Gender equity progress stalls in high school sports in 2000s

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High school athletic opportunities are on the decline, especially for girls.

Progress toward gender equity in high school sports slowed during the 2000s after a decade of increasing athletic opportunities for girls, according to a new study out this week.

The study also shows a spike in the number of high schools eliminating interscholastic sports programs for girls and boys.

The report from Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center for Women and Girls shows that opportunities for girls in high school athletics increased from 1993-1994 and again from 1999-2000 but that it slowed during this past decade.

The report from SHARP, a collaboration of the University of Michigan and the Women’s Sports Foundation, examines high school offerings 40 years after the passage of Title IX, the landmark legislation mandating gender equality in education.

“Many believe that girls and women have finally achieved athletic equality,” said WSF CEO Kathryn Olson, noting the record participation of U.S. women in this summer’s Olympics. “However, these findings suggest that we simply aren’t there yet. In fact, we are moving farther and farther away from equality with the cutting of interscholastic sports.”

Olson continued, “It goes beyond the physical benefits of sport. Sports are an integral part of the educational experience; students who participate in sports are shown to achieve greater academic success. The decline of interscholastic athletic opportunities should be looked at as an erosion of the educational capacity.”

The report, in the conclusion, said, "A protracted retreat from the legislative mandate of Title IX unfolded across the decade. "

The Sharp Center study, titled “The Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports,” found:

• Athletic opportunities expanded across the decade, but boys’ allotment grew more than girls. By 2009-10, 53 athletic opportunities were offered for every 100 boys, compared with 41 opportunities for every 100 girls.

• By 2009-10 boys still received disproportionately more athletic opportunities than girls in all community settings — urban, suburban, towns and rural communities.

• In 2000, 8.2 percent of schools offered no sports programs, the percentage nearly doubled by 2010, rising to about 15 percent. Schools with disproportionately higher female enrollments were more likely to have dropped interscholastic sports between 2000 and 2010.

• Seven percent of public schools lost sports programs between 2000 and 2010, while less than 1 percent added sports to their curriculum. It is estimated that by the year 2020, 27 percent of U.S. public high schools would be without any interscholastic sports, translating to an estimated 3.4 million young Americans – 1,658,046 girls and 1,798,782 boys – who would not have any school-based sports activities to participate in by 2020 if the trend continues.