My digital story briefly covers the recent advancement of women’s basketball in the public eye and how this success might be used as a model, or fuel, for other women’s collegiate sports to grow, too. This past March Madness was incredibly successful for women’s basketball. The industry saw record numbers in viewership, both on television and in person, as well as with revenue. Led by the confident and entertaining personalities of some of college basketball’s best in Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and Louisiana State University’s Angel Reese, sports fans were all in on women’s hoops this postseason.
The video is a culmination of interviews with current and former division one and division three athletes as well as pictures and videos of collegiate athletics and narration by myself. The two former collegiate athletes currently work in the sports sector. Tate Jordan, an American University women’s soccer alumni and graduate, currently works for New York University’s athletic department as well as a minor league baseball team. Kelcie Zarle, a Hamilton College women’s basketball alumni and graduate, is a team member of the Moolah Kicks brand. Moolah Kicks is the first, and only, all female basketball brand. The third interviewee, Caroline Davis, is a current team member of the women’s lacrosse team at the University of Michigan. In addition to the clips from the three women there are also videos and pictures that are accompanied by a voiceover detailing more of the story.
Women’s collegiate, and professional, sports have long since struggled to gain traction and respect from the public. For decades people have argued that women’s sports are not engaging enough, not as athletically impressive, and flat out not good. While there has always been a group of advocates behind women’s sports, the past five years increasingly have jumped on the wagon.
The argument of the supporters has always been if you build it, they will come. They are certainly flocking in support now, but it was one key piece that allowed women’s college sports to flourish. A platform. With a platform on television as well as social media, it became much easier and more commonplace to watch women’s college basketball as you flipped through the channels on your television. With the increase in accessibility, and therefore visibility, increased fans were gained when they realized just how emphatic women’s basketball can be.
The growth cannot all be attributed to being given a bigger platform. The creation of name, image, and likeness (NIL) combined with the rise of social media and creating your own brand also helped promote women’s college basketball. Division I hoopers on social media such as Angel Reese, Flau’Jae (LSU), and Sedona Prince (Oregon) have all utilized social media and NIL to create the brand behind their name. While this can be done apart from or in conjunction with basketball, it is another way to attract attention.
The question remains of why is it that women’s college basketball has seen the most success in viewership and fandom increase as opposed to any other women’s collegiate sport. While there may not be an exact answer to this question, after having conversations with collegiate athletes in different sports different ideas were brought to the table.
Davis was specifically addressing the sport of women’s lacrosse. She noted initially that women’s college basketball’s counterpart, men’s college basketball, is already a large money generator and point of focus for sports fans. In the case of women’s college lacrosse’s counterpart, men’s college lacrosse, they are not a revenue generator and do not have anywhere near the same amount of following that basketball does. She explained how this is already difficult because women’s lacrosse cannot gain the men’s lacrosse fans to generate more growth because there are not that many general lacrosse fans. Another reason men’s and women’s lacrosse do not easily share fans is because the games are quite different. Men’s and women’s basketball do not have this problem.
Another great point Davis made was that lacrosse is not the sport producers are readily reaching to give a platform to. Almost everyone understands or knows a little about basketball, making women’s basketball an easy choice, but knowing women’s lacrosse is still a niche as the sport is still growing.
Jordan, who played collegiate soccer at both the division one and division three levels, did not feel as though there was a reason women’s collegiate basketball was growing in population rather than or in conjunction with women’s college soccer. Jordan mentioned how women’s soccer is experiencing more growth at the professional level rather than the collegiate level. She thinks that the growth will work from top down rather than bottom to top, how women’s basketball will likely continue to experience their growth.
Jordan also mentioned to me the personalities that you see in the different collegiate sports. Jordan was recruited to play division one soccer, basketball, and track and field. Ultimately deciding on soccer. But, Jordan notes that the type of teammates she had in these different sports was large. Jordan said basketball girls tended to be the most outgoing, flamboyant, and confident. She thinks that these characteristics have also helped to promote women’s college basketball during the social media and NIL dominated eras.
I would be inclined to agree with Jordan. Having played both collegiate basketball, soccer, and lacrosse I experienced very different teammates. Zarle, a former college basketball teammate of mine, is exactly how Jordan described the hoopers. Zarle was (and still is) confident both on and off the court. She knew how to use social media to attract classmates to our games and turned them into fans with her exciting play. Zarle noted that the fast pace and always exciting style of play that basketball brings has also helped to advance it forward over a slower paced game such as soccer.
Women’s collegiate basketball has put forth proof to doubters and decision makers that with a platform and air time, all women’s collegiate sports can be successful, too. The National Football League (NFL) took over 50 years to turn a profit. The sooner we invest into all women’s sports, the quicker they will grow. Buy in now, you will not want to miss this.