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Whilst USA have a record number of female athletes at Rio, there are still low numbers of female coaches (USA)

Elena PirozhkovaBefore there was Simone Biles there was Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian gymnast who was the first person ever to score a perfect 10, in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

When told that Biles was among a record number of female athletes competing for the United States, Comaneci was shocked.

?Is that how many women are here? Oh my gosh,? the world-renowned gymnast said after being told that 292 women were in Rio representing the U.S.

Sports leaders and athletes attribute a significant portion of the growth of U.S. women Olympians to Title IX, which was created more than 40 years ago to ensure gender equity in federally funded educational programs.

Signed into law by President Richard Nixon, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states that ?no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.?

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun called Title IX the ?tipping point? for the increase in women in U.S. sports, saying the law has fostered equal opportunity for members of both sexes to compete in college sports and cultivate the skills that could eventually land them in the Olympics.

?Our women got a great head start in the United States because of the support that they got in schools and colleges growing up. So if you look at what started to happen 10 years, 20 years after the passage of Title IX, it really began to have a huge impact. And you combine that with the great collegian structure that we have and the support that we get from NCAA,? Blackmun said during a USOC briefing last week in Rio.

In the 1972 Olympic games that were held just two months after Title IX passed, only 84 women competed for the U.S., or 21 percent of the U.S. team, according to Sports Reference LLC. By 1976, when Comaneci competed for Romania in Montreal, 29.7 percent of the United States team was female, 118 women total.

Forty years later, more than half the U.S. Olympic team ? 52.7 percent ? is female. The nearly 300 women the U.S. brought to Rio marks the the highest number of female athletes to ever represent a single nation, according to the USOC.


One challenge that persists for females in sports in America is in coaching. U.S. women?s wrestler and two-time Olympian, Elena Pirozhkova, said there are not enough female coaches or equal pay rates for those coaches to assist so many up-and-coming female athletes.

A survey of NCAA schools by Brooklyn College researchers showed that 4 out of 10 coaches for women?s teams were female in 2014 and that 1 out of 4.5 head coaches of all NCAA teams, men?s and women?s, was a female.

?It can?t be artificial,? Pirozhkova said, explaining that while more women have had the opportunity to compete in sports, there has not been the same growth among women coaches.

But she predicted that the number of female coaches and their salaries will go up in the years to come, as the growing number of elite female athletes come to the end of their playing careers and seek additional ways to stay connected to their respective sports.

Arizona State University vice president of athletics and athletics director Ray Anderson said that Arizona State is working to create more opportunities for female coaches and agreed with Pirozhkova?s notion that it has to first be based on talent.

?At the end of the day, you?ve got to make sure that the, particularly the head coaches for your student athletes, are in fact the very best available for your program, notwithstanding their gender,? Anderson said. ?That being said, you want to make sure that when you have an opportunity that you really work hard to make sure that your slate is diverse and we certainly do that here.

?Part of what we need to do is to be a model for encouraging other folks to continually look for opportunities to include appropriate women in (their) pool of candidates,? Anderson said.

Arizona State?s female coaching numbers were consistent with the the numbers in the Brooklyn College study. Out of the Sun Devils? 22 head coaches as of July, five are women, or 1 out of every 4.4 head coaches at ASU.

Anderson and several female athletes said they are confident that as women continue to make gains in sports, the number of women coaches will become more in line with the number of female Olympians.



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