Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Feb. 6, 2019 — A milestone, but for what?

Today is National Girls and Women In Sports Day, and it’s usually a day to celebrate participation in athletic activities by women and girls across the nation.

But I think the state of women’s sports in America is at a crossroads — not because of attitudes, but because of a lack of management capability.

The WNBA still is at the same membership (12 teams) that it was in 1999, and the league has never been in a third of the NBA’s markets after 25 years of operation. Stories of players not being able to earn money in the offseason are legion; Kristi Toliver’s income is capped with her position as an assistant coach with the NBA’s Washington Wizards, for example. And when she plays her WNBA schedule this summer for the Washington Mystics, she and her teammates have to go miles out to a practice facility in Congress Heights, not in the downtown arena where the Mystics were the hottest ticket in town their first two seasons, even whilst losing 57 games.

The world of American women’s soccer is being sullied by a crisis happening in its only USSF-certified Division I league. Just a few months before the United States is going to be asked to win a World Cup in France, the NWSL’s low-budget approach is being challenged by high-dollar teams in Europe willing not only to spend for talented players, but to give them much better working conditions than currently exist in the U.S.

Indeed, the Seattle Reign, not willing to play in a tiny high-school football stadium, moved its operations to Tacoma, and is now simply called Reign F.C. There is also a fan revolt in New Jersey as Sky Blue FC has seen a number of its 2019 draftees opt to play in Europe.

Softball, despite being given back its slot in the Olympic program, had only three professional teams in last year’s league. The National Pro Fast Pitch League had to literally import the national select teams of China and Australia to fill out a 49-game schedule.

And there are still two rival leagues in both women’s lacrosse (the UWLX and WPLL), and women’s ice hockey (CWHL and NWHL) despite the very short history of all four circuits. Women’s tackle football is still a very scattershot prospect, though there are about 70 teams active yearly.

Yes, there’s much more participation in these activities on a national level than there was 20 years ago. But the professionalism in each of these activities has stagnated. Women still have to find money (as well as time) to participate in tackle football. Stipends for most of the other sports barely cover living and travel expenses.

Sponsors and TV networks have yet to come forward, even as a handful of media companies have started monetizing men’s athletic competitions to degrees yet unseen. It’s as if these networks (I’m looking right at you, ESPN) won’t even give women a chance to get their league on TV even as entire men’s leagues are being put behind digital paywalls.

I’ve been upset that many of these great female athletes have not taken a stand on their lot in life.

I think they deserve better. Don’t you?

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