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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

TXST softball players lack opportunities in professional play

Devon Crew

This season, Texas State softball is seeing undeniable support as they grow into one of the most successful softball teams in Bobcat history. With Head Coach Ricci Woodard surpassing 800 career wins, season tickets seeing record sales and the team gaining a top-25 NCAA ranking by ESPN, the Bobcats are bringing attention to the game.

However, support for softball is not seen nationwide. Like most women’s sports, softball is often underfunded, underreported and lacks professional opportunities. National Public Radio (NPR) said the gap in women’s collegiate and professional sports is only growing, with men’s programs receiving more than double the funding of women’s programs in 2020. According to Forbes, women’s sports earn significantly less money due to the lack of media coverage compared to men’s sports.

Despite the undeniable success and growing popularity of the Texas State Softball team, the lack of nationwide support and funding for women’s sports, particularly professional softball, persists as a significant challenge. While some initiatives offer promise, the ongoing financial obstacles underscore the urgent need for greater investment in women’s athletics to address systemic barriers hindering the advancement of female athletes.

Bobcat senior pitcher Jessica Mullins was recently drafted to Athletes Unlimited Pro Softball. Founded in 2020, Athletes Unlimited is a sports network of different professional women’s sports leagues. During the process, she said her primary issue with pursuing professional softball as a player at Texas State was the funding.

“The only thing that really stands in the way is money,” Mullins said. “I have to make sure I set myself up to have a life off my athletic abilities.”

Women’s Professional Fastpitch is the professional softball league in the United States; its first season beginning in June 2023. However, because of the pay, joining this league is not a viable option for many student softball players.

Zip Recruiter claims professional softball players in Texas are paid an average of $19.48 per hour in 2024, $1.45 below the living wage for a single adult in Texas. Players can also see wages as low as $9.48 an hour.

Graduate infielder Sara Vanderford said the lack of funding compared to men’s sports raises questions about the feasibility of a future career in softball.

“We’re not in men’s sports, [professional softball] is not as big of an opportunity,” Vanderford said. “The idea is definitely there, but it’s always, ‘will it happen or is it a fallback plan?’”

Despite the current lack of coverage and funding, there is hope for the future of women’s softball.

Mullins and Vanderford said organizations like Athletes Unlimited are aiding opportunities in women’s sports, specifically softball.

“When you have things like Athletes Unlimited, you see there’s more opportunities than just Team USA,” Vanderford said. “It’s a great experience seeing the sport grow overall.”

Women’s sports are getting more viewership and support due to stand-out athletes who inspire others with their talent and drive. Vanderford said athletes like Caitlin Clark, a now-WNBA basketball player, spotlight women’s sports and amplify their recognition and popularity.

“Caitlin Clark is creating a fanbase and running with it, which is cool to see,” Vanderford said. “Women’s sports are on the rise and that’s what’s important.”

Although women’s sports are growing in viewership and popularity, the issue of money permeates. Mullins said she hopes the increased attention to women’s sports will show that women players deserve just as much as men.

“It’s not just softball; it’s women’s sports in general,” Mullins said. “We’re getting a lot more attention, which is what we deserve. We can do it too.”

It is disheartening to witness the persistent disparity in support and funding for women’s sports, especially evident in the challenges faced by professional softball.

Despite its widespread collegiate viewership and the emergence of platforms like Athletes Unlimited, the path to a sustainable professional career remains challenged with financial obstacles.

Bobcat players like Mullins and Vanderford show the pressing need for greater investment in women’s athletics.

– Mckenna Ladson is a mass communications senior

The University Star welcomes Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered by the Editor in Chief and Opinions Editor for publication. Not all letters are guaranteed for publication.

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