Former UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: Males should not compete on women’s teams

By Sylvia Hatchell

Raleigh, NC – I support transgender athletes right to gender identify as they see fit; however, competitive sport is one of the few places in society where sex differences matter. For this reason, transgender males should not compete on women’s teams. It isn’t fair to women athletes, and it completely undoes much of the progress achieved through Title IX.

(photo by Gene Galin)

To be specific about the differences that give men an advantage, there is clear scientific evidence showing men’s greater strength, size, speed, and muscle mass, as well as their larger hearts, lungs, hands, feet, and skulls. Women have greater body fat per pound than men and have different distribution of body fat and lean muscle mass. All of this results in performance advantages for men in almost every sport.

This is why across the NCAA and in professional sports, women’s teams practice against men’s team — an application of what coaches call the overload principle.

Trust me; the advantages from male bodies make a huge difference. I’m not just a casual observer of sports. I coached the USA Women’s Basketball team to a gold with Kay Yow of N.C. State in 1988, one of five gold medals I’ve received from my international coaching. I also coached the UNC Chapel Hill Women’s Team to a NCAA championship in 1994 and to eight ACC tournaments before retiring in 2019. In 2004, I was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and in 2013 into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

I only say all this to show that I know what I’m talking about and that I am passionate about fighting for the best interest of female athletes.

While I’ve seen and coached the best of the best, I’ve also seen first hand the differences between their bodies and abilities and those of the men.

Therefore to ensure that female athletes have access to fair and safe competition, trans-identified men and boys at any age should not be eligible to compete head-to-head with females. Separate sports categories facilitate inclusion. They have always existed to provide more people with a chance to enjoy competitive victories.

Without the two sex categories, we would never have known about or celebrated the greatest female athletes of all time, including, but by no means limited to, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Mary Lou Retton, and Peggy Fleming. All would have been defeated by and overshadowed by countless male players and lost to history.

The importance of Title IX

In 1972, Title IX was passed, and I was a sophomore in college, playing volleyball and basketball. I played and coached for all 50 years of Title IX. The purpose of Title IX was to make sports fair and equal. Females having to compete against transgender males is not fair and equal.

Scholarships are another important part of being a female athlete after Title IX. And this is another area that females could miss out on if they start having to compete with biological men.

Is there a place for transgender people in sports? Yes, but that place should be in a separate category. Speaking as a coach, it’s not a level playing field.

Some have suggested having separate rules for public and private universities, but the NCAA has both types of schools competing. We need an even playing field in order to have fair and equal participation across all schools competing.

I strongly urge support for the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act for the sake of fairness, safety, opportunity, and the rights of women.


Sylvia Hatchell spent her career as a women’s basketball coach, including at UNC Chapel Hill and USA Women’s Basketball. Her teams won the NCAA tournament, a gold medal in international play, and eight ACC tournament championships. Hatchell was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.

Former UNC woman’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell has voiced her support for a bill restricting transgender athletes. (WRAL video)