Anglo-American Women in Sport

Article excerpt

During the past 20 to 30 years, sport participation opportunities for girls and women have grown tremendously. According to Acosta and Carpenter (1998), the mean number of female teams offered by NCAA institutions today; is 7.71, compared to 5.61 teams in 1978. However, the number of female coaches and athletic administrators has continued to decline. In 1998, 47.4 percent of the coaches of women's teams were female, compared to 90 percent in 1972. In addition, a female directs only 19.4 percent of today's women's athletic programs (Acosta & Carpenter, 1998).

Celebrating the Past

Although the number of sport opportunities continues to grow for girls and women, this has not always been the case. Female athletes of the 1970s experienced a different journey than those of today. One Anglo-American woman reflected on her athletic participation and shared her experiences. The experiences of this woman indicate that two different journeys occurred. One journey was for athletes; the other was for female coaches, physical education teachers, and athletic administrators. This woman watched as sports were added to her school, giving her the opportunity to participate on teams. At her institution, female athletes could play softball, but because there were no fields available in the spring, due to the men's baseball teams, the season had to be played in the fall. The basketball team had to practice at odd hours because the men's teams had priority. In addition, she used and wore hand-me-down equipment and uniforms from the men's teams. The competitive and practice facilities were inadequate, and her team had to engage in fundraising activities to support their sport. It should be noted that the aforementioned examples were a small sample of the myriad of inequities that existed. However, this athlete and many others did not realize the extent of inequities for girls and women in sport, and instead continued on their merry journey of sport participation. The athletes who competed during this time are known today as the Title IX generation of female athletes.

While the Title IX generation of female athletes celebrated their new opportunities in the 1970s, female coaches, physical education teachers, and athletic administrators had less to celebrate. Their journey was full of bumps and bruises. These individuals were fighting battles each day, engaged in such activities as securing funds for travel, equipment, and facilities. Many female athletes were unaware that their female coaches, teachers, and administrators were fighting so hard for such small gains. These female coaches, physical education teachers, and athletic administrators were the heroines, mentors, and role models who inspired the Title IX generation of female athletes, and many of them were members of the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport.

Before Title IX, the members of DGWS and then NAGWS engaged in such activities as publishing rules and standards and preparing officials. However, with the arrival of Title IX, changes occurred within NAGWS. Uhlir (1987) described some of the changes:

The advent of Title IX, although providing great impetus for program development for girls and women, also created the demise of sex separate programs at the beginning and intermediate levels, the very programs NAGWS had nurtured and developed from the beginning. The incipient programs for advanced performers were subsumed under the existing bodies for high school and collegiate sport. Management of the competition as well as control of the rules of the competition soon followed. Traditional roles of NAGWS became central pieces of the architecture of other governing bodies and organizations. (p. 2)

NAGWS now had to focus on new challenges. In 1987, Ann Uhlir, an AIAW past president, prepared a report for the NAGWS Executive Board and highlighted two broad roles for NAGWS: (1) leadership development for women in sport and (2) advocacy for girls' and women's sports. …