At the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, held in the summer of 2021, softball made a surprising appearance. After being added to the Olympic sports program in 1996, softball was removed from the Olympic sports line-up for the 2012 and 2016 games. Along with baseball, softball was able to return to the Olympics in 2021.
Softball is one of the top sports in the U.S., and it is a well-known collegiate sport as well. California Baptist University officially sponsors a softball team, along with many of the most distinguished NCAA Division-I schools in the country. After being featured on the international stage at the Olympics, however, the regard for softball in the world and the U.S. has grown immensely.
“I thought it was amazing,” said Amanda Argomaniz, senior political science major and member of the CBU softball team. “(Softball) has been known prior to this year before the Olympics, but I remember hearing about it and just being so excited.”
Being elevated on the Olympic stage helps bring more awareness to the sport of softball in the U.S. at all levels, especially the collegiate level. In addition, seeing softball in the Olympics can encourage softball players around the world.
“For me, it felt huge for our sport,” said Priscilla Estrada, freshman undeclared major and member of the CBU softball team. “It felt like we were getting great recognition around the world.”
Despite softball’s inclusion in the Olympic program during the 2020 games, the International Olympic Committee has ultimately decided not to include softball in the 2024 Olympics, which will be held in Paris. Although it will not be featured at the next Olympics, the 2020 games helped bring more awareness to the sport.
“Nowadays softball is so much bigger than it used to be, and there’s so much more awareness about it,” Argomaniz said. “Having it in the Olympics is a big deal. Everyone’s been talking about it.”
The U.S. does not have any professional softball teams, so for most American softball players, and especially for elite college softball players, playing at the Olympics gives them an opportunity to represent the U.S. at the highest level.
“For every little girl that plays this game, that’s what they look forward to,” said Mike Smith, head coach of the CBU softball team. “Wearing USA across your chest is like playing for the major leagues. It’s not professional softball; it’s playing for your country.”
In the years to come, spectators might be able to see softball in the Olympics. The CBU softball team is preparing for their spring season, which will kick off in the spring of 2022. CBU softball games will be available for viewing on ESPN+, along with other CBU athletic events.