SAN ANTONIO — Cat Osterman, one of the greatest softball players of all time, is at the coaching school for the first time. She’s far from the only one.
The Texas High School Coaches Association expects more than 15,000 coaches to attend this week’s convention in San Antonio. That would be a record and would surpass the total of 14,177 from the previous year.
“It’s great to see,” Osterman said. “They offer more courses and speakers for athletes and coaches. That’s huge. The more you can enable women coaches to be empowered, the more they will infuse that into their athletes.”
Osterman is no longer coaching softball, having spent six years as an assistant at Texas State before retiring in 2020 to pursue personal endeavors. The 2004 Olympic champion is no longer playing after retiring for the second time last September after a 10-year professional career.
“I’m 39. It was time,” she said.
The former University of Texas legend now spends her time working with a New Braunfels youth travel ball team, giving public speaking and serving as a commentator for the Longhorn Network. Osterman, who attended Cy Springs High School, spoke at the 90th Coaching School on Sunday and helped chair a panel on leadership in women’s coaching.
Last month America celebrated the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that helped achieve equality for women in high school, college and professional sports. Osterman is not satisfied with the progress that has been made.
“I think there’s a lot of room for us to grow,” she said. “The opportunities are tremendous now, across the board when you talk about different sports in high school and just the opportunities for girls after high school. I don’t think there is equality in their perspective.”
“It’s not easy being a woman in professional sports,” Osterman said. “When it comes to professional growth in softball, we’re pretty much screwed. There isn’t a single soul that lives on it alone. You must have another job that makes ends meet.”
There are two professional softball leagues in the US – Women’s Professional Fastpitch and Athletes Unlimited – but WPF only has two teams as it replaces the old National Pro Fastpitch (NPF). And that despite the fact that college softball is incredibly popular.
This year’s Women’s College World Series final between Texas and Oklahoma was watched by an average of 1.7 million viewers, peaking at 2.1 million viewers. This game had more viewers than the most watched game in baseball’s College World Series championship series – which averaged 1.63 million viewers and peaked at 1.9 million viewers – the athlete reported.
“We never got it [nonconference] games on [TV]’ Osterman said of her playing days. “You didn’t get anything until the conference if you were lucky. It’s cool to see how many games are on TV now and it’s great for the younger generations. Now they can really watch an entire season of softball and start finding athletes they want to be like.”
What steps can be taken to improve professional softball?
“First we need to find corporate sponsors to support it and help fund it. You can’t pay athletes without money coming in,” Osterman said. “Second, we need fans to follow athletes out of college. They have high fan engagement [in college], and then they go to pro ball and people stop watching. They haven’t even peaked in college yet.”
– Texas Talent: Meet some of the most influential and groundbreaking female athletes in history
– When Title IX turns 50, the ex-colleagues from the University of Texas thought about joint championships
– Jody Conradt, University of Texas, embodies the creation, struggles and success of Title IX
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