Why the NPF is struggling
I think I have a pretty good idea of why the NPF is struggling to stay alive. At a fastpitch pitching clinic I was conducting last night, I asked a total of 40 girls if they knew who Michele Smith is. Nothing but blank stares. Ok, I can understand that. Although I think she is awesome, her greatest visibility here in the US was when many of them were still in diapers.
Then I asked if they knew who Cat Osterman is. You know, the Cat who was a star in the last WCWS and who pitched the US to a title in the World Cup. Maybe three hands got raised.
These are two of the biggest names in the game, and there has been a lot of publicity surrounding Cat joining the Rockford Thunder. Yet none of the girls who ought to be looking up to her and bugging their parents to buy tickets to go see her knew who she was.
The NPF is doing what it can to try to build visibility, and most of the players have been very generous with their time through it all. Certainly a lot more than their male counterparts in baseball. Yet somehow there’s still a disconnect, even with the big stars. I’m not sure what the answer is. Maybe it’s a losing cause, i.e. maybe girls overall just aren’t that interested in being spectators at a sporting event, or don’t identify with female players the way boys do with male players.
In any case, someone smarter than me is going to have to figure out how to get young girls identifying with these players and desiring to go see them, or else professional softball will be going the way of Olympic softball in 2012.