When it comes to Women’s sports, softball is one of the many that drop off the radar past college. For most young girls and teens, softball is very popular and supplies girls with a sense of community and enrichment. Softball is a great sport for building self-esteem and for not discriminating against different body types. Anyone has a chance to succeed no matter how athletic they are. It is an easy sport to fall in love with because you do not need much training to have fun and play. But for those who do fall in love with the sport, and who want to pursue a career as a pro, it becomes a huge struggle.
For talented men in baseball there are plenty of opportunities available to pursue it as a career. There are many tiers of professional leagues available and with the right skills they can make a good living. Unfortunately for woman, the options to go professional are severely limited. In the US, the only professional league for woman is National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) Softball, which only has five teams, each with rosters of only 20. That leaves only 100 slots available for players. Not only are spaces limited, but the salaries of these positions are an average $6,000 for the season. Compare this to the average salaries in the MLB of 3.2 million and you see how this is a problem. Some of the players are able to get sponsorships, but for most players this means having to acquire a fulltime job elsewhere to make ends meet. Some players supplement their income by flying to other countries to play in other professional leagues. The primary country that these players go to for softball is Japan.
Japan has a professional league that offers players an attractive annual salary averaging $60,000. The skill of our players makes for great additions to these Japanese teams and they are treated like super stars. This is a good salary for a female athlete but it comes with consequences to the players. The Japanese teams are heard to have really long practices, sometimes running 9 hours long. On top of that the travelling from country to country means the players have a hard time cultivating relationships. Players essentially have to completely give up any semblance of a personal life in order to play for a living.
Softball is not the only sport that has this issue. Women’s basketball and soccer players have similar lifestyles. In order for them to play the sport they love for a living they need to make sacrifices. The national sports leagues for woman is having a tough time catching on in popularity so there is no forecast on when it will change. The sport took another blow when the Olympic committee decided to eliminate softball as an event after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After this happened the US Olympic Committee cut funding for softball and it has negatively affected the sport. The idea for using Softball in the Olympics to generate popularity and awareness for the league was quickly dropped.
The life of these American pro softball players is one filled with constant travel and sacrifice. It is hard to say when women will have the opportunity to pursue a career solely in professional softball in the US. Many young girls dream for that day and hope they get the opportunity.