Title IX’s foul ball

Title IX was meant to end gender imbalance in high school and college sports. But it also led to a lack of female coaches — a disparity that our community is no exception to.


(Tenaya Tremp)

By Luke Ferris and Samantha Nichols

Nathaniel Burroughs contributed additional reporting.

In 2019, San Francisco 49ers’ offensive assistant coach Katie Sowers became the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl, and in 2020, Alyssa Nakken became the first woman to join the full-time coaching staff of a Major League Baseball (MLB) team when she was hired by the San Francisco Giants. Despite this recent progress in gender equality among professional sports, statistics show that society is far from achieving proportionate numbers of male and female coaches.

An analysis of the coaching at Tam High revealed that 35 percent of female-only sports teams have women as head coaches, while no male-only sports teams have women in the head coach role. This is concurrent with collegiate athletics, as about 40 percent of women’s Division I sports teams and about three percent of men’s teams have female head coaches, according to the New York Times. So why aren’t there more female coaches?

In 1972, just prior to Title IX, a law that required high schools and colleges to ensure equal opportunity for men and women both academically and athletically, women held 90 percent of the coaching jobs in female sports, according to Forbes. Title IX resulted in many schools putting more money into female athletics, which attracted male coaches. Female coaches were gradually replaced by male coaches, and women now hold less than 41 percent of coaching jobs in female sports. 

Theresa Sherry is a two-sport Ivy League champion, winner of the MPSF coach of the year award in 2008, and the founder and CEO of the Tenacity Project, a program that aims to empower girls through sports. Sherry fears that sports like lacrosse that are quickly gaining traction among youth will experience a shift toward gender inequality in coaches, similar to what happened after the enactment of Title IX.

“Girls’ lacrosse has more female head coaches than other sports do, but that’s starting to change as more money comes to the sport,” Sherry said. 

“We need more female coaches, we need more educated, experienced female management in sport, at all levels … I think that having more females in a sport helps push the professionalism and the opportunities for people in the future,” Tam cross country coach Verity Breen said. Female coaches are viewed by many young athletes, especially girls, as valuable role models and respected adults.  

“In my experience, female-coached teams have a better dynamic because we all feel a sense of connection and comfort,” senior Lily Bowman said.

Sophomore Lia Pletcher agreed, saying, “There definitely have been points when I’ve had a coach that’s a woman where I’ve definitely felt more connected and talked more with them than I would have if the coach was a guy.” 

Breen also believes that female coaches are important to young female athletes. “Women in sport and youth in sport, especially females, they need someone they can trust and confide in, and can ask personal questions to, with it feeling comfortable,” Breen said.

However, despite the shared view that female coaches are an asset to young women, they are still vastly outnumbered, which can affect aspiring young coaches in a negative way.

“There’s a lot of great women coaches, but there’s not as many opportunities for women in [coaching], so that’s not exactly the most encouraging thing,” sophomore Ariana Greenberg said.

Sherry recalled how, as a young athlete, a lack of female coaches affected her view of the future. “They always say ‘If you can see it, you can be it’ and a lot of us growing up didn’t have female coaches,” Sherry said.

 “My dad was also one of my best coaches,” she added, “so I think it depends on the person, but in general I’m much more in favor of women coaching women just so that it prepares them to become another strong woman in the world.”

While women are rarely the head coach of male sports teams, men coach the majority of female sports teams.

“I think we are really underachieving and missing out on a lot of positive role modeling and leadership development for both boys and girls if we don’t get more females into coaching roles,” girls’ lacrosse coach Mike Smith said.

Approximately 44 percent of NCAA athletes are women, yet women hold 20 percent of NCAA head coaching positions. Somewhere along the line, female coaches are either being overlooked or replaced in their positions, especially as more sports gain recognition and increased funding. A study by the Tucker Institute at the University of Minnesota about the number of female coaches in sports concluded: “It is simply not possible that as each new generation of females becomes increasingly involved in and shaped by their sport experience, they simultaneously become less interested, less passionate, and less qualified to enter the coaching profession.” 

Despite the gender disparity, female coaches like Sowers and Nakken, among others, have risen to success in recent years. Part of the Tenacity program is focused on continuing to break down societal barriers and empower women through sport.

“What we’re trying to do through our sports is defy those statistics and help them hang onto that confidence so that they become confident adults,” Sherry said.  

Given the recent developments in professional coaching, our society may be on the way to undoing the unforeseen changes that occurred after Title IX. Sherry believes that the inclusion of more female coaches in sports must be driven by a motivation to break down deeply seeded societal barriers.

“I think as a society, if we can change some of the narratives that have been ingrained in us, I think that would be beneficial for young athletes and the entire human race,” Sherry said.