By Vanessa Overbeck
By Vanessa Overbeck
With the growing success of women’s sports one cannot help but notice the lack of women head coaches.
While Title IX created opportunities for women athletes, it may be responsible for reducing opportunities for women coaches.
Prior to Title IX’s passage in 1972 women coached 90 percent of women’s teams. In the past men’s and women’s physical education departments were seperate. Thus, women instructors were also the coaches for the women’s athletic teams.
But after Title IX women’s athletics fell under the control of male athletic directors who were more inclined to hire men. Today, the number of women head coaches in women’s sports is at its lowest in history, 45 percent.
This means that young women who need to be inspired are not seeing potential role models and young men are not seeing that women can be confident, effective leaders.
Sports analysts suggest that a major obstacle to women coaches is the salary gap. On the junior college level, head coaches of men’s teams earn an average of $3,000 more than head coaches of women’s teams. Many women quit coaching because their salaries do not meet the demands on their time.
At the assistant coach level, things are worse. At Division I schools assistant coaches of women’s teams earn $30,000 less than their male counterparts. Being consistently low-balled coming into coaching is no incentive to stay in the business.
There is evidence, however, that the salary gap is closing. Women coaches are making more money at schools, such as the University of Tennessee, that have high attendance and revenue.
In a controversial study done at Texas A&M University, doctoral student Mike Sagas explains that the lack of women in head coaching positions is due to a lack of interest. Sounds like something a man would say. After speaking with Suzette Soboti, head coach of the women’s soccer team at the University of Redlands, the answer is just not that obtuse.
Many women cite social pressures as a reason for abandoning coaching. Coaching involves traveling, weekend competitions, long days and nights. According to Soboti, there is never a time when she is not a coach.
“It is a lifestyle. It is not a regular job,” Soboti said.
But many women also want a career outside of sport and a family. An elite woman athlete’s career extends well into her 30s, thus once they’ve finished playing they’re not interested in coaching as many wish to focus on things outside of sport, like family.
Prior to 1972 a women’s realm encompassed little, but now we can have it all and many women are working hard to do just that – to have it all. But sport requires many sacrifices as it is an all consuming job and in this age of almost limitless possibilities for women, perhaps we’re just having too much fun experiencing a little bit of everything to settle down to just one thing.
“Women went from having zero opportunities to lots of opportunities,” Soboti said. “It’s a trickle down effect” and sport is the last “old boy’s club” to be broken into by women.
But we have seen changes in recent years. According to Soboti, we are in an “intermediary” stage. There’s been time for a generation of women to reap the benefits of Title IX and they’ve had time to speak of their success to their progeny. And we are speaking back by reclaiming the positions usurped by men with the passing of Title IX.
There are an increasing number of women participating in coaching at the grassroots level, a key element in producing future head women’s coaches. Also, past collegiate athletes, like Christina Romero, who coaches soccer at Redlands East Valley High School, are participating in greater numbers at the high school and collegiate level. And they are spending more time at sport camps and seeking women coaches as mentors. Soboti also remarked that she is seeing a greater number of women earning head coaching positions at colleges all across the United States.
“There are also different levels of coaching,” said Soboti. Meaning that coaching the recreational softball team one’s child’s plays on is as a great a contribution to women’s sports as coaching a Division I women’s team. What are important are role models.
“If we have role models, there will be more women coaches,” Soboti said.
Today, women are the heads of Fortune 500 companies, professional athletes and even the United States secretary of defense. And we will continue to make strides in all areas previously closed to women if we extend our hands to those who follow in our footsteps.
Women coaches need to reach out to other women through mentoring and by offering them assistant coaching positions. As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.”