Sports Gender Gap Contested : Principals Urged to Recruit Women for Coaching Jobs

Times Staff Writer

Faced with a complaint by teachers that they have not tried hard enough to put women in coaching positions, high school principals in Torrance are considering proposals that they intensify recruiting efforts and give more attention to girls’ sports.

The recommendations came in January from a 16-member committee that was formed after the Torrance Teachers Assn. filed a complaint alleging that Torrance Unified School District violated its affirmative-action policy by failing to bring more women into coaching positions.

As in every other South Bay school district with high schools, men hold the majority of coaching positions in the Torrance district. Of the 158 paid, part-time coaching positions at the district’s four high schools, men hold 142 of them and women 16, according to school officials. Many of the coaches are teachers paid $1,200 to $1,600 a year for each sport they coach. Most of the others work full time at other jobs and coach part time.

Replaced by Male Coach


The complaint originated from Marge Fulton, a 55-year-old physical education teacher at West High School. She asked the teachers union to take action after she was replaced by a man as coach of the girls’ cross-country team.

District officials say they cannot discuss Fulton’s case, but she acknowledges that she was replaced after she refused to work with a new, male cross-country coach whose training philosophy conflicted with hers.

No matter the outcome of her case, Fulton’s complaint forced district officials to examine their hiring policies and practices. The case also illuminates difficult questions facing school administrators throughout the South Bay:

* ow important are high school coaches as role models for their players, and should a team be coached by someone of the same sex?


* Is there a shortage of qualified women to coach, as administrators say? If so, is that because women may be more likely to have family responsibilities that prevent them from working 20 to 30 hours a week after school?

* Are women discouraged from being coaches by the fact that girls’ sports get less attention than boys’ sports?

Women hold between 10% and 25% of the paid coaching positions in South Bay high school districts, according to school officials. These figures do not include continuation high schools because most do not compete in interscholastic sports.

By comparison, in the entire California Interscholastic Federation’s Southern Section, which includes more than 470 high schools from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border, women hold about 35% of the paid high school coaching positions, according to a study of Southern California schools.

In the Southern Section and the South Bay, men vastly outnumber women in coaching boys’ sports and, by a lesser margin, men also outnumber women coaching girls’ teams. Some imbalance is predictable, since some sports, notably football and wrestling, are only open to boys, and because football requires several assistant coaching positions.

Even considering those factors, however, statistics indicate that women are under-represented as coaches.

For example, at South High in Torrance, the athletic director for both boys’ and girls’ teams is a man. The school sponsors 10 boys’ sports and seven girls’ sports. Almost all sports have a varsity and a junior varsity team, each with one head coach. The two football teams each have a head coach and share five paid assistants. If every team were coached by someone of the same sex, the school would have about 25 male coaches and about 14 female coaches.

Coaching Jobs Up


Women now hold only seven of about 40 paid coaching positions. The numbers are not more precise because there are not always enough participants to form both a varsity and a junior varsity team. Men coach all boys’ sports except volleyball, and all girls’ sports except volleyball and soccer.

Girls’ high school sports experienced a surge after the passage of Title IX, the 1972 federal law that requires school districts receiving federal aid to spend equally on girls’ and boys’ sports programs. The number of girls competing in high school sports in Southern California jumped 700% between 1971 and 1985, according to Kathie Maier, a physical education teacher at El Monte High School who has accumulated data on women coaches for a master’s thesis at Cal State Long Beach.

At the same time, the number of coaching and administrative positions increased 37%. But according to Maier’s studies, the percentage of women coaching girls’ sports dropped from 90% in 1972 to about 37% in 1988, she said.

The reasons for that vary, depending on who you talk to.

Some teachers say administrators make no effort to recruit and keep women coaches. Administrators say they try to recruit women coaches at colleges and through newspaper and magazine ads, but contend that low wages and long working hours make the work unappealing to women with family responsibilities.

Ironically, some school officials blame Title IX for the discrepancy, saying the federal act requires that coaches of boys’ and girls’ sports be paid the same, prompting men to seek jobs coaching girls’ teams.

Equality of Women

Whatever the reasons for fewer women coaches, administrators and coaches agree that something must be done to bring more women into high school coaching positions.


“There has got to be equality of women in sports,” said McKinley Nash, superintendent for the Centinela Valley Union High School District. “I don’t know how it (the situation) got that way, but it can’t stay that way.”

Paul Mackey, Torrance Unified School District’s assistant superintendent for special services, agreed that the under-representation of women in high school coaching in Torrance is “a problem.”

“We would like to see the womens’ number increased,” Mackey said. “But our administration has said that they are having trouble finding qualified persons.”

Mackey has been overseeing the policy examination that was sparked by Fulton’s complaint. Last spring, school administrators told Fulton that she would have to work with another coach on the co-ed cross-country team. He was someone who had never coached, but was an experienced marathon runner.

Fulton challenged both the school’s decision and the male coach’s qualifications and coaching techniques. She told the school’s athletic director to choose between her and the new coach.

In May, Fulton lost her coaching position. Soon after, she decided to file a protest.

Active Recruiting

“I was concerned because girls need women role models to look up to,” she said.

Through the teachers union, she charged the district with violating its affirmative-action policy by not aggressively recruiting and keeping women coaches.

In response, the district set up a 16-member committee made up of assistant principals, athletic directors and women coaches to discuss ways to increase the number of women in coaching positions. In January, the group made three main recommendations:

* Hire both a female and a male athletic director for each high school. (Most South Bay high schools only have one athletic director and most are male.)

* Actively recruit female coaches to fill vacancies.

* Increase the promotion of girls’ sporting events. (Fulton complained that boys’ events are played in large auditoriums at night during prime time, while girls’ events are played in the afternoon in smaller auditoriums.)

High school principals are reviewing the recommendations. When they have finished, the recommendations will be returned to the school board for action, school officials said. It is not known when--or even if--the recommendations are scheduled to come before the board.

Fulton said it does not really matter that she has not been returned to her original coaching position. What is more important is that the district make an effort to bring more women into coaching, she said.

Makes No Difference

“People can’t just keep turning their heads and hope the problem goes away,” Fulton said.

Some high school athletes interviewed recently said it makes no difference to them if their coach is a man or a woman. Many of them, however, said they have never had a woman coach.

“It doesn’t matter,” said 15-year-old Vicki Lim, who competes in track and field for Redondo Beach High School. “Whoever is best qualified for the job should have it.”

Jennifer Bauman, 16, a Redondo Beach High School runner, agreed, saying administrators who are looking to hire coaches should “not be looking for men or women. They should be looking for good coaches.”

According to Helen Astin a psychologist and professor of higher education at UCLA, there is a difference between men and women coaches.

Astin, who has done extensive research in gender studies, said it is important that high school girls have at least some women coaches who will act as role models.

She said the high school years are a vulnerable time for young girls because they mature and develop quickly. She said teen-age girls need to form close relationships with older women who will answer their questions and help them develop to maturity.

She said there is also the possibility of conflict when men coach girls, because males tend to be much more competitive than females and tend to stress the individual achievement, while female tend to stress the team effort more than men.

‘A Negative Impact’

“I see it as unfortunate that there are so few women coaches,” she said. “This can have a definite negative impact.”

Bill Franchini president of the Torrance Teachers’ Assn., said that Fulton’s charges have brought to light a vital issue that district officials throughout the South Bay must address. “It opened up a whole can of worms,” he said.

Franchini contends that part of the reason for the low representation of women is that district officials make little effort to recruit and keep women coaches.

He said he believes district officials practice “unconscious sexual discrimination” because they are not aware that they discriminate against women when they make no effort to hire women coaches.

June Schneider a teacher and coach at Sherry High School, agrees.

Two years ago, Schneider was the girls’ junior varsity volleyball coach at West High School when she was replaced by a 18-year-old man.

She said she lost her position when the varsity coach requested she be replaced by a coach of his choice. Schneider said that when she complained, administrators told her that they simply “forgot” about her.

“I felt like I had been batting my head against a wall for 20 years and got nothing for it,” she said, adding: “I didn’t feel like they were picking on me because I’m a female. It’s just a matter of they don’t care.”

Torrance school administrators said they could not discuss Schneider’s case.

But they and administrators from other schools contend they try to recruit and keep women coaches. The problem, they say, is that very few qualified women apply for such positions.

“Show me a woman who wants to coach,” said Ed Brownlee, athletic director and dean of students at Inglewood High School. “If they want to work, give them the number of Inglewood High School and I will put them to work.”

Brownlee contends that women do not apply for coaching positions because salaries for coaches are low.

For example, at Torrance high schools, coaches work about 20 to 30 hours after school each week and receive between $1,200 to $1,600 per sport per year, depending on the sport. Coaches who do not work for the district are paid the same.

Brownlee said Title IX has played a significant role in shaping the wages paid to coaches. He said that before 1972, some high schools allocated very little money to women sports while others didn’t have girls’ sports programs at all.

Spend Money Equally

When Title IX was passed, it required that athletic departments spend money equally between girls’ sports and boys’ sports. It did not provide for any additional funding to establish girls’ programs.

“It’s a Catch-22 situation,” he said. “They gave us Title IX but they did not give us more money to fund it.”

Maier, a badminton and volleyball coach with 14 years of coaching experience, agrees that in some cases Title IX may work against women coaches.

She said Title IX not only required that athletic departments spend the same on girls’ and boys’ sports, but it also required that the salaries for the coaches of girls’ sports match that of coaches of boys’ sports. When the salaries were adjusted, men increasingly began to compete for positions traditionally held by women, she said.

“When the money got better, men got into coaching girls’ sports,” she said.

In defense of Title IX, Stan Thomas, athletic commissioner for the California Interscholastic Federation, said the anti-bias law has brought new life to girls’ sports programs by bringing equality to the boys’ and girls’ sports.

He disagreed with those who say that Title IX may have had a damaging effect on the number of women in high school coaching. Title IX may not have increased funding to pay for the new girls’ sports programs, but Thomas said that outside sources, like booster clubs, have substantially raised the budgets of most high school athletic departments.

Furthermore, he contends that women are under-represented in coaching not because of salary discrepancies, but by choice.

“You don’t get into coaching for the financial reward,” he said, “You get into it because you enjoy kids.”

Nash, from the Centinela Valley Union High School District, agrees with other administrators who say it is difficult to find qualified women coaches, but he said his district is trying to do something about that.

Last year, Centinela Valley hired Darlene Daniel its first female associate principal in charge of athletics at Hawthorne High School.

Daniel, a former assistant principal at R. K. Lloyde Continuation High School and former teacher with 16 years experience, said she wants to hire more women coaches, but knows it will not be easy.

“It’s hard to get women to coach,” she said. “We get very, very few women applying for positions.”


Girls or coed Boys or coed teams coached teams coached District Men Women by a man by a woman Torrance Unified 142 16 27 4 L.A. Unified School 72 18 18 5 in South Bay Centinela Valley 53 6 8 1 El Segundo Unified 14 2 4 0 South Bay Union 73 7 4 2 Inglewood Unified 44 6 3 2 Palos Verdes Unified 31 3 20 3

Does not include continuation high schools