Berkeley High School (BHS) girls’ soccer won the West Alameda County league last year and went undefeated in their league. They fell short only in the North Coast Section (NCS) championships, where they placed third. They did all this with only one coach, Alejandro Mendoza, for freshman, junior varsity (JV), and varsity teams. Last year was Mendoza’s first year as the head varsity coach at BHS, having been the JV and freshman teams’ coach for several years prior. However, when Mendoza was promoted to head varsity coach, his responsibilities as the JV and freshman head coach did not disappear; instead, he was expected to be the head coach of all three teams at once. While he did an impressive job turning the program around and leading the varsity team into a successful season, this year, BHS is hiring five coaches to guide the three teams. The move should help players get more individual attention and help the team grow as a whole.
“To me, this change is a good thing, because getting advice and attention from a coach that’s not worried about triple the amount of players as they should has helped our team improve so much more,” said Ava Sproul, a member of girls’ JV soccer.
Although most team members are happy with the increase in the coaching staff, many are curious as to why it took so long for them to have an appropriate number of staff members. The issue also raises questions about the school’s commitment to equity. The boys’ team has long since had two coaches per team, putting them at a total of six. Under this comparatively large staff, they were led successfully to two NCS titles in the past three years.
“While this addition of more coaches to the women’s teams is a big step in the right direction, there’s still more work to do in terms of equal funding, advertising, etc.,” said Sproul. “I’m not sure why it took so long for us to progress like this,” she added.
The implication of the previous inequality may extend past a moral dilemma for BHS, as it may be a legal one as well. Title IX, a law passed in 1972, guarantees that no one is “subjected to discrimination under any education program” due to their sex. Discrimination was decided to extend to unequal services provided to women, including in sports programs. The Office of Civil Rights, the federal agency in charge of enforcing this law, says that the criteria they look for to determine whether or not sports teams are treated equally are quality, as well as the number of coaches of female sports.
Having a disparity to such a degree in resources provided to the coaching staff at BHS may be in direct violation of the landmark gender equality law. While the school may have fixed the gap in the number of coaches, they may have been operating outside the law for over 49 years. Moreover, it is important to note that the girls’ soccer team experiencing a lack of a large coaching staff in past years not only broke federal law but also could have negatively impacted the players’ ability to improve their soccer game. Having only one coach for three teams meant that players were not able to get individual attention from their coach to work on their soccer game and were therefore deprived of equal opportunity to improve as a player compared to the BHS boys’ soccer team.
Rayna Carter, who is a captain of BHS’s varsity girls’ soccer team along with fellow captains LisaBeth Phillips and Leah Freeman, explained the disparity in coaches. According to Carter, the previous girls’ soccer team did not “strive to push the program forward,” allowing the team to go without proper coaching resources for many seasons. However, the school’s responsibility still lies in equality, regardless of the ambition of a program.
Despite the past lack of coaches and possibly funding, the upcoming season looks promising for women’s soccer. Equal access to coaching staff may give them the push they need to succeed and possibly clinch the NCS title. “I’m confident that we will do well in our league and go far in NCS this year,” said Carter.