The primary way that gender affects participation in sports is that there are significantly more opportunities available for male athletes than female athletes, as of 2014. Although Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 guarantees equal opportunity for genders, many school sports programs do not comply with this legislation.
When Title IX became a law in 1972, 295,000 girls and 3.67 million boys participated in high school sports. In 1988, when Congress mandated that schools not complying with Title IX in athletics would lose federal funding, efforts to equalize athletics according to gender intensified. Although the numbers increased to 3.2 million girls and 4.5 million boys by the 2010 to 2011 school year, there was still a large discrepancy in participants according to gender. Additionally, many schools gave female athletes inferior facilities, equipment, coaches and public support.
Efforts to cut girls sports due to economic hardship were successfully challenged in court. To retain funding, some schools balanced gender programs by cancelling male sports programs. A number of educational institutions tried to balance sports programs by making cheerleading a varsity sport equivalent to football, but the Department of Education and circuit courts disagreed that cheerleading is a viable sport.
The gender gap in sports participation is evident not only at high school level, but also in elementary schools and colleges. Research highlights the importance of equal sports opportunities for females, as girls who participate in sports have better physical and mental health, higher grades, better social skills and more successful careers.