Title IX, the legislation that bans sex discrimination in any educational program receiving federal funding, completely changed how young girls could get involved in sports in this country. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, in 1972 just 1 in 27 girls participated in high school sports; today, roughly two in five do. And the number of women playing at the college level since the passing of Title IX has skyrocketed by more than 600%.
With so many more girls and young women spending years, or even decades, involved in sports it begs the question—where are all the female coaches? Why aren’t more of these high school and collegiate female athletes coaching their own sons and daughters in youth sports?
85% of coaches are dads coaching their own kids. And while there is nothing wrong with wanting to coach your own kid (provided you are ready to be responsible for a dozen other youth athletes) where are all the sports mom-coaches? Even in professional women’s tennis, the leading professional women’s sport based on number of events and broadcast market share, female coaches are more the exception than the rule. A survey of NCAA schools by two Brooklyn College researchers found that while women coached more than 90% of women’s teams in 1972, today that number has dropped to about 43%. And the percentage of men’s teams coached by women is about 3%. Some argue this trend was caused by the fact that as soon as head-coach salaries began to rise, assistant coaches of the men’s teams saw a chance to be promoted faster by applying to head-coach jobs on the women’s side.
Could this male-dominated professional and collegiate coaching arena somehow be trickling down into youth sports? Is it possible that, after spending their entire athletic career being coached by men that sports-mom believe (albeit unconsciously) that men are just supposed to be the coach? While we may not know the true causes, the numbers do speak for themselves. According to University of Minnesota, it is estimated that less than 20% of youth sport coaches are female.
Why might sports-mom not be stepping up to volunteer as youth coaches? Especially when so many leagues are hurting for volunteers? Here are a few possible theories (and some counter arguments). Please feel free to chime in with your own!
Theory: They don’t know how to “be” a coach.
Counter argument: No one, male or female, knows how to “be” a coach until they’ve got a few seasons under their belt. Even then they might not be very good at it.
Theory: They never played [sport] competitively, so they won’t make a good coach.
Counter argument: Unless you played in college or went pro (and the odds either way are slim and slimmer) no sports parent has ever really played that competitively.
Theory: They can’t be the coach when they have other kids at home to think about.
Counter argument: Why can’t Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Mike or Aunt Sue be the go-to after-school child manager?