Participation & Opportunity

Coaching Through a Gender Lens

A breakthrough study that examines the intersection of girls’ sports development with their “current day” experiences and the impact of coaches, through the voices of girls, their parents, and experts in girls’ development and sports.

In partnership with Nike’s Social & Community Impact division, Coaching through a Gender Lens examines girls’ own personal experiences in sport and the degree to which specific coaching practices/experiences impact their participation, motivation, and retention. The findings also highlight the major cultural, environmental, and policy-based barriers that contribute to the gender gap in sport, and the ways in which youth sports organizations serving girls can successfully meet their needs and foster their continued engagement in sport.

Coaching Through a Gender Lens Executive Summary
Power of Parents Research Brief
Coaching Through a Gender Lens Official Press Release here.
Coaching Through a Gender Lens Key Findings Illustration
Coaching Through a Gender Lens Infographic

Coaching Through a Gender Lens Report .pdf (2mb)

How Tennis Influences Youth Development

How Tennis Influences Youth Development builds on two previous research projects — More Than a Sport: Tennis, Education & Health (2013) and Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters (2018) — that view teen sports as an educational tool and public health asset.

Deborah Slaner Larkin, through the MARGARET Fund at the WSF commissioned the WSF to update the data from More Than a Sport and, as it specifically relates to tennis, build on the findings of the Teen Sport Report by examining participation and retention levels as well as what combination of sports is associated with the best academic, social, health, and behavioral outcomes among adolescents.

Tennis Report Executive Summary

Tennis Report Fact Sheet

Full Report

Teen Sport in America

The Women’s Sports Foundation commissioned the Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters report to better understand the impact of sports participation on teen health, well-being and academic achievement.

WSF offers a “Teen Sport in America” toolkit to help organizations utilize this data to communicate the importance of youth sports participation. To request a copy, contact Kristen Gowdy.

Teen Sport in America Executive Summary.
Teen Sport in America Fact Sheet.

Teen Sport in America: Why Participation Matters Full Report

Mapping Attrition among U.S. Adolescents in Competitive, Organized School and Community Sports

This study by the Center for Research on Physical Activity, Sports, and Health describes and analyzes the shifting flow of U.S. adolescents into and out of competitive, organized school and community sports across the high school years.

It tracks and assesses if athletic participation rates increased, decreased, or remained stable between eighth grade and 12th grade—across all sports and within each of the 14 sports as well as “other sports.” It examines whether shifts in athletic participation and attrition across the high school years were influenced by race and ethnicity, family socioeconomic level, metropolitan status, gender, or geographic region.

The study concludes there are big leaks in the sport pipeline. While today more teens than ever flow through the pipeline of American sports, participation rates in most sports plunge between eighth grade and 12th grade. It also found that attrition among girls Is significantly higher than among boys. The attrition rates for girls between eighth grade and 12th grade in all sports are two to three times higher than among boys.

Mapping Attrition among U.S. Adolescents in Competitive, Organized School and Community Sports

More Than A Sport: Tennis, Education, and Health

This report presents the major findings from a first-of-its-kind nationwide study that compares the educational and health profiles of adolescent tennis participants with participants in other non-contact sports and contact sports, as well as high school students who do not participate in sports. The study was conducted by the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) on behalf of the USTA Foundation (formerly USTA Serves).

More Than A Sport: Tennis, Education, and Health (PDF 4398k)

Progress and Promise: Title IX at 40, a White Paper

Title IX emerged from social and cultural shifts in the American gender order. Its legal ripples created controversy and pushback from many men who sat atop sport infrastructures from Little Leagues to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). It has provided women and advocates of female sport participation  with a legal tool to advance opportunity for girls and women in education and sport. Over time, many parents, educators, administrators and government leaders fell in step with its vision and ethic of fair play. Today, thanks to a growing body of research, the advocates for reform in sport and education increasingly base their claims and visions on evidence rather than myth or ideology. And it is out of these historical changes, knowledge production and celebration of its inception that the 2012 Title IX at 40: Progress and Promise—Equity for All conference was born. Download the full White Paper to learn how far we’ve come…and what work is left to do.

Progress and Promise: Title IX at 40 Conference, a White Paper (PDF 237k)

The Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports

“The Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports,” a study co-authored by Don Sabo, Ph.D., Director, Center for Research on Physical Activity, Sports & Health (CRPASH), D’Youville College, and Philip Veliz, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Michigan, analyzes data from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Data Collection on girls’ and boys’ high school athletic opportunities between the 1999-2000 and 2009-10 school years. This is the second in the “Progress Without Equity” research report series.

Key findings from “The Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports” include:

  • 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; however, girls’ share of total athletic opportunities decreased across the decade as compared to boys’ share. During a decade of expanding athletic participation opportunities across U.S. high schools, boys received more opportunities than girls, and boys’ opportunities grew faster than those of 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 approximately 15 percent. Additionally, schools with disproportionately higher female enrollments (i.e., the student body is 56 percent female or higher) 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 one percent added sports to their curriculum. Given this trend in the data, it is estimated that by the year 2020, 27 percent of U.S. public high schools (4,398 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.

Through this benchmark study, the SHARP Center hopes to inform and educate policy makers on the importance of ensuring that athletic opportunities are readily available to youth at the high school level. The Women’s Sports Foundation worked with the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) to create relevant, evidence-based policy recommendations based on the report’s findings:

  • The Office for Civil Rights should strengthen its enforcement of Title IX in secondary schools to ensure that girls receive equal opportunities to reap the many valuable benefits of playing sports.
  • Federal policymakers should require high schools to publicly disclose gender equity data about their athletics programs.
  • Urban schools, in particular, should redouble their efforts to increase the numbers of athletic opportunities that they provide to girls.
  • All schools should have Title IX coordinators and should regularly conduct Title IX self-evaluations to ensure that they are complying with the law.
The Decade of Decline: Gender Equity in High School Sports (PDF 1958k)

Progress Without Equity

This first-of-its-kind report on gender and high school sports participation, “Progress Without Equity: The Provision of High School Athletic Opportunity in the United States, by Gender 1993-94 through 2005-06,” flows from an analysis of high schools that is unprecedented in its national and historical scope. It uses merged data from the Civil Rights Data Collection and the Common Core of Data, which is collected by the National Center for Education Statistics.

The report examines gender differences in athletic opportunity in a nationally representative sample of 24,370 public four-year high schools across 1993-94, 1999-2000 and 2005-06. Three measures of the extent of athletic opportunity are documented including the number of athletic participation opportunities, the number of teams, and the number of sports. This report was authored by Don Sabo, Ph.D., Professor of Health Policy, D’Youville College, and Phil Veliz, M.S., University at Buffalo, the State University of New York.

The key findings in “Progress Without Equity” include:

  • While high schools gradually increased their allocations of athletic participation opportunities between 1993-94 and 2005-06, progress toward closing the gender gap slowed after 2000.
  • Boys received a larger proportion of athletic participation opportunities than girls did for each school year in all communities (i.e., urban, suburban, town, and rural). The lowest percentages of athletic participation opportunities occurred in urban schools, whereas the highest percentages were issued in rural schools.
  • Schools with greater economic resources provided more athletic participation opportunities for their students—both girls and boys—than their less fiscally sound counterparts.
  • Girls were provided proportionately fewer athletic participation opportunities than boys during each school year and in all geographic regions (i.e., Northeast, Midwest, South and West.

This report provides educators and policymakers at the national and state levels with new and more accurate information. The data presented here reflect the provision of athletic opportunities to U.S. girls and boys during an historical period in which the influence of Titles IX was growing. The results show that while some progress was made toward expanding the opportunity sector of interscholastic sports to include more girls between 1993-94 and 2005/06, gender equity was not achieved.

Progress Without Equity: The Provision of High School Athletic Opportunity in the United States, by Gender 1993-94 through 2005-06

Go Out and Play – Understudied Populations

Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America is a comprehensive research report that covers a range of topics including sports access for children with disabilities. Significant numbers of children from immigrant families are involved with sports and exercise. Their interest is palpable, but for reasons we do not understand, girls lag behind boys in participation.

Go Out and Play - Understudied Populations