Dr. Julie Partridge, Asst. Professor, Dept. of Kinesiology Southern Illinois University
This week marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX. This landmark legislation led to many important cultural changes in the United States, and paved the way for millions of girls to begin participating in scholastic sport. Many people assumed that as new generations were given the chance to play sports, these girls would eventually end up coaching either at the youth, scholastic, college or even professional levels. However, the numbers of women coaching in youth sport remains relatively low (most estimates are at about 20%), and less than 50% of scholastic and college coaches are female (down from 90% prior to passage of Title IX). Ironically, the very same legislation that moved women’s roles in sport forward in so many ways actually led to decreases in women in sport leadership positions.
Girls who have been coached by women are more likely to enter the coaching ranks themselves, and are more likely to have greater beliefs in themselves, their own abilities and higher sport aspirations overall. Dr. Nicole LaVoi and her colleagues at the Tucker Center for Research on Women & Girls in Sport at the University of Minnesota have found that there are many reasons why women don't feel comfortable coaching - everything from not feeling comfortable dealing with politics to being concerned that coaching will take away from family time. Women are also often seen as being incapable of effectively coaching males at any level, meaning that while men are viewed as candidates for any open coaching position, women are only deemed "appropriate" choices for half of the teams that are playing. In fact, less than 3% of men's or boys' teams have a female head coach, and many people (both males and females) think that women just don't have the ability to get athletes to respect them, and that's a disturbing belief system that we thought we would be past by 2012.
Men and women should always make their own choices about whether or not coaching is right for them; ultimately, if a coach is qualified, knowledgeable, and caring, the important lessons of sport will be taught, regardless of that coach's gender. But it would be good to know that more girls have the female role models that could help them to see coaching at any level as an option.