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If you don't watch women's sports, why not?

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Last August, 92,000 fans packed the University of Nebraska football stadium to watch a women's volleyball game. It was a record-breaking crowd, the largest crowd ever to see a women's sports game.

A few months later, during an exhibition game at the University of Iowa, nearly 56,000 fans packed the stadium to watch a women's basketball game. It was also a record-breaking audience.

Do you know what else was record-breaking in terms of attendance? Most of the games took place at the Women's World Cup in Australia last year.

In January, the Professional Women's Hockey League game between Minnesota and Montreal set an attendance record for the most-watched women's professional ice hockey event.

If you haven't been paying attention, let me introduce you to the exciting world of women's sports. Does the name Caitlin Clark sound familiar? If not, you should start paying attention. Clark, who plays basketball for the University of Iowa, has the most career points in men's and women's Division I history and is the first Division I player (men's or women's) to record 3,000 or more points, 900 or more assists and 800 or more has more rebounds in a career. Wherever she goes, the arenas are sold out.

And she's not the only athlete causing a stir.

Deloitte predicts that women's elite sport will generate revenue of more than $1 billion for the first time in 2024. That's a 300 percent increase over the industry valuation in 2021.

Women's sports have come a long way.

Lisa Bluder is the head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball team and was a former college player herself. She summed it up in The Athletic: “When I started, I probably played in front of 55 people,” said Bluder, 62, the Big Ten's winningest women's basketball coach who is entering her 39th season as a head coach. “Now we are playing in front of 55,000 spectators. So we’ve come a long way.”

For years I've listened to men say they only watch men's sports because the women are boring. I've heard men call Serena Williams an angry black woman because she slammed her racket in frustration, ignoring the fact that John McEnroe threw rackets and insulted chair umpires for years. I've heard just about it all – women aren't competitive enough, not strong enough, not talented enough. Or they're too angry, too emotional, too whatever. Oh, give me a break.

Overall, who still gets the most money in professional sports? Men.

Who manages sponsorship deals? Mostly men.

Who controls media coverage of games? Here too, mainly men.

However, the tide is changing.

A 2023 Seton Hall study found that 51 percent of the general population, 58 percent of sports fans and 69 percent of avid fans believe that networks, advertisers and other media platforms have a responsibility to promote the growth of women's sports.

Recent attendance figures at women's sporting events show that changes are afoot. Female athletes are just as competitive as men and deserve their place in the spotlight. The change may be long overdue, but it's definitely worth celebrating.

— Rachel Brougham is the former deputy editor of the Petoskey News-Review. You can email her at [email protected].