By Katie Savinelli
At the University of Maryland, students take pride in their sports. Ranging from soccer to basketball, hundreds of tickets are bought, sold and exchanged. Dressed in red, black and gold, fans ranging from undergraduates to alumni make their way to the fields and stadiums to show their pride, chattering about key players and bashing opposing teams.
However, some teams fall behind in all the celebration. Women’s sports teams continually rank lower in terms of popularity, according to a survey from The Atlantic. Whether on a national level or at a university, men’s sports teams tend to have a higher number of enthusiasts, more overall funding and larger salaries.
Meghan Curtis understands this longtime phenomenon all too well. Starting softball when she was only six years old, Curtis knows the game like the back of her hand. She’s played T-ball, recreational softball and played on travel teams most of her life, growing up in Damascus, Maryland. Curtis played on the varsity softball team all four years at Damascus High School, with an impressive batting average of .400.
Now, she’s on the club softball team at UMD.
“Absolutely not,” Curtis said when asked if she thinks softball gets as much recognition and attention as similar sports, such as men’s club baseball. “I think we work really hard for our money, like we [work at] concessions and everything. But, other teams that I’ve talked to have a lot of funding, and they don’t put in the work for it. They don’t earn it themselves.”
At UMD, like many other universities, club sports must raise some of their own funding. This can be done through fundraisers at local restaurants, bake sales or working concession stands at other Division I games. Curtis wonders where the men’s club sports teams get their money, if they do not raise the necessary funding themselves.
“Females make up 54 percent of the student body, yet they only received 36 percent sports operating dollars, 42 percent college athletic scholarship dollars and 32 percent athletic team recruitment spending,” an article on Athnet, a website devoted to student athlete scholarships, reported.
Although student athletes on any platform are not paid to play, the gender pay gap spans to national levels. According to a Forbes article published late June, the top WNBA salary reached around $117,500 last season, compared to a staggering $37.4 million for the NBA.
On similar terms, the National Pro Fastpitch softball league salary is capped at $175,000 while the Boston Red Sox in 2019 split $227 million, according to Forbes.
“I think it’s a societal norm that we put guys’ sports on a pedestal,” Curtis said. “I even find myself gravitating towards men’s soccer games, men’s basketball and men’s football. I only go to women’s softball games; that’s the only girls’ sport I go to because I play it.”
In some instances, women’s sports teams may be so downplayed that they become nearly unheard of.
“I’ve told a bunch of people before that I’m on club softball, and they’re like: ‘Oh, I didn’t even know that was a thing here!’” said Jessie Schwarz, a fellow softball teammate of Curtis. “I think a lot of girls’ sports don’t get as much recognition as guys’ sports.” Schwarz, a current sophomore at UMD, notes that she thinks this issue reaches all the way up to DI teams, as well as national level teams.
For all the time and effort players like Curtis and Schwarz put into their softball careers, they feel it is important that students become more aware of club sports on campus. Balancing schoolwork and practices can be just as challenging for club team players as DI players. Most club teams meet at least twice a week to practice, sometimes three or more times depending on the game schedule.
“I definitely could be doing homework, or something like that, instead of going to practice,” Curtis said. “But, I also make sure if I have too much on my plate, to not go to practice. My captains are pretty understanding about that.”
UMD’s club softball team won all games except one this season, according to Curtis and Schwarz.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pixabay.
Katie Savinelli is a sophomore multiplatform journalism major and can be reached at email@example.com.
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