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Survey: Image, support still lag

Involvement in sports helps teenage girls build critical career skills while reducing tendencies toward drug use, smoking and unplanned pregnancies, according to a recent nationwide survey.

The Budget GOALS Survey of leading girls' and women's coaches in the United States also found that even though female athletes have come a long way toward achieving acceptance and equality with male athletes, they still face the challenges of image problems and lack of public support.

Sponsored by Budget Rent-a-Car and the Women's Sports Foundation, the GOALS survey _ Generating Opportunities through Athletics for Leadership and Success _ polled 134 top coaches, asking their opinions and suggestions for alleviating some of the more pressing challenges facing female athletes today.

Though the value of girls participating in sports is evident, the survey says, female athletes are plagued by image problems. More than 80 percent of the coaches polled cited the perception that female athletes are not feminine as a major deterrent keeping young women from participating.

Many coaches agreed that education was the key to erasing negative attitudes. On that topic, University of South Florida assistant basketball coach Karen Sowada wrote:

"When university teams have promotional activities to get young girls to games, also target young boys. If Cub Scouts came to games as well as Girl Scouts on "Girl Scout Night,' boys would be able to see, at an early age, that girls are competitive and athletically skilled. Thus, at an early age, boys would learn to accept both male and female athletes as role models. Therefore, target all youth at an early age when they have open minds so that they understand that all human beings can benefit from sports participation."

Others viewed lack of support for female athletes as a filter-down problem, suggesting that professors, teachers and coaches be educated on how to equitably treat female athletes.

"The attitude at the top will be adopted by the athletes," Oklahoma State volleyball coach Ann Pitts wrote.

Overall, respondents to the GOALS Survey were positive about the direction women's sports is taking, with a large majority (72 percent) agreeing that women athletes have gained public acceptance and support in the last five to 10 years. The same proportion expects to achieve even wider levels of acceptance in the next five to 10 years.

Volley-party: The University of Florida will serve as host to the 1994 SEC volleyball tournament Nov. 18-20 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville.

The Gators, 17-2 and ranked ninth nationally, are 7-0 in the SEC with six league games left in the regular season. Florida, which has been to the NCAA Final Four the past two seasons, is the two-time defending SEC champion.

The SEC champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Adult tickets for the 10-match event will be sold for $5 per session or $12 for all sessions. For students and anyone under age 18, prices are reduced to $3 and $7. Session I includes seven first- and second-round matches on Nov. 18, Session II the semifinals on Nov. 19 and Session III the final at 2 p.m. on Nov. 20.

For ticket information, call (800) 34GATOR.

Information from other news organizations was used in compiling this report.