By Leah J. Reynolds, M.S., Ed.D., Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Consultant, TNG Consulting
The athletic administration profession is subject to increasing responsibilities and ever-changing demands. One longtime athletic administration responsibility that continues to create confusion for professionals across the field is Title IX athletic equity compliance. While overall Title IX compliance is the responsibility of the school’s or district’s Title IX Coordinator, athletic administrators must positively contribute to their school’s Title IX compliance program. Athletic administrators are in a prime position to assist their school’s Title IX Coordinator to achieve athletic compliance by engaging in an annual exercise known as the equity walk.
Title IX requires schools to provide equal athletic opportunities for female and male students and equitable treatment of participants in female programs as compared to male programs. The equity walk assists administrative analysis of components of the equitable treatment of participants, also commonly referred to as the “Laundry List,” broken down into the 13 components outlined below.
The equity walk involves athletic administrators physically touring or walking all athletic facilities to visually assess two of the 13 components: Locker Rooms & Facilities and Equipment & Supplies.
Locker Rooms & Facilities
When assessing locker rooms and facilities, examine the following key factors:
- Quality and availability of the facilities provided for practice and competitive events: Title IX compliance requires that facilities be of the same quality for male and female athletes. Athletic administrators will want to pay close attention to facilities designated for single-sex use, for example, baseball and softball fields and stadiums. The quality of both fields and stadiums; dugouts; restrooms within the stadium, if applicable; etc. should be relatively equal, considering the different requirements for each sport. For the sports that commonly share facilities, such as male/female basketball and volleyball, Title IX requires an equal opportunity to use shared facilities for practices and competitive events.
- Exclusivity of use of facilities provided for practices and competitive events: Schools should not make a facility available to a single-sex sport without providing a comparable facility for the other sex. Title IX requires that exclusive facilities for practices and competitive events be made available equally to male and female athletes.
- Quality and availability of locker rooms: Similar to the first bullet point above, the quality of single-sex locker rooms should be equal between male and female athletes. For schools whose locker rooms are shared between male and female athletes, athletic administrators should ensure that male and female athletes have equal opportunities to use the locker rooms. Generally, a rotating schedule of locker room use between male and female athletes can accomplish this goal.
- Maintenance of practice and competitive facilities: Administrators should regularly maintain athletic facilities to ensure athlete safety and success during practices and competitive events. Athletic administrators should maintain all facilities appropriately (e.g., use of quality materials, cleaning products, upkeep, etc.), regardless of the sex of the athletes who use the facility.
- Preparation of facilities for practices and competitive events: Athletic administrators should ensure that the facilities athletes use for practice and competitions are safe and appropriately prepared for practices and competitive events regardless of the athletes’ sex. Pay attention to who is preparing facilities for practices and competition, how they prepare the facilities, how much time is needed to prepare the facility, and what is required to prepare the facility. Whoever is responsible for facilities preparation should perform their duties for male and female athletic teams equally and based on the facility’s needs. Budgets for preparation should not vary widely by sex of the athletes using the facility.
Equipment & Supplies
There are five factors to examine under equipment and supplies; however, only two are a part of the equity walk: 1) quality of equipment and supplies, and 2) amount of equipment and supplies.
- Quality of equipment and supplies: Although internet searches can provide information specific to the quality of equipment and supplies, visual assessments of each piece of equipment and any supplies are necessary to ensure a proper maintenance schedule and timely replacement. Title IX requires that the quality of equipment and supplies be equal for male and female athletes, depending on sport specifics. For example, athletic departments should not provide male track and field athletes name-brand uniforms (e.g., Nike, Adidas, etc.), while providing female track and field athletes with off-brand uniforms.
- Amount of equipment and supplies: It is necessary to physically count equipment and supplies during the equity walk to ensure accurate records. Title IX requires that athletic departments provide equipment and supplies equitably for male and female student-athletes, meaning that the number of supplies and equipment can fluctuate between male and female athletes based on roster size and actual participant numbers. However, there should not be significant discrepancies, such as one sex being provided two uniforms while the other sex receives only one.
If there is evidence of inequity within the athletic program when completing an equity walk, communicate with your school’s Title IX Coordinator and devise a plan of action for creating equity where inequities exist. It is important to note that creating equity where inequities exist is not an overnight fix and might entail strategic planning and revision of budgets. Creating a solid strategic plan on gender equity in athletics, in partnership with the school’s Title IX Coordinator — and following that strategic plan — is the best practice for maintaining an equitable athletic program. Additionally, strategic planning can guide future facilities planning, management, and remodeling.
Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.” The work of athletic administrators is indeed demanding; however, athletic administrators who repeatedly engage in the equity walk can model excellence in athletic gender equity while assisting the Title IX Coordinator to eliminate any gender inequities within the school’s athletic program.