Have A Seat

With so much media attention focused on the current federal review of Title IX, it’s easy to forget that compliance means more than proportionality. This author challenges you to assess your basic priorities.

By Bobby Moore

Bobby Moore is Assistant Principal/Athletic Administrator at Jonathan Alder High School, in Plain City, Ohio. He was recently named the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) Assistant Principal of the Year for the state of Ohio.

Athletic Management, 15.3, April/May 2003, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/am/am1503/gpseat.htm

Like most in athletic administration, I have closely watched the debates and actions of the Office of the Commission on Opportunities in Athletics. I am relieved that its final proposals did not turn back the clock on Title IX because I know that we have not come close to achieving equality of opportunity in athletics.

As those of us who have lived through the 30 years since Title IX’s inception know, changes happen most often when individual administrators and coaches are tuned into what equality means and why it’s important. Court cases and commissions effect change much more slowly.

With this in mind, I’d like to use this article to challenge my peers to a Title IX test. No legal questions, I promise. The test is more to help each of us examine if we’re truly thinking of the needs of both sexes when directing our programs.

At the time of this writing, it is not clear whether U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige will recommend altering the three-prong proportionality test. So I will not examine this issue. Instead, I’d like to focus on the 11 components issued by the Office for Civil Rights in its Athletics Investigators’ Manual.

These are just as—if not more—important than proportionality. They instruct us on how to provide equal resources and support to female athletes. They are as follows:

1. Equipment and supplies: Is the quality, amount, and availability the same for boys and girls?

2. Scheduling of games and practices: Do you schedule the same number of contests per sport and the same number and length of practices per sport? The time of day that contests are scheduled should also be equitable.

3. Travel and per diem allowance: Are the modes of transportation, length of stay before and after the event, and dining arrangements the same for males and females?

4. Access to experienced and quality coaches: Is the rate of compensation, the number of assistant coaches, and the working conditions similar for both sexes?

5. Facilities: Do boys’ and girls’ teams have equal practice and competitive facilities? Do they have equal locker rooms? Is the preparation of facilities done with the same amount of resources and care?

6. Medical and training facilities: Do all athletes have access to similar medical professionals, insurance coverage, and weight-training equipment?

7. Publicity: Are the quantity and quality of publications and promotional devices equal?

8. Recruiting resources provided: Are these resources the same for boys’ teams as compared to girls’ teams?

9. Academic tutoring services: Are academic support services the same for both sexes?

10. Support services: Do you make available support staff, cheerleaders, pep club and band, etc., for both boys and girls?

11. Housing and dining facilities: If you house and dine athletes, are these services similar for boys and girls?

In high school athletics, the administrator can complete a self-study of the school’s current male and female sports programs by applying each component to each sport. Any differences may expose a compliance problem.

At the college level, when some sports are given priority over others, examining the above components is a bit trickier. I would suggest you simply compare your high-priority women’s sports against your high-priority men’s sports, compare your lower-priority sports against one another, and so forth.

Opponents to gender equity claim that Title IX harms male sports programs. But institutions would not need to reduce or eliminate opportunities for men if they were not already discriminating against women.

Maintaining the status quo is usually easier than initiating change, and sometimes we grasp at myths to support the status quo. The following are examples of myths I have heard administrators use to not support equity in girls’ athletic programs.

Myth: “Girls do not like warmups.”
This is an easy way to justify not providing girls’ teams with adequate uniforms.

Myth: “Girls are more interested in fun.”
This can lead to not hiring the same quality of coach for the girls’ team as the boys’ team.

Myth: “It is more important to keep the girls happy.”
I heard this as the reason for not supporting a coach who disciplined a member of a girls’ team for missing practice.

Myth: “Girls do not want cheerleaders at games.”
You need to support your girls’ teams with the same pomp and circumstance that you do boys’ teams, even if it feels funny to them at first.

Myth: “Girls can get hurt in there.”
This was one administrators’ justification for not giving girls equal access to the weight room.

Myth: “The boys’ coach has more pressure.”
This has led to paying girls’ coaches less than the boys’ coaches, but is discriminatory.

Now, here’s the test part: Did any of the above myths not seem like myths to you? If so, it may be time for you to examine your priorities—not just what the law says (or what it may say tomorrow) but what your gut says when it comes to making decisions about your athletics programs.

To assist in your self-reflection, try these questions on for size:

1. Should girls have equal opportunities compared to boys?
2. Have you surveyed the interests of female student-athletes in your school?
3. Do you use the same search and hiring practices for coaches of boys’ sports as you do for coaches of girls’ sports?
4. Do you schedule prime-time events for girls’ sports?
5. Do you believe that sports is as important for girls as for boys?
6. Does your community regard you as an advocate for girls’ sports?
7. Do you add girls’ teams and sports without being directed to?

Answering “no” to any of the above questions may indicate that you are not doing enough for your female athletes. Which means you may be short-changing half of your population.

Changing one’s attitude and approach is not easy. But that’s what separates a successful administrator from a retired one.