Talk with D-Rok
There have been many major evolutions in high school athletics over the past half-century. Racial integration, Title IX, the effect of mass media and commercialization of high school sports have created a completely different animal than existed in the 1960s. Many of the changes have been positive, though the degree to which can be debated. There is one facet of sport in the United States in 2014 that still seems antiquated, however.
The number of women filling the roles of athletic directors and coaches at both the collegiate and high school levels is putrid. According to Empowering Women in Sports, a non-profit advocacy group, 75 percent of high school coaches in the United States are men. The disparity grows when considering athletic director positions. Empowering Women in Sports says that less than 20 percent of high school athletic directors are women.
The reasons for this gap are varied and complicated. There is no easy, overnight fix. The problem actually began with Title IX. While the legislation opened the door for girls and women to play sports on unprecedented levels, it had the reverse effect on administrative and coaching positions. The salaries of coaches of girls’/women’s teams became equal to those of coaches of boys’/men’s teams, which resulted in men seeking those jobs out that they previously passed over. The men were better experienced and thus more qualified than women applicants and got the jobs.
That has led to a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Girls growing up haven’t seen women in sports administration and coaching positions and thus haven’t sought out those positions as adults themselves, perpetuating the cycle.
So why does this matter? The ideology in society that women are less qualified for careers in the sports industry survives partially through this disparity.
Women coaches in this area have felt the effects of this ideology. They have said that they have been passed over for jobs in favor of candidates who were men despite being the more experienced applicant. Their abilities and performance have been questioned by parents and referees on a more frequent basis than they see their male counterparts experience.
The most ghastly facts come out when you consider the number of men coaching girls’/women’s teams versus the number of women coaching boys’/men’s teams. EWIS estimates that over half of women’s teams are coached by men, while the number of men’s teams who have a woman on their coaching staffs is less than 2 percent. This creates a “glass ceiling” for female coaches, as performance incentives for coaching men’s teams are usually more lucrative.
It is true that the schools within the reach of this newspaper have employed and currently employ a good number of women coaches. The respective school boards are to be commended for that, along with those coaches for putting in the work necessary to earn and maintain those positions.
I’m not advocating a pseudo-affirmative action movement. As a society, we shouldn’t be hiring women for administrative and coaching positions just because we feel there need to be more women in those positions. The ideal is to get to a time where the gender of the candidate is irrelevant. We aren’t there yet.
The strongest indicator of where American society is at on this issue is the fact that comedic movies have been made about this subject. The plot of one film was a woman becoming the head coach of a football team and the story of another revolved around a woman who became the head coach of an NBA team.
When I read a story about a woman getting passed over for an AD job despite her qualifications, see a female coach being ignored by an official during a game, or watch the expression on the face of a girl who wants to work in athletics but has never even had the thought of coaching or being an AD cross her mind until it is mentioned to her, I don’t find it so amusing.