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Close Yet so Far: Women’s Progression in Sports

Yesterday was National Girls and Women in Sports Day. A day to celebrate all of the accomplishments that females have made working in sports and playing sports.



Yesterday was National Girls and Women in Sports Day.  A day to celebrate all of the accomplishments that females have made working in sports and playing sports.

Being a female who not only loved sports, played sports, works in sports and aspires to do even more in the sports industry, it is important to recognize the progress that women have made over the years in the sports industry.  However, it is also important to recognize that women still have a long way to go.

I am an only child, my mom took me shopping during the day and my dad watched Knicks games with me at night.  I played with Barbie dolls with my friends, but listened to the Yankees until I fell asleep.

That’s when it hit me that I wanted to work in sports.  I did not have a TV in my room and I had to be in bed on school nights by 8:00 PM, so my dad would let me listen to the Yankees on my radio.  That’s when I heard Suzyn Waldman providing color commentary for the Yankees for the first time.  I remember being so amazed that she was on the radio talking about my favorite baseball team and decided that’s exactly what I wanted to do.

What would you know 15 years later, I am covering Rutgers sports and the Trenton Thunder for and working for WRSU-Sports aspiring to one day work for the MLB.  I guess you can say when I set my mind to something I don’t let anyone or anything hold me back.

Believe me there were lots of things that could have held me back.

Over the years, females playing sports have become more and more accepted not just by men, but older women as well.  However, no matter how many times people say it is equal, it’s not.  There is still that negative connotation that circulates around certain sports and then the obvious, male sports get way more publicity.

When a sports fan watches baseball or football, sure there will be the few females who will watch because of the attractive pitcher or quarterback, but for the most part fans are watching because they genuinely care about the game.  Half the time when a female sporting event generates a crowd it is either because one the team is great at marketing or two because there is an attractive girl on the team.

There really is no win when it comes to being a female athlete, there is always the double standard.  You are either criticized for being “butch” or made fun of for being a girl.

I played softball for the majority of my life; the common ignorant comments included questioning my sexual orientation, questioning why I didn’t cheer, telling me I was too girly for softball or my personal favorite, “you throw like a girl.”  Well this girl struck out an All-Big Ten baseball player when she was 18-years-old so watch what you say when making fun of girls.

I digress.

The moral of the story is females to this day are not equal in sports.  We are accepted and tolerated, but not equal.  Female athletes do not get the same praise and glorification that male athletes do from the public eye.  It is unfortunate, but it is the harsh reality.  People are so consumed with stereotypes that although there are sports for females, they are expected to play with dolls and makeup while males play sports.

The positive, we are almost fully accepted.  The fact that there is not only a whole month to recognize the accomplishments of women, but a day to recognize women specifically in sports is a huge step.

Back when I was six telling my dad I was going to work for the Yankees, it was not as easy.  Women like Suzyn Waldman were the pioneers for this new generation of aspiring female sports broadcasters.  I was six so it was cute that I was providing my own form of play-by-play into my plastic microphone.  If I was in high school or college trying to legitimately breakthrough the way I am now, I would have faced the harsh realities that women in the 80’s and 90’s faced.

From getting death threats and hate mail to not being allowed in locker rooms, it was not an easy road for women trying to work in the sports industry.  Nowadays almost all stations have a female sports reporter on the sidelines and female are much more vocal about sports.

My generation is very fortunate to take the road that has been paved for us, but it is not finished yet.  Although seeing females on the sidelines is a plus, it is more of a novelty then anything.  There still are not many females providing color commentary or play-by-play for professional male sports.  Women are put into the sideline reporter role where there voice is not fully heard.  They recite a stat or a quote that they heard and then the famous “back to you.”  How about having a sideline reporter, male or female say after their report “back to you,” and a female commentator take the lead?

So today is a day to celebrate the women who have gone through hell and back to get us to where we are now.  A day to recognize that women have made strides breaking into a man’s industry and are slowly being tolerated and accepted by both, but more importantly a day to say we want more.  It is a long road to gaining full acceptance and eventually equality, but it can be done.

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