|Volleyball enthusiasts: it’s time to change the narrative. |
Did you know that volleyball is the #1 team sport for girls in the US?
Did you know we have 60,000 more participants than even women’s basketball? Some 90,000 more participants than softball. These aren’t made up figures. These numbers come directly from the NFHS.
However, while we are winning the participation battle we aren’t winning the publicity battle.
The Women’s basketball championship was valued at somewhere between 80-110 million dollars. They have 4 million viewers tuning in. The softball championships had over 2 million. At our best our championship hasn’t gotten more than 500,000 (just 12% of what women’s basketball gets).
Volleyball has no valuation and with just an average of just over 200,000 viewers tuning in to our semi-final matches each year we need this to change.
This. Is. A. Problem.
There are a lot of “reasons” we can cite (timing of our championships, sports are watched mostly by men and men play volleyball at a significantly lower level than women etc etc.). Yet, to complain about the inequity or unfairness of this isn’t really the point of this post, so I’d graciously ask we don’t make it the focus.
The question really is what do WE do to change the narrative?
I think it’s important to say that we don’t complain about it, instead we are looking to take action. The leaders in our sport at every level (D1 all the way through high school) have discussed this on a deep level and we have some ideas (and we will keep discussing it).
But in the next few days (or weeks) here are some things we can do in the immediate:
1. First and foremost…Watch the finals today, Saturday, December 18, 2021 at 6:30pm. Wisconsin vs. Nebraska…it will be a good one! Encourage everyone you know to do the same. We have 460,000+ girls playing volleyball. That’s more than twice the current number of viewers of our semi-final matches. Marinate in that statistic for a second.
All of these girls have a parent or guardian, uncle, friend, sibling, cousin or even a significant other who watches sports or cares about them and the sport they love (85% of those watching sports are men). Let’s get those people to tune in, they won’t be disappointed. Our sport is played by some of the most athletic and dynamic athletes in sport. If you could watch that Louisville vs Wisconsin or the Nebraska vs Pitt match and not feel entertained…then you seriously don’t have a pulse and I guess I just don’t want to know you.
2. Secondly, send emails. Alert the powers that be that they are missing the boat. Aside from the excitement of the game itself there are human interest stories out the wazoo. Why aren’t we hearing them? If you are a self proclaimed lover of sport or former athlete or parent of a current athlete…we have a responsibility to do our part. I can help….
The next question would be who do we write emails to?
Below are a list of a few. I’ll even write the email for you. Just copy and paste it into your inbox and change the names. Easy Peasy. My letters will be at the end of the post.
1. The Gist– this is a female founded and led media brand and podcast. Their mission statement says they want to even the playing field for women in sport. I learned from their website that less than 14% of journalists are women and less than 4% of coverage is on female athletes. Alarming right?
Well, when I search the sports they cover they have a link for volleyball yet there are no current articles relating to volleyball. And this is with our championships going on right now. They are missing the boat. I can only assume that this is because they don’t know what most people didn’t know either…volleyball is the #1 team sport for girls. So, we can send them a letter encouraging them to up their coverage on our sport.
2. Just for Women Sports. This web-site was started by a Former Stanford soccer player and is staffed by people who played an array of sports (basketball, lacrosse, softball and soccer). As you can see one of them is not volleyball. Therefore, you can’t find any volleyball content on their site either. They have over a million subscribers.
Their websites mission statement looks like this:
“In a world where women’s sports have been perennially underfunded, under promoted, and under appreciated, Just Women’s Sports exists to shine a light on the stories, athletes and moments that define and fuel the women’s game. This isn’t a token sub-brand or at the bottom of some dropdown menu. We aren’t doing this for charity. And don’t expect pink and glitter. From jaw-dropping performances to off-court fits, we bring sports fans everything they need to see and know in the world of women’s sports.”
I cannot love this enough or agree with it more. I wholeheartedly support what these women are trying to do. I just want them to include volleyball.
So again, below is my letter…feel free to copy and paste and add your own touches. But I thought this would get the ball rolling.
I realize that turning our tv’s on and writing a few letters isn’t going to change the world. But, we have to start somewhere. So I’m committed to sending these two organizations an email everyday until I hear from them directly.
I was recently told by a marketing executive that they “pay attention” to new ideas or complaints/concerns from the outside when they come in a large volume. If we all send an email with the subject line “please pay attention to volleyball” they can’t ignore us forever. Also, from what I can tell it is my belief that these two specific agencies will want to help.
I’m excited to get the ball rolling and I have always believed that persistence pays off. If we persist that the powers that be pay attention to our sport, eventually they will. They have to. We are too awesome to continue to ignore.
Thanks for joining me in this.
This is my personal letter:
Dear Just for women/The Gist,
Let me start by saying that I am a former collegiate athlete, a current high school coach and a mom of five and I could not love more that you are trying to do with your mission. It’s incredible.
Please know that you have my full support.
I am writing to you to implore you to include women’s volleyball in your work. When I scroll through your site I just don’t see it. When I look at your staff, I see no one on staff played volleyball. Which explains the lack of content…we write about what we know.
Did you know that volleyball is the #1 team sport for girls in the United States? Volleyball beats out basketball by over 60,000 participants. That’s pretty impressive wouldn’t you agree?
The sad news though is that, as your website suggests, the most popular team sport for girls is wildly unappreciated and underfunded. Why? (We could talk about this forever).
I’m a member of the American Volleyball Coaches Associations Board of Directors as the National High School representative. I’m coach high school volleyball. I played collegiate volleyball. I have five kids all of whom have interests in volleyball (2 girls, 3 boys). So my passion for this issue is intense and real.
Can you help us? We want to promote our sport in a way that turns heads and encourages corporate sponsors and main stream media to pay attention. Based on what I see on your website this seems right up your alley.
I’m happy to chat with you or set you up with people within our organization who can help get this going. Heck, I’d even volunteer to write some articles to get the volleyball side of things going. But please, consider what I am asking.
I appreciate your time and consideration of this. I feel strongly that given your mission you will agree. I look forward to hearing from you.
A more generic letter others can copy:
Dear Just For Women/Gist,
I am a volleyball enthusiast. I stumbled across your website and was surprised to see there was very little to no coverage of our sport. I absolutely love and support your mission to promote the under appreciated and undervalued sports that women play. Thank you for creating this content.
I also wanted to make you aware that according to the National Federation of High School sports women’s volleyball is the #1 team sport for girls. We beat out powerhouse sports like basketball by over 60,000 athletes. In the volleyball community we are unsure of why we get so little attention and we want to change that narrative.
Can you help us, please?
Our sport is played by some of the most dynamic athletes in sport and we want the main stream media to see this and give us the recognition and air time we deserve. That can’t change without the help of institutions like yours.
Again, please know that I support what you are doing and think it’s incredible. I am just simply asking that you include our amazing sport of volleyball.