Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Competitive Cheer and the Softball Problem

Thanks to Wendy Parker, I came across a quote from Nancy Hogshead-Makar of the Women’s Sports Foundation concerning the relative value of competitive cheer vs. other sports. I think it makes interesting reading. The following quote comes from The Telegraph, a newspaper in the United Kingdom:

Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a lawyer for the Women’s Sports Foundation, said: “I would hate to see viable sports that lead to Olympic possibilities, international opportunities, thwarted in favour of a sport that doesn’t lead to any of those.”

Now, we know that Hogshead-Makar is talking about replacing volleyball with competitive cheer. But if you look at the current landscape in women’s sports a little more closely, she could be talking about any number of other sports — including softball.

As was noted by Holly Vietzke over at Sports Law Blog a few days back, the very top levels of international women’s softball is on the ropes. Jennie Finch, widely recognized as the best player the game has ever seen, retired at 29. It wasn’t long ago that the sport lost its coveted spot in the Summer Olympics (along with baseball). That’s not the only bad news. The World Cup of Softball, which used to boast teams from all around the world, is now contested by only three teams — the U.S., Canada and Japan. Women’s professional softball, which had eight teams at its height, is now down to four teams.

Pretty soon there may not be any opportunities for professional or international competition in softball at all. Does that mean we’re arguing for the elimination of softball as an NCAA sport?

Not on your life. Hundreds of thousands of high school and college students still play the game, compete and enjoy it. As far as we’re concerned, that’s more than enough to qualify the sport for varsity status. And when you look at it that way, you begin to understand that the opposition to competitive cheer is on very shaky intellectual ground.

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