Where Have the Women Coaches Gone?

December 20, 2010

1972: Title IX outlaws gender discrimination in school sports and any other federally funded education program.

2010: The number of women participating in sports at both the high school and collegiate level has increased exponentially.

Even though there are more women athletes since Title IX’s passage, the percentage of female coaches guiding women’s teams has diminished from over 90 percent to 43 percent in the last 30 years. This is primarily due to men taking over the coaching jobs.

Why the dramatic drop in women coaches? According to Sean Gregory and Time, the difficulty of achieving work-life balance with coaching jobs may be one reason. Gregory points to other factors as well.

Men also have more incentive now to go after women’s coaching positions. “With the addition of funding and notoriety in women’s sports, these jobs are very appealing for men,” says University of Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea, who has won eight national titles with the Wildcats. For men seeking these spots, it doesn’t hurt that 80 percent of college athletic directors are male.

Could another reason be that women’s stereotypical, care-focused teaching style isn’t competitive or results-driven enough? Not according to the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport. Their Women Coaching Women report says that “the record of Pat Summitt, the highly successful basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, speaks for itself. A coach can be a caregiver, a role model for giving back, and still be highly successful.”

Photo by Vikrum Aiyer via www.dc.gov/DCPSIn Washington, D.C., another woman is redefining what female coaches can and can’t do. Natalie Randolph recently stepped up to become the nation’s only female head coach of a high school varsity football team, the Calvin Coolidge High School Colts. “While I’m proud to be part of what this all means,” Randolph told NPR, “being female has nothing to do with it.” She does, however, plan to do some things unconventionally for a football coach. “I’m soft-spoken,” she said. “So me yelling is not me. I’m going to be me.”

AAUW will be honoring Randolph as one of this year’s Women of Distinction at the 2011 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL) in June. The ceremony is open to the public, so keep an eye on the NCCWSL website for the chance to buy tickets to the event and see Randolph and the other amazing honorees in person.

Did you have a female coach who inspired you?

This post was written by Leadership Programs Fellow Jessica Kelly.

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