Perhaps you watched this summer's Olympic sporting matches, saw the U.S. women nab 66 percent of Team USA's gold medals, and thought, "Progress!" as you gazed at a sunrise, which was, you had an inkling, really just, like, a metaphor or whatever for how a new era of women's athletics is dawning thanks to 40 years of Title IX. Unfortunately, thanks to a hot and fresh report from the Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center for Women and Girls gloomily titled "The Decade of Decline," your fist-pump may have been a little premature. Way to jinx it.
The report analyzes data from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights Data Collection on high school athletic opportunities for boys and girls between the 1999-2000 and 2009-2010 school years. Though the data shows that opportunities for girls to participate in high school sports definitely increased during the 90s, further progress towards equality has apparently stalled and maybe, in some instances, even reversed over the last decade.
Futurity singles out a few of the most salient points, including:
Athletic participation 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.
Despite the level of economic resources, the opportunity gap between girls and boys continued to increase. By 2010, girls participated in greater numbers than in the beginning of the decade, but their share of total athletic opportunities decreased across the decade compared to boys. During a decade of expanding athletic participation opportunities in US high schools, boys received more opportunities than girls, and boys' opportunities grew faster than those of girls.
The report also finds that the percentage of schools offering no sports programs nearly doubled over the course of the 00s, from 8.2 percent in 2000 to 15 percent in 2010, with schools that boasted a higher enrollment of female students being more likely to drop interscholastic sports during that time.
Cuts in interscholastic sports programs over the last decade disproportionately affect girls, meaning that all those lovely steps in the right direction taken during the 90s have been frustrated by a drying pool of funds. The report estimates that, if current trends continue, 27 percent of U.S. high schools could be without any interscholastic sports by 2020, meaning that some 3.4 million American kids won't be able to do things like stuff far too much Big League Chew into their salivating maws or put Icy Hot in each other's underwear. Kathryn Olson, CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation, told Futurity that the stirring Olympic performance by the U.S. woman has helped beguile everyone into thinking that we have somehow achieved an athletic gender equality:
In the wake of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, the state of women's sports in the US has generated great praise, and many believe that girls and women have finally achieved athletic equality. 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 goes on to claim that athletic participation translates into better academic performance for all students, but, in this case, such a claim is besides the point — if girls are getting disproportionately boxed out (sports imagery!) from interscholastic athletics, trends need to change. Otherwise, we're going to have a nation of football and basketball players only, because apparently those are the only two sports that Americans care at all about watching.
Image via John Barry de Nicola/Shutterstock.