“Down by the church and in the cemetery, that’s where the other team’s gonna get buried. Six feet wide and 12 feet under when we hit, we hit like thunder. When we run, we run like lightning. Don’t you think our team is frightening?” 

I was in second grade when I started playing softball and I chanted my heart out to softball cheers like this one. Across the U.S., variations of this softball cheer and more can be heard across the dirt softball fields in municipal parks and recreation centers in each city. 

Eventually, I stopped to focus on travel soccer, but softball continued for many young girls. I can hear the cheers, I can hear the sound of the stones as my dad tosses them for a quick batting practice, I can hear our coaches reminding us what to do with the ball if it comes to us and it brings me back to my life in youth sports. The nostalgia of it all hits me hard. In my nostalgia, I recognize the role sports played in my development. Leadership, camaraderie, structure and positive self-image are some of the recognized benefits of youth in sports, but there is an unstable path for young girls to continue their dreams of playing, especially in softball. 

Investing to Improve Stability

Lack of access, safety, poor quality experiences, social stigma, costs and lack of positive role models are some of the reasons why girls are more likely drop out of sports than boys are. I’d like to combine lack of access and lack of positive role models into a lack of access to positive role models. There was definitely a lack of access to watching female athletes on the TV other than when the Olympics took place. 

Most of the sports we watched at home were football, baseball, etc. – which is not uncommon for an American household. Many boys had easy access to their role models just by turning on the TV and it wasn’t until I grew older and I had gained the agency to seek out the televised women’s sports did I get to see my women compete on a stage other than the Olympics. 

The Olympics were the largest stage for televised women’s sports and I watched women compete in all sports. Softball was harder to come by.  The 2008 Beijing Olympics stand out clearly to me for many reasons and one of those being it was the last time softball was part of the program until its appearance in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

Softball continues to swing in and out of Olympic programs due to the lack of popularity world wide. Softball was included in the program for the Tokyo 2020 games because of the popularity of the sport in Japan. Many fans are hoping softball and baseball will rejoin the program when the Olympics come to Los Angeles in 2028. 

In present day, there is still a lack of stability and opportunity for college softball athletes to continue into a professional career. There is the U.S. Women’s National Softball team, which features 19 players made up of former and current college athletes. The Women’s Professional Fastpitch (WPF)  league was founded in 2021 and features four professional softball teams. Before WPF, there was the Women’s Pro Softball League, which was founded in 1997 and folded in 2001.

The league was then revived in 2004 as the National Pro Fastpitch league and disbanded in 2022. Do I need to further explain the bleak future for college softball players aspiring to go pro? NCAA college softball is where the action is and I’m hoping higher visibility of women’s college softball opens the doors for a stable professional softball league. 

Much of the advantage given to men’s sports is the time had to develop players’ skills and the game. Softball has made huge strides in reaching the same developmental point baseball had two centuries to build. Can you imagine the future of softball when given the same time frame? I don’t even think softball needs another hundred years because the last pieces of the puzzle are beginning to fit in place.

The Women’s College World Series final game averaged 1 million viewers in 2022 and the Men’s College World Series averaged 1.1 million (most-watched since 2018). Softball has the skills, the star players, the drama, the excitement, the rivalries and now it has the packed stadiums, the ever-increasing viewership and better media coverage.  

Fear Of Missing Out

Millions of viewers and ticket holders packing the college softball stadiums know they don’t want to miss out on action. “Invest now” has become a sort of hypothetical in the sports world, but in softball we want you to invest, literally. Invest your time, your energy, your viewership because investing becomes a symbiotic relationship. The athletes and world of softball will continue to grow from your investment and the growth will further benefit the fans craving a passion for sport. To those who refuse to invest I say, you’re missing out. 

You’re missing out on the best rivalry in college sports playing out on the pitch between THE Maddie Penta from Auburn and Montana Fouts of Alabama. You’re missing out on (to the dismay of many fans, like myself) Oklahoma’s three-peat championship reign over college softball which will forever be written in history. You’re missing out on grand slams, stolen bases and stolen home runs. You’re missing out on crow hopping controversies, vague obstruction calls and bad umpires. You’re missing out on excitement, passion and the most intense seven innings of your life. 

I’m not interested in the overused, trite, hackneyed (whatever ninth grade vocabulary word you want me to use) arguments about the game of softball being less exciting, less impressive and, in some peoples eyes all together, just less than. I won’t waste any more energy trying to dispute silly, trivial claims as these when they have been disproven time and time again. 

Whatever criticism or reasons you have for not watching softball (or any sport for that matter) is only denying you further happiness and enjoyment in your life. The only con I see in deciding to watch sports is the threat of addiction to said sport. 

Invest in women’s softball because we will be moving on and leaving you in the dust.

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