Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Race, Gender and Basketball

This morning I ran across two sources that examine the intersection of race and gender in college basketball programs of the Title IX era. Together they highlight two dissonant facts. Women's sports remain segregated; and Black women are not attaining positions of leadership even in the sport they dominate.

First, a graduate thesis by Chanel Lattimer (abstract posted at BWSF) examines the overrepresentation of Black women in basketball and track as compared to other sports. Historically, basketball and track have been dominated by Black women due in large part to the cultural and socioeconomic factors that made these sports attractive to Black women athletes while steering white women athletes towards alternatives, namely, the companionate and comparatively "tidy" country club sports like golf and tennis. Lattimer found that while Title IX has exponentially increased women's access to athletic opportunities, their participation today continues to mirror these historical patterns.

Second, I read this August 2006 article from the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder (via NAGWS) that examines the racial disparity in coaching. Despite Black women's overrepresentation as basketball players, they are grossly underrepresented in head coaching positions, holding only 7% of women's basketball head coaching positions at NCAA member institutions. The article quotes Rutgers's Vivian Stringer (formerly of Iowa, and one of my favorite coaches in the game) as being "angered" by the situation many aspiring Black women coaches face: the "triple jeopardy" of competing against white men, black men, and white women for the sport's top jobs.

Scholars and activists have long focused on the Title IX-related phenomenon that men are increasingly competing (and being hired) for head coach positions of women's teams. There is also much attention paid to the racial disparity of coaching positions in high-profile men's sports like football. These race and gender imbalances intersect in the context of women's basketball and establish that sport as an area for more attention, research, and activism.

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