I started playing t-ball when I was four years old. My dad played baseball growing up and so did my older siblings, so it was only natural that I play, too. My local little league didn’t offer softball, so I played with the boys until my family moved to another city when I was seven. We immediately joined a new little league and I played one more year of baseball (“kid pitch” as they called it back then, not to be confused with the other alternative: “coach pitch”) before my parents insisted that I make the transition to softball.
I loved playing baseball, and I didn’t want to play softball. I didn’t want to play “with the other girls.” But when you’re in fourth grade and your parents decide that you should do something, you end up doing it. Thankfully, it only took me one practice to realize that I would enjoy playing this new game. Because I already had four years of baseball under my belt, I caught on quickly and became pretty good at it. I was a little league all star a few times (no brag), and I started taking pitching lessons and playing for a travel team. And since I grew up in Florida, where the weather is nice year-round, softball became my life. Literally. I played all through high school and was lucky enough to earn a scholarship to a DII university near home, which was perfect for me. However, after three hard years of college softball that included a coaching transition and three major injuries, I quit. I wasn’t in love with the game anymore, and I didn’t want to spend my time hating a sport that I had once loved.
Thankfully, those 15 or so years of playing sports taught me a few things about myself: I love competition. I love teamwork. I love winning. I didn’t just fall in love with the game of softball; I fell in love with sports in general and wanted to make a career out of it. And because of the women pioneers before me, I’ve been able to do just that.
Sports have always been such a major part of my life that I often forget how lucky I am to be a part of something so special. Though historians have shown that women competed in sporting events as early as the sixth century, women were not allowed to compete in the Olympics until 1900. Even now, over 100 years later, female sporting organizations in the United States are still considered second-tier to major male sports organizations like Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League. Studies show that professional female athletes consistently earn less money than their male counterparts and if you’ve turned on your television in the last week, I doubt you’ve seen as many live streams of female sporting events as you’ve seen male sporting events -- at any level. And even if you’ve watched, say, a women’s basketball game on television in the last week, I challenge you to think about what you saw. Were the coaches male or female? What about the referees? The commentators? The table staff?
A lot of progress has been made in this field for women, but of course there’s still a ways to go. I know things will never be 50/50 because that’s just too perfect of a number to strive for, but I know that we can make it happen. In fact, that’s one of the reasons we made this blog in the first place!
At the end of the day, I’m really thankful to have grown up in a time where women playing sports isn’t just normal, but celebrated. I’m also extremely thankful to have a great job that allows me to watch sports for a living, among my other duties. This blog talks a lot about what we can do to be better, but I think that on a day like National Girls and Women in Sports Day, it’s important to look back on all the progress that has been made. Whether you’re a female athlete, sports writer, administrator, or work in some other realm of sports, today is about you. Keep up the hard work because even though it may not feel like it, each and every day you are changing the course of history simply by being a woman that works hard in the sports industry. We are so proud of you, and so glad to be with you on this journey.
And to my dad: thank you for introducing me to the game of baseball at four years old and for making so many sacrifices along the way to ensure that I could play a game that I loved. If not for your coaching, I would be a much different person. Thanks for always pushing me to be better, even when it made you the bad guy. Thanks for always cheering me on and being proud of my accomplishments. And, of course, thanks for the post-practice slurpies. I love you always.