Why Are Most Youth Sports Coaches Men?


Congress enacted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 meaning we as a sports society have more than 40 years of women playing sports at highly competitive levels. Millions of young girls have played sports at every level in that time, playing well into college and beyond. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, in 1972 just 1 in 27 girls participated in high school sports; today, roughly two in five do. And the number of women playing at the college level since the passing of Title IX has skyrocketed by more than 600%. However, even though the number of female athletes have exploded since Title IX, according to University of Minnesota, it is estimated that less than 20% of youth sport coaches are female.

So why aren’t more women coaching youth sports?

Society Doesn’t Support Female Coaches

In their book Separating the Men from the Moms: The Making of Adult Gender Segregation in Why Are Most Youth Sports Coaches Men?Youth Sports, Michael A. Messner and Suzel Bozada-Deas studied yearbooks from a group of 538 youth baseball and softball teams and 1,490 from the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) in 1999 to 2007. Only 13.4% of the soccer teams had women coaches and only 5.9% of the team’s management in baseball and softball were women. On the other hand, those who helped take care of snacks at halftime, mad phone calls to organize team events, managed fundraising, and provided support for the team players were predominately sports moms.  In It’s All for the Kids: Gender, Families, and Youth Sports (2009), Messner found that traditional societal expectations often push men and women in different directions, even when a woman brings years of game experience to the table. “The head coach—nearly always a man—is the leader and the public face of the team; the team parent—nearly always a woman—is working less visibly behind the scenes, doing the ‘housekeeping’ support work; assistant coaches—mostly men, but including the occasional woman—help the coach on the field during practices and games.”

 When Nicole Lavoi and Erin Becker of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sports asked the few women who were already coaching how to get more moms involved as coaches, many pointed to the logistical struggles that may keep many moms from volunteering. It’s especially hard to juggle the schedule of a working mom and two or three kids, each with their own calendars. Women say they worry about their ability to meet their commitment if the unexpected comes up.

More Teams Meant More Spots for Male Coaches to Move Up

According to research put out by the Tucker Center, in 1974, 90+% of college female athletes were coached by women, but today the number is around 43%. So not only do we have few women coaches, we actually have LESS than we did 40 years ago. The report argues that “while Title IX dramatically opened up participation opportunities for females, it also opened up twice as many coaching opportunities for men.” Once schools had to offer women’s teams, many male assistant coaches saw a very tempting career as the head coach of the girls’ team.

What do you think? Why are we seeing so few sports moms volunteer as coaches, even when they might have years of experience as an athlete under their belt?

If you are a female coach we’d love to hear from you. Why did you volunteer to coach and what do you think needs to be done to encourage more women to step up?