College Athletics, a Means to an End for Female Athletes
Photo Credit: Walsh University Athletics
We’ve all heard the phrase, “most athletes will go pro in something other than sports.” It’s tough to get to the professional level of any sport or by the time a student-athlete graduates from college, he or she is burnt out from years of strenuous physical activity. However, at least male football, baseball, hockey and soccer players have the availability of a professional league. Athletes have the opportunity to compete in the Olympic games, but they only come around every four years. Where are the women’s professional softball, volleyball and gymnastics leagues? Of the thousands of female athletes within each sport, a portion of them have the desire, talent and longevity to compete year-round in a national league just as the men do. There are female athletes who want more than the experience of being a collegiate athlete and receiving a college degree.
There’s a National Women’s Soccer League, which most people don’t know about. According to politico.com, the women’s salaries reportedly range from $6,000 to $30,000. Each team has a salary cap of about $200,000 compared to a $3.1 million salary cap for Men’s League Soccer. Besides the Women’s Tennis Association, broadcasters have marginalized women’s sports, resulting in less money being dispersed to players. Furthermore, a lot of discussion centers around whether there’s an audience for women’s sports – the WNBA struggles to garner quantitative views, and the most television coverage NWSL players receive is during the FIFA World Cup – so if these leagues are created, will viewers tune in? This topic is hard to decipher due to the lack luster coverage women’s college athletics receive from sports networks. If female college athletes received more coverage, researchers can collect quantitative data to examine to what extent viewers are watching women’s college athletics. If viewers are watching women’s college athletics, more than likely, they’ll watch professional women’s sports. On the other hand, women’s college volleyball and soccer is overshadowed by college football and the WNBA takes the backseat to the NBA playoffs and MLB season. Female athletes just can’t catch a break.
However, it would be a bit much to try and implement all these professional women’s leagues at once, so I think as the WNBA continues to grow, major league softball should be implemented next, or I should say reinstated. The 1992 film A League of their Own was created in honor of the 1940’s All-American Girls Professional Ball League that was developed by Philip K. Wrigley – Wrigley’s Gum – after the men were sent off for warfare. According to time.com, the league lasted more than a decade, with fan attendance breaking over 900,000. All we can do is wonder what would’ve been if the league was continued. If players were athletic in the ’40s and ’50s and garnered that much fan appreciation, women softball players can do the same today. We see that Mo’ne Davis has to play little league baseball with the boys because little league softball isn’t respected enough to receive national coverage. However, the fact that Davis strikes out most of the boys she competes against makes it more interesting. The talent and skills of female athletes are steadily growing and the number of professional women’s leagues and television coverage should reflect this increase. Nevertheless, if change is going to happen, female athletes and supporting fans have to speak up and take action to create that change. Therefore, a step towards progression would be to recreate a league that has already existed for women within the next couple of years, but instead of it being the AAGPBL, it should be the Women’s Professional Softball League.