By Dawayne Hill
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
The battle to get women athletes widespread recognition is constant, and some might say never ending, but female coaches and players insist the struggle is worth it.
“I personally tell my players that all of their hard work and dedication does not go unnoticed,” said Jen Perry, assistant Women’s Lacrosse Coach at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio.
“Just because [women sports] is not recognized on National TV or even emphasized in the school paper, if they keep working hard for themselves and celebrate their own accomplishments they will always find success,” she said.
Perry has been coaching since 2015 at the private, co-educational Jesuit Catholic University outside of Cleveland. She said she has seen so many talented women come through the school’s athletic program. Even at a Division III school, where the intensity of sports is milder, Perry said she still sees male athletes garner more recognition than the female athletes.
Take the fierce Women’s NCAA championship game between Perry’s alma mater, Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Mississippi State. She insisted that this game had everything a basketball fan would love: fast pace, multiple threes, and a stunning, nail-biting last-second shot for the underdogs. To some, this championship game has not and probably will not receive the same praise as its counterpart – the men’s NCAA championship game.
The women’s battle did, however, spark a twitter post by Skylar Diggins, point guard for the Dallas Wings in the WNBA: “Mainstream media needs to talk more about our game … show our girls more of this excellence, give us the same platform and see what happens.”
Even in the WNBA, last year on average, about 1.5 million spectators attended the championship game with another 5,000 watching on television for the entire five game series. In the NBA championship series, however, attendance averaged about 21 million with another 20 million watching from home.
“I like to see sports played at the highest level with the greatest athletes in the world,” said Alexander Muldrow, a Towson University student and avid sports fan. “And that is something that can only be truly experienced through male athletes because men can do things athletically that women simply cannot do.”
Brandon Stallings, a former Gonzaga College High School basketball player in Washington, D.C, said athletic prowess is not the only thing that makes sports exciting.
“I watch women’s sports, in particular basketball, because I’m a fan of the sport so it doesn’t matter to me who is playing,” Stallings said.
Many stereotypes come with women athletes and Tashi Oglesby, 23, who plays basketball at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, N.C., said she has faced them since she became a baller at 10 years old.
“Men are more physical, but women are more fundamental to the game,” said Oglesby, ticking off the conventional beliefs.
“Women don’t get the same recognition because men games seem more exciting,” she added. “The game of basketball was created for men, their merchandise is in high demand while women’s is not, and their seasons are longer than women’s so their games bombard television.”
What is not a stereotype but a cold, hard fact is this: Male sports dominate the popular channels and there are more opportunities in America for males to play professionally as opposed to females.
“Women’s collegiate sports are covered on a channel such as ESPN 3. Not every cable package even comes with ESPN 3,” said Perry, adding that “Sports Information Departments affect recognition.”
Coaches and players point to a number of women athletes who have achieved a lot in sports. Serena Williams has dominated tennis since 1999 and Maya Moore is a four-time WNBA champion, which is more than a lot of players in the NBA.
Perry said there are many reasons why male athletes garner more recognition than the female athletes.
“One reason is finances,” Perry said. “Men’s football and basketball teams at any division are usually the teams that are bringing in the most money when it comes to attendance at games and events.”
Perry added, “Colleges invest more in athletes that may go [pro] because that comes with more recognition for the school and better recognition equals better revenue.”
The number of people who attend the games increases revenue for the schools. To get fans in the seats, colleges and pro teams use popular recruits or star athletes to draw fans.
There are other issues too.
Perry said Sports Information Departments tend to work harder to produce information for male athletes than they do for the female athletes, on social media and on the school’s athletic website. Facilities are normally nicer for men’s sports as well, Perry suggested.
“These are all small changes that can be made within colleges and universities to help ensure that the support is equal across the board.” said Perry. “The recognition will then follow.”
A general belief, that has been both supported and denied in research, is that women are less athletic than men, which spectators insist makes a difference in their viewing habits.
“Gender superiority goes deeper than just sports,” said Bianca Jackson, a North Carolina A&T student. “To fully fix this lack of recognition, you have to start at the root of the problem.
“Male athletes need to do their part,” said Jackson. “If they advocate for women’s sports [disparities]will change.”
Muldrow admitted “I would consider watching women sports if there is a woman who can take her sport by storm and exert dominance over everyone else in her field, much like Serena Williams does.”
Some are doubtful that male and female sports will ever get equal treatment.
“I don’t think it can change overnight,” Oglesby said. “I honestly don’t know what can be done to change it, but I believe that it must change if we truly believe in equality.”
In the meantime, female athletes constantly seek ways to motivate themselves and those around them to keep playing the sport they love despite the disparity, the coaches and players said.
“Our families are counting on us and little girls who grow up dreaming of being an athlete count on us as well,” Oglesby said. “That’s what keeps a lot of us going.”