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.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on March 9, 2007, in General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Ken,When moms start buying tickets to female sporting events is when girls will become more familiar with their stars.In all sports the mens level is played at a higher lewvel thus making it more entertaining to the casual fan. My daughters both played travel soccer prior to a full time softball commitment. Most soccer tournaments are “co-ed” and I found myself far more interested in watching the boys play over my own children. To ensure the female versions grow mothers will have to take the lead in getting the kids to the ballpark or pitch. I agree that most girls would rather play sports than watch unlike their male counterparts who seem to love both.Maybe the current crop of young players will become casual sport fans of the games they once loved to play.

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  2. Women’s pro sports has always struggled like this. Most Mom’s Just aren’t Sports fans. Even the one’s that played sports themselves. And the one’s that did play sports were gotten into it by their Dad’s. The only pro female sport I know of that has stood the test of time, is the LPGA. Not sure why, other than it’s covered more on TV than most other women’s sports. I personally would like to see more TV coverage of Collage Softball and Pro Softball. But as you and I both know, it’s all about the all mighty dollar, which tied directly to sponsorships. All I know is, that if Softball can’t make it at the Olympic level, then it’s just a matter of time before the pro league will probably fold. Once again, it’s all about money.

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  3. Both of you make good points. I’m not sure exactly what it is about girls and sports teams, but they seem to have less interest in the game and more interest in the personalities generally.Good case in point is from a couple of years ago. We traveled down to South Bend, Indiana to watch the Olympic team play a double header against some college all-stars. Game two was being pitched by Lisa Fernandez, who had previously been the winning pitcher in two gold medal games and would be the winning pitcher in a third one in just a few months. By the third or fourth inning the stands were noticeably empty of young female fans. They had all gone over to the gate to queue up for autographs. It seemed like they wanted to rub elbows with someone famous, even if they weren’t sure who that person was. But they weren’t interested in watching that person (or others) play. For whatever reason young girls just don’t seem to identify with female athletes. At least not in sufficient numbers. Until that mentality changes I don’t see the current crop becoming fans of female sports anymore than today’s Moms are.

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