governing bodies. International journal of sport policy and politics 6(3) 281-306.

  • Henry I. & Robinson L. (2010). Gender Equity and Leadership in Olympic Bodies: Women Leadership and the Olympic Movement 2010. Lausanne: International Olympic.

  • Hoover E.L. (2006). Mentoring women in academic surgery: overcoming institutional barriers to success. Journal of the National Medical Association98(9) 1542.

  • Hopkins M.M. O'Neil D.A. Passarelli A. & Bilimoria D. (2008). Women's leadership development strategic practices for women and organizations. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research 60(4) 348.

  • Janssen J. & Dale G. (2002). The seven secrets of successful coaches. New York: Winning The Mental Game.

  • Kram K.E. (1983). Phases of the mentor relationship. Academy of Management journal 26(4) 608-625.

  • Kram K.E. (1985). Mentoring at work: Developmental relationships in organizational life. Glenview IL: Scott Foresman.

  • McDonald M.L. & Westphal J.D. (2013). Access denied: Low mentoring of women and minority first-time directors and its negative effects on appointments to additional boards. Academy of Management Journal 56(4) 1169-1198.

  • Noe R.A. (1988). An investigation of the determinants of successful assigned mentoring relationships. Personnel Psychology 41 457-479.

  • Patton M.Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks CA: Sage.

  • Pfister G. & Radtke S. (2009). Sport women and leadership: Results of a project on executives in German sports organizations. European Journal of Sport Science 9(4) 229-243.

  • Ragins B.R. (1997). Diversified mentoring relationships in organizations: A power perspective. Academy of Management Review 22(2) 482-521.

  • Ragins B.R. & McFarlin D.B. (1990). Perceptions of mentor roles in cross-gender mentoring relationships. Journal of Vocational Behavior37(3) 321-339.

  • Scandura T.A. & Pellegrini E.K. (2007). Workplace mentoring: Theoretical approaches and methodological issues. The Blackwell handbook of mentoring: A multiple perspectives approach (pp. 71-91). Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Schira M. (2006). Leadership: a peak and perk of professional development. Nephrology nursing journal: journal of the American Nephrology Nurses' Association 34(3) 289-294.

  • Smith M. and Wrynn A. (2013). Women in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games: An Analysis of Participation and Leadership Opportunities. Ann Arbor MI: SHARP Center for Women and Girls

  • Sosik J.J. & Godshalk V.M. (2000). The role of gender in mentoring: Implications for diversified and homogenous mentoring relationships. Journal of Vocational Behavior 57(1) 102-122.

  • Tolar M.H. (2012). Mentoring experiences of high-achieving women. Advances in developing human resources 14(2) 172-187.

  • Waller S.N. Wozencroft A.J. Trendafilova S.A. & Hobart J. (2015). A study of women administrators in campus recreation in the USA. Managing Sport and Leisure 20(1) 22-35.

  • Weaver M.A. & Chelladurai P. (1999). A mentoring model for management in sport and physical education. Quest 51(1) 24-38.

  • Weaver M.A. & Chellandurai P. (2002). Mentoring in intercollegiate athletic administration. Journal of Sport Management 16(2) 96-116.

  • Yin R.K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods. Sage publications.

Journal information
Impact Factor

CiteScore 2018: 0.3

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.201
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.333

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 842 567 22
PDF Downloads 440 318 7