By Megan Wood
I’ve played softball for 15 years, and for nearly my entire career I have been coached by men. Sure, a few female pitching coaches helped on the side, but T-ball through high school, all of my head and assistant coaches were guys.
Even when I reflected on the umpires, tournament directors, athletic trainers, equipment vendors, and league leadership the people I have seen running my sport have all been of the same sex: Men, men, men and – yes – more men.
My sport may be dominated by female athletes, but males are running softball.
I wondered: How can this be? Women’s softball has gained in popularity, particularly over the last ten years, so surely there must be women at the highest levels administrating this sport? One has only to look into the governance of softball to see the male dominance.
– On the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA) website, the 1,000-word chronicle of the game’s history dutifully describes the men who helped mold the sport BUT never mention the impact of women (beyond the fact that the sport was divided into three divisions: fastpicth, slowpitch, and women).
– Only three of fourteen ASA Board of Directors members are women and no female has ever served as President since the organization’s founding in 1933.
– Of 25 national umpire staff members, only four are women. And while the ASA supports the International Softball Federation’s (ISF) umpire certification program (which allows umpires to officiate World Championships or international games), the ISF has certified 972 male umpires – and only 103 female umpires – since beginning in 1952.
– Fewer women now coach softball than in 1977, down from 83.5 percent that year to 64.7 in 2008, according to the Acosta and Carpenter study on women in collegiate athletics.
We spend a lot of time in women’s sports talking about “progress” and the quest for equity. In softball at least, it looks like we are moving backwards.
Megan Wood is a senior at Wellesley College who is majoring in Peace and Justice Studies. She is a pitcher and left fielder on the varsity softball team.