Every March, the NCAA March Madness tournaments bring people from across the US together for a month of enthusiasm and excitement as the best college basketball teams compete for a national championship. In the past, all eyes have been on the men’s tournament throughout the various upsets, game-winning shots, busted brackets, and chaotic moments that take place during the month-long competition. While the women’s tournament is recognized, it is often overlooked. But this year, that changed.
This year’s Women’s March Madness was record-breaking. Star players like Villanova’s own Maddy Siegrist and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark became the fifth and sixth players in DI history to score 1000 points in a single season. Game attendance was at an all-time high. The national championship game drew in nearly 10 million viewers, a 103% increase in viewership from the previous year and becoming the most-watched title game in tournament history. Seeing all sorts of accomplishments from the athletes and so much recognition from the public was certainly rewarding to see.
As incredible as these record-breaking moments and female athletes are, what is truly amazing is the way in which the rhetoric surrounding women’s sports has already been singlehandedly changed by this tournament. Athletes like Clark and Siegrist showed everyone just how talented and competitive female athletes can be, and that they deserve to be recognized. In the national title game between Iowa and LSU, the “trash talk” between Clark and LSU’s Angel Reese demonstrated to the public just how competitive these women are and how serious they are about the game of basketball.
It can be frustrating to go on social media and see the comment section of a post that has to deal with female athletes or women’s sports. The majority of the time, those comments have nothing nice to say at all. While that certainly happened during this year’s tournament, they began to be outshined by all the positive ones, admiring these women for their athleticism and skill. My entire life, I have always seen people look at women’s sports as more of a “joke,” or somehow lesser than men’s sports. Seeing everyone around me, both online and in real life, talk highly about the tournament and players was refreshing.
In the long run, the women’s tournament is leaving behind an impact that is bigger than our own selves. For the young girls out there, they’re able to see these athletes as role models more than ever before. When Villanova hosted the first and second rounds of the tournament last month, walking around campus and seeing young girls wearing Siegrist jerseys made my heart full. As a woman who has played sports her entire life, it brings me so much joy knowing that the girls who will play after me will be able to live in a world where they are taken seriously and properly recognized for their talents and can look up to women who have redefined athletics as a whole. It is so important for these young athletes to see this appreciation for female athletes because it will inspire them to become great athletes themselves in the years to come.