12:40 PM on Jul 18, 2022
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Equal salaries seemed like a win for female coaches but have caused some unexpected consequences.
SAN ANTONIO — While Title IX has provided many opportunities for women in sports that didn’t exist beforehand, 50 years later, athletes, coaches and administrators have noticed its unintended consequences — one of which is a decline in women coaching girls sports, as more men take leadership roles on girls teams.
“We’re losing female coaches,” said former El Paso ISD athletic director Maria Kennedy at a women’s coaching panel Sunday at the THSCA coaching school. “If you think about in Texas, a girls basketball coach and a boys basketball coach make the same salary. So we have a whole lot more men coaching girls sports than we used to.”
Based on salary reports for the most recent school year from 15 Dallas-area school districts, women made up just 31% of coaches across all sports. The reports were obtained via open-records requests earlier in the summer. According to the UIL, in state tournaments during the 2021-22 school year approximately 60% of girls soccer and girls basketball coaches were men. When combined with the other two team sports, softball and volleyball, which were female-dominated in coaching, 40% of all girls teams were coached by men.
But those statistics don’t translate to boys sports, as it’s very rare for a woman to coach a boys team in Texas.
“When I was coaching, I had a dream,” Kennedy said. “I remember this so vividly. I was interviewing for a boys head basketball job. And I hit every question that was going to be asked, and I answered everything. When I woke up, I’m thinking, ‘God, you’re crazy. Who would think of a female being a boys basketball coach?’”
As a result of Title IX and these higher salaries, jobs in girls sports have become more prestigious, eliminating the gap and attracting more male coaches as a result. In turn, more men are being hired because of pre-existing biases, according to social justice educator and former college volleyball coach Jen Fry.
“When we talk about hiring the best person for the position, it tends to be a man,” she said. “Well, is it? Or is it your biases that assume that the men are always going to be the better ones?”
While Kennedy said it’s not necessarily a problem that there are more men coaching girls sports, some of the other panelists said they believe their female coaches brought different characteristics than the men, which impacted their decision to play for certain teams.
“I think female athletes take to the standards and the strictness [of men] maybe, but … I wanted that balance of strictness and then obviously, the care that comes afterward,” said former University of Texas and Olympic softball player Cat Osterman.
Former DeSoto and incoming Waxahachie girls track coach June Villers said she witnessed similar influences on her athletes’ recruitment.
“I had a very, very talented athlete in 2019, extremely talented, could go anywhere in the nation she wanted to go,” Villers said. “There was a particular school that was very disciplined, phenomenal coaches, she would have been very, very successful. … She was always all business, get to it, very self-disciplined, she would have flourished in that program. Then she went a different way, and I could not believe it. I was in shock. … I got to talk to her mother later, and she said, ‘There were no females on the staff.’”
With barriers such as childcare only further contributing to this problem of gender representation across all sports, the whole panel agreed it’ll take people in leadership positions making conscious decisions to prioritize diversity in their hiring, creating role models for these young girls to look up to in their sport.
“I think that when you have these interviews with these coaches, one of the things that I think you can really be intentional about is if you have a qualified male and a qualified female, equally as qualified, and it’s for a female sport, try to hire the female,” Kennedy said.