Bell forms resolutions for future of women’s athletics

Story by Sara

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With tears in their eyes and silver medals around their necks, the members of the 2008 U.S. women’s national softball team knew that although the Beijing Olympics were over, the real battle had only just begun.

After the medal ceremony, the team headed back onto the field to take pictures with the gold-medal Japanese team around a collection of softballs that outlined the number “2016.”

For both teams, the balls represented their desire to have the sport reinstated in the 2016 Olympics, but for the Americans it represented something much more – an end of an era.

In 2005, softball was on the Olympic chopping block by vote of the International Olympic Committee. To stay in the games, softball needed to receive a simple majority, 53 votes. It received 52.

With one more vote, the growing game could have been featured in the 2012 Olympics, but for the first time since 1996, fans around the world watched the Olympics this summer with softball nowhere to be found.

After the 2008 games, members of the softball community campaigned for the sport to be reinstated in the 2016 Olympics. However, those efforts fell short as well.

Although 2012 was a historic year for women’s athletics, many are still concerned about the opportunities elite female athletes will have in the future.

With softball’s elimination from the Olympics, it is possible that other popular women’s sports could face a similar fate. To ensure this does not happen, action needs to be taken to strengthen the world of women’s athletics.

As one year ends and another begins, it is a tradition for individuals to form resolutions they hope to complete in the coming year. Similarly, it is important for athletic programs to develop aspirations to accomplish in the near future.

There are a variety of needs across of the field of women’s athletics, but the following should top the list:

• Reinstate softball as an Olympic sport by 2020, a decision that will be made by the IOC in September.

• Strengthen the fan base of professional women’s sports teams.

• Develop professional leagues for women to match those offered for men, such as soccer and hockey.

• Increase televised collegiate and professional women’s athletic events.

• Encourage girls to become involved in athletic initiatives and programs at a young age.

Most of these resolutions will require an extended amount of time and resources, but it is important to build a strong foundation for future female athletes so that women may continue to see success at the highest levels.

These goals will certainly not be achieved easily, but then again, neither was Title IX. However, the law left a permanent mark on the American educational system and athletes across the country.

When Team USA walked through the Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony in August, the team’s male athletes were outnumbered by their female counterparts for the first time. And by the closing ceremony, the American women had won more medals than the U.S. men and every other women’s team in the world.

These statistics are not only a direct result of the efforts of these female athletes, but a testament to the 40-year-old amendment that allowed them to play during their high school and college careers.

Title IX provides equality for student-athletes regardless of gender, but once those individuals have run out of eligibility, opportunities for women to further their athletic careers suddenly become extremely limited.

As 2012 showed, women’s sports are growing. However, this does not mean there is no longer a need for improvement.

If these resolutions are achieved in the next decade or two, women’s athletics will be more stable than ever and elite female athletes will not only have a place to compete but also thrive.