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The Role of Parental Involvement and Participation of Female Students in High School Sports


In the United States, taking part in organized sports constitutes a crucial part of high school life, particularly for male students. Historically, the situation has not been the same for female high school students who have been sidelined from playing sports at various school levels (Acosta & Carpenter, 2012). This changed in 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed into law Title IX, a major part of the 1972 Educational Amendments. It has played a critical role in ensuring that female students have the ability to involved in sports and other school-sponsored activities (O’Reilly & Cahn, 2007). Before the passage of Title IX legislation, the only real sports option available for female students was cheerleading. Since the law was passed girls’ participation in sports has increased dramatically. During the 1971-72 school year, before the passage of the law, only seven percent of all high school athletes were female, with fewer than three hundred thousand girls taking part in high school sports (National Federation of State High School Associations, n.d.). However, by the 2010-2011 academic year, the number of girls taking part in sports had stood at roughly three million (forty-one percent) of the entire high school student population (National Federation of State High School Associations, n.d.).

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Despite the significant efforts adopted at the policy level aimed at improving female students’ participation in sports activities at all institutional levels, equality in sports participation between male and female students remains problematic. According to Spence et al. (2010), the underrepresentation of female students in all sports is evident across all institutional levels (including the high school level). This remains true despite Title IX highlighting the approaches that institutions must employ to ensure equal participation in sports for female and male students. Nevertheless, Gratton and Jones (2010) observed that such methods tended to be ineffective when not used in combination with others that deal with the social barriers, such as parental involvement and socialization, to participation in sports.

Title IX coincided with an expansion of opportunities for female participation in sports in schools (Bracken & Irick, 2012). The passing of the law has seen the number of girls involved in athletics increase exponentially. Focusing on Title IX at 40, Bracken and Irick (2012) found that in the last forty years the number of high school girls taking part in sports had increased tenfold. However, underrepresentation among females remained a concern. Blom et al. (2011) trace the unequal representation of female students in sports to the historical preference given to male students.

Title IX has equally affected the participation rates at the college level. For instance, during the 1971-1972 academic year, only 30,000 female student-athletes were involved in sports (National Federation of State High School Associations, n.d.). However, during the 2010-2011 year, the number had grown to over 190,000, an increase of 600% (Irick, 2011). In 1972, the amount of money to fund female college athletics was a measly two percent of the total schools athletic budget (Irick, 2011). In addition, the sponsorship of female athlete programs was non-existent. However, by 2009-2010, women’s sports programs were allocated forty-eighty percent of the total athletic department budget. Despite the rapid increase, issues of discrimination emerged given that only forty percent of the funds were used to support female participation even though the women made up fifty-three percent of the entire student-athlete population (Bracken & Irick, 2012).

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It is evident that the participation of girls in high school sports has been undermined historically. From the above, the discrepancy was institutionalized based on the allocation of funds and sponsorship of school sports activities. Behind this backdrop, the proposed study seeks to explore how parental involvement contributes to the participation of high school female students in sports.

Problem Statement

Participating in sports has been shown to be beneficial not only to boys, but to girls as well, although the latter encounter obstacles despite the positives associated with their involvement, and the provisions of Title IX intended to guard against discrimination (Bracken & Irick, 2012). Focusing on Title IX at 40, Bracken and Irick (2012) reported that girls were twice as likely to remain inactive as boys were. According to Acosta and Carpenter (2012), the school officials tasked with enforcing the law can increase the levels and opportunities of girl’s participation by leveling the playing field for both sexes. However, the enforcement of the law might not yield the desired results if efforts are not made to tackle social issues (Thompson et al., 2010) such as parental involvement and socialization. Hence, it is necessary to identify other concerns that contribute to the mismatch in sports participation between the two sexes.

Bremer (2012) found that home involvement was associated with a positive attitude towards school activities such as sports participation and academic performance. However, Slater and Tiggemann (2010) observed that many parents do not support the idea of their daughters’ participating in school-sponsored sporting activities because of the unavailability of the parent to oversee their daughters’ involvement, a lack of adequate finances to facilitate their children’s’ participation (fees and equipment), and their inclination to focus on academics rather than sports.

It is apparent that there was a problem regarding the participation of girls in sports leading to the enactment of Title IX. Primarily, the law was introduced to tackle gender imbalance in federally funded education programs and school activities, including sports (Thompson et al., 2010). Despite the fact that the law has been in place for more than forty years, the playfield is not level yet, as boys are still more likely than girls to be involved in sports (Bracken & Irick, 2012). Against this backdrop, it is necessary to investigate the role of social factors such as parental involvement in their children’s participation in sports. In addition, despite the fact that participation in sports by female students has received considerable attention in the literature, the role of parental involvement in influencing girls’ participation in sports remains unclear.

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The proposed study will explore the role of parental involvement in the participation of female high school students in sports using qualitative grounded theory. In this respect, the proposed study will gather the views of female students with varying levels of sports participation in order to ascertain parental involvement that either encourages or discourages them from participating in sports activities. From the background, it is apparent that despite the increase in the number of female students taking part in sports, the level is not the same as that of boys. Thus, the knowledge gained from this research will supplement the existing studies on the role of parental involvement and female student participation in sports. Moreover, the findings from the proposed research will be helpful in formulating measures that can be used to improve the issue.

Research Questions

In a bid to understand the role of parental involvement in the participation of female high school students in sports, the proposed study will rely on the following questions. The primary question is: what role does parental involvement play in influencing the participation of their daughters in sports? In order to answer the prompt, the following questions will also be posted to the respondents.

1. To what extent do girls participate in school sports?

2. At what level do parents influence their daughters to take part in school sports?

3. In what ways can parents improve the participation of their daughters in sporting activities?

Annotated Bibliography

Acosta, V. R., & Carpenter, L. J. (2012). Women in intercollegiate sport: A longitudinal, national study – thirty-five-year update 1977-2012. West Brookfield, MA: Smith College’s Project on Women and Social Change and Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

The study by Acosta and Carpenter (2012) focused on the participation of women in college sports. The researchers used questionnaires to collect data from various schools. The study uses a longitudinal design, which is critical in tracking changes over time. Thus, it is not surprising that it shows figures on the participation of female students from the time of the legislation of Title IX. The fact that the research documents important statistics across various sports makes it a useful reference for the current study.

Blom, L. C., Abrell, L., Wilson, M. J., Lape, J., Halbrook, M., & Judge, L. W. (2011). Working with male athletes: The experiences of us female head coaches. ICHPER-SD Journal of Research, 6(1), 54-61.

Bloom et al (2011) reaffirmed that men continue to dominate athletics, which has resulted in fewer women in sport management positions. Bloom et al (2011) performed a qualitative study that examined the experiences of women who have had a chance to coach male athletes. The researchers used a qualitative research design that was administered using interviews with six female head coaches before using cross-case analysis to determine themes (diversified athletic history; positive male coaching experience; intense coaching philosophy; support from athletic administrators and family; the gendering of the coaching position as masculine). The study also highlights discrepancies in sports participation.

Bracken, N. M., & Irick, E. (2012). NCAA Gender Equity Report, 2004–2010. National Collegiate Athletic Association, 27–35.

Bracken and Irick (2012) have also tackled the issue of equity in the participation of students in sports. Focusing on the periods between 2004 and 2010, the work provides important data on the levels of participation for the two sexes. The report also highlights changes that have taken place in the area of sports since the adoption of Title IX.

Bremer, K. L. (2012). Parental involvement, pressure, and support in youth sport: A narrative literature review. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 4(3), 235–248.

In his study, Bremer (2012) explored parental involvement and student performance in school activities. The study found that home involvement was associated with a positive attitude towards school activities such as sports and academic performance. A number of parents do not support the idea of their daughters’ participating in school sports activities.

Gratton, C., & Jones, I. (2010). Research methods for sports studies. New York: Taylor & Francis.

The main theme in Gratton and Jones (2010) is that “there is no correct way of doing research” (p. 2). The authors observe that the best way of doing research depends on the nature of the research questions, the expected outcomes, time, resources, and the expertise of the researcher among other factors. The researchers also explore characteristics of research, aspects of the research process and ways of assessing the suitable approaches to guide a research study.

National Federation of State High School Associations. (n.d.). 2010–11 High School Athletics Participation Survey.

The above resource is also important for gaining a deeper understanding of the topic. The survey includes benchmark data which shows rates of participation in high school athletics. Thus, it gives a basis for the study by highlighting the gains made.

Irick, E. (2011). NCAA sports sponsorship and participation rates report 1981-1982– 2010-2011. Indianapolis, IN National Collegiate Athletics Association.

The report by Irick (2011) is critical for the study owing to its role in highlighting the discrepancy in sponsorship of students. From the background, it is clear that preference is made towards the sponsorship of male students. Thus, an article of this nature is important as it helps in the understanding of the marginalization of female students in athletics. In particular, the report offers statistics about female involvement in sports.

O’Reilly, J., & Cahn, S. (Eds.). (2007). Women and sports in the United States: A documentary reader. New York: UPNE.

O’Reilly and Cahn (2007) present a selection of documents and essays aimed at helping readers to understand and explore the conflicting interpretations of sport and gender in the past, present and future. The book focuses on modern-day sport and gender relations. A consistent theme in the book is that gender connotation associated with sport are expected due to the historical development and roots of athletic competition in Western societies. According to O’Reilly and Cahn (2007), sports have been widely perceived as a form of male competition and recreation as well as an arena where men demonstrate their masculine competencies.

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Spence, J. C., Blanchard, C. M., Clark, M., Plotnikoff, R. C., Storey, K. E., & McCargar, L. (2010). The role of self-efficacy in explaining gender differences in physical activity among adolescents: a multilevel analysis. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 7(2), 176.

Spence et al. (2010) sought to ascertain whether gender moderated the association between physical activity and self-efficacy among young people in Alberta, Canada. An online survey tool was used to gather data from a regionally diverse sample comprised of 4,779 students drawn from 117 schools. The data was examined using multi-level analysis. The findings of the research showed that among girls self-efficacy and physical activity were strongly correlated.

Thompson, J. L., Jago, R., Brockman, R., Cartwright, K., Page, A. S., & Fox, K. R. (2010). Physically active families–debunking the myth? A qualitative study of family participation in physical activity. Child: Care, Health and Development, 36(2), 265-274.

Thompson et al (2010) explored various types of families engaged in sports as well as the perceptions of parents regarding the barriers to, nature, frequency, and importance of the family physical activity. Using semi-structured telephone interviews, data were collected from 30 parents of schoolchildren. Through content, the interview transcripts were analyzed. Based on the results, most parents considered participation in physical activity important. Obstacles to family participation in the physical activity included different interests as well as ages of children and adults, inadequate finances, busy lifestyle, transportation problems, bad weather, and inaccessibility of facilities. Thus, the study is a useful resource for current research.

Slater, A., & Tiggemann, M. (2010). “Uncool to do sport”: A focus group study of adolescent girls’ reasons for withdrawing from physical activity. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11(6), 619-626.

Slater and Tiggermann (2010) did an in-depth study on the reasons provided by young girls for disliking participation in physical activity and sport as well as the factors for taking part in fewer numbers compared to boys. Six focus groups were conducted with 49 girls aged 13-15 years. The findings of the study revealed various reasons for discontinuing sport participation, which included inadequate time, incompetence and developing disinterest in sport.

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