Where have all the female coaches gone?
Since the 1970s, the number of teams available for female athletes has grown exponentially. Most, however, are coached by men.
According to an annual survey of gender-equity in The Chronicle of Higher Education, fewer women are in the coaching ranks than ever in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
And with only three women at USF holding head coaching positions, women’s volleyball coach Nancy Mueller said this is a concern for athletes.
“Every program needs a balance within their coaching staff, both male and female,” Mueller said. “If women are excluded from the profession, it is the athlete who ends up not benefiting from the experience.”
In order to meet this balance, schools and universities must comply with Title IX, which was created in 1972 to form equality between men and women in the amateur sports world.
In order to comply with the rule, one of three requirements must be met: Demonstrate the percentage of female athletes is nearly equal to the percentage of female students; show there are significantly increasing opportunities for women; or prove that the athletic interests and abilities of female students are being met.
But in the 30 years that followed, the number of girls’ and women’s sports teams have increased dramatically, while the number of female head coaches continues to drop, the survey says.
The survey shows that in the ’70s , more than 90 percent of women dominated head coaching positions nationally for women’s sports teams. By 2001, that figure was down to 45 percent.
Jose Portiero, chairperson of USF’s Title IX committee, said USF has a demonstrated history of expanding women’s athletics having added six women’s sports in the last few years.
He also said Title IX looks at individual aspects of athletic programs in order to ensure they operate in a manner that is free from gender discrimination. Some of these aspects include, but are not limited to, level of competition, size and quality of coaching staff and quality and availability of facilities.
“USF has consistently provided its women’s sports with athletic benefits and facilities comparable to those of men’s sports,” Portiero said.
But an area of concern for Title IX is whether the number of female coaches should be included under the provisions. Portiero said the title specifies that coaching resources, such as training experience, professional standing and compensation, should be comparable in both men and women’s sports.
“It does not address, to the best of my knowledge, the composition of the coaching staff in terms of gender, but I’m sure that other statutes address this issue,” Portiero said.
However, according to The Chronicle, during the past two years men have been appointed to more than 90 percent of new head coaching positions that were made available in women’s intercollegiate athletics.
Title IX also states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Women’s tennis coach Gigi Fernandez said she attributes the declining percentage of female coaches to an increase in job opportunities that are available for women.
“Women have more to choose from and, perhaps, that is why there are less women coaches out there because they are doing other things,” Fernandez said.
But Mueller added that the decline of women in coaching positions is not necessarily because universities fail to comply with the Title IX regulations.
“Coaching demands a lot of time and energy,” Mueller said. “Women want to be able to have balance in their lives, and in a profession such as coaching, it is very difficult to do. Unfortunately, it is the family that takes a back seat to the profession; therefore, more women are detaching themselves from the profession.”