Unexpected consequences of Title IX for female coaches

by Paige H.

The purpose of this blog will be to look at the lack of female coaches in collegiate sports, and how it has changed since the implementation of Title IX.

Women typically have to be “nicer” than men in order to exercise equivalent power and authority; this then in turn reaffirms gender stereotypes (Ridgeway, 2001). In addition to gender stereotypes there are four main barriers that are repeatedly examined in reference to the professional opportunities for female coaches. The four barriers include unequal assumption of competence, homologous reproduction, homophobia and lack of female mentors (Kilty, 2006).

Prior to 1972, when Title IX was signed and implemented by Richard Nixon, it was “lesser” of a job to coach women’s athletics because of the lack of visibility and interest in women’s sports as a whole. With the lack of men interested, women were able to dominate that coaching field, but after Title IX, the numbers of female head coaches has plummeted with the sudden interest in it from their male counterparts. As women’s sport opportunities became more pervasive, men increasingly filled coaching positions (Cunningham & Sagas, 2013).

An unexpected result of Title IX, especially at the intercollegiate level, is the decrease in the proportion of women serving as coaches of women’s teams (Cunningham & Sagas, 2013). In 1972, women coached over 90% of women’s teams; while as of recent years only 42.4% of women’s teams were headed by female coaches (Kilty, 2006). Not only are those numbers decreasing, but also the coaching positions in which women tend to fill now are also at lower levels of competition and also in traditionally “feminine sports” (Reade, Rodgers, & Norman, 2009). The percentage of female head coaches coaching male teams has remained constant over the past 30-40 years, at 2% (Kilty, 2006). This is troubling because despite the highest level of female athletic participation, thanks to Title IX, females have experienced a decline in coaching at all levels of educational institutions. Within Division I schools in the NCAA, women coaches are more frequently found in more prestigious, resource richer institutions and those that devote more resources to sport (Welch & Sigelman, 2007). The same study found that women head coaches are less likely to be found in traditional institutions, where gender roles are still highly thought of, examples of this would be religiously affiliated institutions and private schools.

Homologous reproduction is the process whereby dominants reproduce themselves based on social and/or physical characteristics (Stangl & Kane, 1991). This is vital to the understanding of why coaching is such a male dominated field. Therefore, the employment relationship between gender of athletic director and the head coach, for example, would be considered; as there is a direct relationship between the gender of the person being hired and the gender of the person doing the hiring (Stangl & Kane, 1991), this study also stated that homologous reproduction reproduces male hegemony.

Athletic departments have been regarded as one of the purest manifestations of hegemonic masculinity (Welch & Sigleman, 2007). This is important because through studies it was found that this is where homologous reproduction is a major factor preventing the advancement and hiring of female coaches. 71.4% of athletic programs in the NCAA are directed by a male, which is a 5:1 ratio in comparison to females (Kilty, 2006); according to Stangl and Kane (1991), the beliefs expressed by male athletic directors appear to be based more on a gender stereotypic bias about female competence than on any objective data. Managers and leaders tend to select those to fill positions that they see as “their kind”, and it repeatedly reproduces itself through its own image (Stangl & Kane, 1991), making it an increasingly difficult barrier for women to overcome. Homologous reproduction explains the dramatic reduction in the number of female coaches since Title IX has come into effect. Typically when women are judged for promotion in comparison to her colleagues, gender stereotypes prevail, placing additional pressures on women to especially establish themselves as competent that men typically don’t face (Eagly & Carli, 2007).

There are very few female mentors in which new female coaches can look up to for guidance. This is vital because there are now more women experiencing and participating in sports than ever, because of the implementation of Title IX, yet the amount of female head coaches is at an all time low. The impact of mentors on a professional career is substantial, and combined with the lack of women in the profession of high performance coaching, it becomes problematic for young women who aspire to coach (Kilty, 2006). This means that there needs to be a bottom up approach, rather than the top down approach in which was supposedly instilled. In doing so we inform the grassroots and mass participation level, which tends to be more flexible, and work our way up; rather than starting at the elite, more concrete level and trying to funnel it down. There will in turn be pressure for the athletic departments to conform to what the bottom is doing and what the athletes coming through have come to expect, which is equality and equal representation.


Cunningham, G. B., & Sagas, M. (2002). The differential effects of human capital for male and female Division I basketball coaches. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport73(4), 489-495.

Eagly, A., & Carli, L. 2007. Through the labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

Kilty, K. (2006). Women in coaching. The Sport Psychologist20(2), 222-234.

Reade, I., Rodgers, W., & Norman, L. (2009). The under-representation of women in coaching: A comparison of male and female Canadian coaches at low and high levels of coaching. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching4(4), 505-520.

Ridgeway, C. L. (2001). Gender, status, and leadership. Journal of Social issues57(4), 637-655.

Stangl, J. M., & Kane, M. J. (1991). Structural variables that offer explanatory power for the underrepresentation of women coaches since Title IX: The case of homologous reproduction. Sociology of Sport Journal8(1), 47-60.

Welch, S., & Sigelman, L. (2007). Who’s calling the shots? Women coaches in Division I women’s sports. Social Science Quarterly88(5), 1415-1434.









3 responses

  1. As a female hockey player I can say that I have had more male coaches that female ones throughout my playing career. All through minor hockey I had male coaches, even on my female teams. The first time I had a female coach was in the 10th grade when I played on a spring team here in New Brunswick. Back in Newfoundland and Labrador I never had a woman coach me, not even on high level teams. I went to private school for hockey in grade 11 and that was the first time I had a consistent female coach. I think there are more female coaches in sports that are stereotyped as female because it’s expected for a woman to participate in such an activity. Women coaching in male dominant sports even if it’s a female team can be considered rare. Although there has been an increase in female coaches in the realm of sports that I am familiar with, there’s still a gap in terms of men coaches vs women coaches.

  2. Great post Paige!

    As a female basketball player all through school, I had a male coach from grade 3-5 (co-ed team), two female coaches from grade 6-8 (female team), and a male (head) coach and female (assistant) coach from grade 9-12 (female team). On that note, during the years from grade 6-12, the female coaches that I had were there because they had a daughter (or daughters) on the team.

    With that being said, I feel like coaching positions are filled by men more often than women because women prefer to spend their leisure time with their children; in which women will usually take an assistant coaching position if they have a child (or children) on the team.

    However, throughout my time as an athlete, I played against female teams who were usually headed by women, whose daughter (or daughters) were their “assistant coaches”.

    This year (where I am from), middle level girls basketball was run by a male (head) coach and a female (assistant) coach (his daughter), but the middle level boys basketball team was headed by myself (a female) and I had two male assistant coaches.

    I feel like coaching, at a volunteer level anyways, is more opt to have female coaching staff (in one way or another); however, refereeing is a position that is much more filled by men than women. Throughout my time as an athlete (grades 3-12) I only ever had one female referee and it was one of my last games in grade 12 when that happened. Also, coaching middle level boys basketball this year, we only had one female referee and it was for a game that “my” boys were playing a co-ed team (which I’m pretty sure is mandatory in that situation), but doesn’t make a lot of sense because if a co-ed team is required to have one female ref and one male ref because the team is made up of girls and boys, then why is an all female game allowed to be reffed by two male referees? Just a thought!

    I really enjoyed reading your post because it opened my mind to something I have never really thought much about before. I’m curious to know what the difference would be between volunteer coaching positions and paid coaching positions as well as the level of the team that is being coached (e.g., Tier II, Tier I, A, AA, AAA) and how that might affect whether a team is headed and assisted by males, females, or both.

  3. Great post! I really found it interesting that after Title IX that there was less female coaches I think that it speaks to the idea the idea that when an sport become more visible it will become more attractive to a part of but when I think is forgotten is the women that held those positions before Title IX existed and the contributions that they made to the sports they coached. I really liked the solution that you proposed, to have female mentors and more female participation I think would be a great way to show young girls that they can be a part of high level sports both as athletes and coaches. I think you blog post speaks to the need for gender equality from the bottom up as you explain with the effects of Title IX,
    having legislation created to ensure gender equality does not always translate when put into practice.

    Marie O.

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