The proliferation of girls' and women's individual and team sports at the high school and college levels has given girls in youth sports an avenue to pursue their athletic dreams.
However, researchers say, fewer women are coaching them.
A study by R. Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter of Brooklyn College reports that female coaches of women's college teams declined from more than 90% in 1972 to 47.3% this year. The drop in females heading women's overall college athletic programs was even more pronounced: from more than 90% in 1972 to 15.9% in 1990.
Susan True, assistant director of the National Federation of State High School Assns. in Kansas City, Mo., said that although surveys are scarce, similar declines have been reported in the number of women coaching girls' high school teams.
Marjorie Snyder, a sports psychologist who is programs director at the Women's Sports Foundation in New York, said the decline in leadership roles was an ironic result of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
The act allowed the government to withhold federal funds from colleges or high schools that did not provide equal opportunities for women in sports.
"Coaches of girls' teams went from getting no pay or low pay to being paid or getting more equal pay," Snyder said. "There were more jobs and men had a new interest." As a result, men started taking jobs formerly held by women.
Carole Oglesby, a sports psychologist who chairs the physical education department at Temple University in Philadelphia, said that while men coach women's teams with little resistance, the same cannot be said when women coach males.
Oglesby, who graduated from Baldwin Park High School and earned bachelor's and master's degrees at UCLA, said her studies showed that boys regarded their female coaches as out of place.
"The clash becomes almost visceral," she said. "The boys on (teams coached by women) were getting razzed for maybe being less masculine than players on other teams."
Oglesby called that idea bizarre. "Why would being coached by a woman reduce the masculinity of boys?" she asked.