June 13, 2013 • Athletic AdministrationCoaching

Title IX has unfinished business

The general perception is that girls today have it as good as boys when it comes to sports, but it’s just not true.

Many base this assumption on the successes of Title IX. The landmark ruling calls for equal opportunity amongst male and female athletes. The intention of this article isn’t to praise or blame the law. Instead, with the 41st anniversary of the ruling on June 23, I want to bring the focus to another 41.

41 percent.

That’s the percentage of female student-athletes in high school sports today. It’s also a number that has remained unchanged for 12 years — 12 years. Why is it that in today’s world of increasing female prominence in government, sciences and higher education, we can’t get this number to go up?

There must be a greater percentage of female participation in high school athletics. I understand that numbers will always skew toward a male majority when you have a football team with 40-plus boys and no comparable roster sizes for girls. At the same time, more should be done to balance the ratio of males to females.

So what can be done? I won’t advocate cutting male sports to create a balance. Adding female sports also brings up funding issues. There remain in-house options, however. Many state high school associations fail to count cheerleading as a sport. Simply adding this would boost rates. Supportive and solid coaching also would lead to higher female participation. It’s a sad fact in today’s schools that the quality of coaching in female sports is often overlooked.

Support also should come from elsewhere. Instilling fan interest in the community through increased media exposure would be a start. So would a share of peak starting times for games. Girls should also be educated on the benefits that the structure of sports provides. Many students bypass sports in favor of clubs, organizations and volunteering activities that prepare them for success in college and beyond. What are not often taught are the lessons sports provide: goal setting, leadership, communication and teamwork.

The biggest significance of boosting rates for female sports participation isn’t that we’ll have more athletes to cheer on during the weekend: it’s about shaping young women for off-the-field success. It’s about producing more female politicians, scientists and scholars (and yes, professional athletes).

With the anniversary of Title IX approaching, the focus shouldn’t rest on the law’s debated legacy, but what it can still achieve.

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