A Reflection on National Women and Girls in Sports Day

By Emma Gilham

“Millie Deegan, AAGPBL, Rockford Peaches. ‘The Babe Ruth of Women’s Softball'” by BullSharkGal is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

February 3, 2021 was National Women and Girls in Sports Day. At first glance, someone may wonder why there would be a national day of recognition for this. However, it is extremely important to understand women’s history and how we have progressed with gender equity in athletics. According to the article “Women’s Sports History”, “…public athletic performance by women and girls that was condemned as immodest, selfish, and attention-seeking, the trinity of bad-girl behaviors,”

in the 19th and early 20th century United States, women were not allowed to compete in the Olympics until the 1920s, and even then, they were inaccessible to many women that resided in poorer communities. Today, the benefits of physical activity and playing sports are undeniable, especially on young minds and bodies. Why are boys getting 1.13 million more sporting opportunities than girls per year (National Federation of State High School Associations 2018-2019)? The Women’s Sports Foundation’s “Keeping Girls in the Game: Factors that Influence Sport Participation”, lists many factors that may deter participation in young women and girls: parental involvement and support, stereotypes, representation, body image, lack of access and costs.

Even in the professional world, women athletes must fight to be paid the same or even closer to the opposite gendered teams of the same sport. In 2019, Forbes reported, “The top WNBA salary was $117,500 last season, compared with $37.4 million in the NBA. The team salary cap for the National Pro Fastpitch softball league is $175,000; the Boston Red Sox will split $227 million in 2019.” Although negotiations are constantly being made, this gap is incredible. Professional athletes should be paid and given the opportunities they are deserving of. Children should be able to enjoy and grow from sports without the hindrances of old-world thinking or inaccess. These issues are entrenched in this country’s history of sexism, and they cannot be fixed by simply doing one thing. Therefore, I’ll continue to push for recognition of National Women and Girls in Sports Day to celebrate pioneers of women’s athletics, and support efforts to encourage girls to be physically active and share in the love of sports. As students, faculty, and community members, we have the power to support our UMKC women student athletes. If you share these sentiments, look out for Roo Up! With the Women’s Center events on our social media pages and RooGroups this semester. 

https://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/what-we-do/wsf-research/

https://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Keeping-Girls-in-the-Game-Executive-Summary-FINAL-web.pdf

https://www.womenshistory.org/articles/womens-sports-history

https://www.forbes.com/sites/oliviaabrams/2019/06/23/why-female-athletes-earn-less-than-men-across-most-sports/?sh=7185015440fb