On both the front page and inside today’s Sports section, The Union celebrates the athletic achievements of some of western Nevada County’s standout female sports figures and also takes a look at an apparent lack of women leading the local high school sports programs in which they’ve played.
Today’s sports world offers ample opportunity for women to compete and the numbers who do so only continue to grow.
According to the California Interscholastic Federation, 308,879 girls participated in high school sports statewide in the 2011-12 school year — marking an increase of 1.4 percent over the previous year, but more telling is that number has grown by 36 percent over the past 15 years (227,613 participated in 1998).
Across the country, an all-time record total of 3,207,533 girls participated in high school sports over the course of 2011-12, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. An additional 33,984 female athletes played sports last year, the 23rd consecutive year that increased participation was recorded. According to the federation’s website, http://nfhs.org, a total of 294,015 girls participated in high school athletics in 1972.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association reported in 2011-2012 that 198,103 women competed at the college level in Divisions I, II or III. The number reflects an 25 percent increase in women participating over the past 10 years (158,469 in 2002-03). Over the past 30 years, the number of women competing in college sports has grown by 167 percent over the 74,239 reported in 1981-82.
Statistics on the number of women coaching those programs, however, aren’t as readily available — perhaps they should be, regularly reporting on the low percentage of women in such leadership positions within a sports program might help make it a higher priority.
As The Union Sports Editor Walter Ford reports on today’s page A1, an NCAA study showed women served as head coaches of more than 90 percent of women’s collegiate teams in 1972. But the number of female coaches on the sidelines of those teams had dwindled to just 44.1 percent by 2004. Considering western Nevada County has only a handful of women leading high school varsity girls sports teams, we wonder what a similar survey of the Sac-Joaquin Section and the California Interscholastic Federation prep programs would show.
Forty-one years after Title IX made equal educational opportunities — including those of the athletic variety — a federal law, its impact is evident in the dramatic increase of girls participating in prep sports since its 1972 passage. Though such progress is impressive, there is still plenty of work to be done.
And progress in providing equal opportunity to all people, historically has required change in policy — if not law.
Although local school officials say the pool of applicants has been limited, in terms of the number of women applying, every effort should be made in interviewing women for coaching vacancies within their athletic programs.
It’s important for girls to see women in such roles, reinforcing that they, too, could one day take a leadership role within an organization, perhaps leading more women to become coaches when their own playing days are over.
As Kelly Rhoden, one of our community’s few female varsity coaches, said, “There shouldn’t be boundaries or limits to what they want to do.”