Friday, July 02, 2010

Coaches' Title IX Literacy Called Into Question

Coaches are sorely lacking foundational knowledge about Title IX, according to new, unpublished research profiled in this article in Athletic Business. The study's authors, Ellen Staurowsky of Ithaca College and Erianne Weight of Bowling Green, found that most coaches have received no formal Title IX training and instead rely largely on the media for their knowledge of the law. As a result, they are steeped in misperceptions or uncertainty about the law, which they view as the responsibility of administrators instead. Staurowsky gives two reasons why coaches as well should be literate in the basics of Title IX:
Number one, because they are advocates for their programs. If they don't have a strong understanding about Title IX, then they don't have the traction to be able to effect change within their administration or to even call their administration out when it is lethargic on Title IX issues. Number two, the enforcement scheme relies on every constituency to be aware of how Title IX works, from government officials to school administrators to coaches to athletes to parents. Back in the 1970s, female athletes were learning about Title IX from their coaches. That link has disappeared. So enforcement can't just come from the top down. It can't just come as a matter of presidential decree. It's got to come from the bottom up.
I've met many coaches who know Title IX inside and out, and I'll bet that the coaches I know who read this blog were either not among the 1100 coaches included in the study or are in the minority of those knowledgeable about the law. Because of these Title IX-savvy coaches, I know that Staurowsky is right about the power and potential of their advocacy when it comes to enforcement and teaching athletes about equality and advocacy. For example, the volleyball players in attendance at the Quinnipiac trial were following the lead of their coach, Robin Sparks, who by sitting at the plaintiff's table, conveyed to them the importance of standing up for equality. I also think about the Fresno State softball player I met a few years ago, who credited coach Margie Wright for role modeling the strength and bravery it takes to speak out against discrimination.

Because we need more examples like these, I hope that Staurowsky and Weight's study motivates more coaches to get educated about Title IX, and to pass it on.

And if it helps, we here at Title IX Blog have power points, will travel!