If you turn on the television and flip to a sports channel, you might see any number of different sports being covered, with competitors ranging from college-aged athletes to long-term professionals. However, they all have something glaringly obvious in common: almost none of them are likely to feature women’s athletics.
A study led by Cheryl Cooky, a professor at Purdue University, found that “coverage of women athletes on televised news and highlight shows, including ESPN’s SportsCenter, totaled only 5.4% of all airtime” in 2019. This percentage shows essentially no change from the 5.1% of coverage that women’s sports received in 1989.
Today, approximately 40% of athletes are women, which highlights how unequal media coverage of women’s athletics continues to be.
Despite the lack of airtime, there are many excellent reasons to start watching women’s sports. For one, women’s sports are just as thrilling to watch as men’s sports and have the same entertainment factor. Fans of men’s sports can find all of the same things that they have always enjoyed in women’s competitions as well.
Whether it’s exciting commentary, team rivalries, upsets, underdogs, last-minute game-savers, young star athletes or legendary favorites that hold a viewer’s attention, women’s athletics has it all.
Athletes like Sue Bird, who has been a star in the WNBA for 20 years, and Serena Williams, with 23 Grand Slam tennis titles, are long-returning fan favorites. There are plenty of standout newcomers as well, such as Claudia Pina and Catarina Macario, who both already have impressive records in international soccer competition.
A common argument against watching female athletes is that women are not as athletically impressive as men. Sports reporter Sky Merida addressed this concern in a personal essay. She wrote, “Sports is so much more than just athleticism. It’s also skill, finesse, will, IQ, intensity, competitiveness, determination and sportsmanship – all of which female athletes possess at least as much as male players.”
One of the most thrilling aspects of watching women’s sports is that the majority of the current leagues and competitions have not existed for as long as men’s leagues have. This means that women’s sports are constantly reaching new heights and setting new records.
Therefore, viewers can be a part of history, such as last week when a soccer match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid set the world record for the highest number of fans attending a women’s match. Over 91,000 people were present at the game, which took place at Barcelona’s home stadium. Additionally, following women’s teams and players can be more than just turning on a game: you can really be part of something as you watch their journey.
When it comes to college sports, women’s athletics also has a broad range of teams due to the equal funding mandated by Title IX. These include equestrian, water polo, rugby and field hockey, to name a few.
Another beneficial aspect of watching women’s sports is that it’s easy to watch the games and competitions, even if they are not aired as much as men’s. Many games are aired live and for free online, either on YouTube or on the league or team’s own website. Unlike many men’s leagues, expensive subscriptions or television packages are rarely necessary. Finding these games may require a bit of a search on the viewer’s part, but it is overall simpler and more financially feasible for viewers in the end.
Buying tickets to live matches and competitions is also usually much less expensive than the men’s equivalent. There are many downsides to this lack of equality, but it can be a great opportunity for new viewers to start following a sport or specific team and experience it in person.
Finally, research has shown that women in sports are less likely to “flop” or fake an injury than men. A study by Wake Forest University found that men faked more than 60% of apparent ‘injuries’ compared to women athletes in international soccer matches. Less time dedicated to dramatic rolling on the ground means more time can go to what sports fans really enjoy–exciting athletic competition. This statistic is also a testament to just how dedicated women athletes are to their sport.
Women’s sports are largely underappreciated but very much worth watching, and there is no better time to get into them than right now.