Boston College softball’s Susannah Anderson is hardly the first person in her family to play a college sport. Not only did all of her siblings compete at the collegiate level, but her parents did too.
The opportunities Anderson has been afforded, however, are far greater than the opportunities either of her parents had, she said. Especially compared to her mom.
“I would definitely say that I have way more resources and opportunity now as a female athlete than my mom did,” Anderson said.
When Title IX—a federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs that receive federal funding—was passed in 1972, women across the country started pushing for equal opportunities in college athletics. Their efforts and the passage of Title IX resulted in Miami awarding the first female athletic scholarship in 1973.
Now, 50 years later, Anderson is reaping the benefits of an increased focus on gender equality in sports from the youth to the college level.
Her mother Bilyana played volleyball, and her father Chris played football, both at Tennessee Tech. Anderson’s sister Scarlet plays softball for Rhode Island, and her brother Sean was an offensive lineman at Rhode Island.
But Anderson said her mom had just a “little handful of resources” throughout her college career.
“It was kind of like, ‘Here’s your uniform for four years. Here are your knee pads. I hope you don’t break them,’” she said. “If I get a hole in my cleats, I go get a new pair the same day basically.”
Current ACC regulations have made a huge impact on Anderson’s college career, allowing her and her teammates to get to games by plane when necessary rather than exclusively by bus and limiting practice times so she can pursue an education without feeling completely exhausted.
For Anderson, Title IX has opened up countless doors, providing her with these resources and many opportunities she wouldn’t have otherwise—starting with a scholarship at BC. Through that athletic scholarship, Anderson has piled up accolades, including earning All-ACC and NFCA All-Region Mid-Atlantic honors and being named one of BC’s captains for the 2023 season.
“Fifty years ago, BC softball probably didn’t have scholarships, so [Anderson] probably wouldn’t be at BC, and she wouldn’t be receiving all these accolades,” assistant softball coach Olivia Watkins said.
Having grown up playing softball, Anderson said she is grateful to have had the chance to compete at the collegiate level, especially at BC, where she said she feels she is treated fairly.
“I think that Boston College tries pretty hard to implement and respect Title IX and give their female athletes equivalent opportunities as their male athletes,” she said.
The recently constructed Pete Frates Center—an indoor training facility for both the baseball and softball teams—is a concrete image of how far collegiate athletics have come in promoting gender equality.
“We have everything that the boys have,” Anderson said. “Our locker rooms look exactly the same. … We have cages upstairs—enough for both teams—and their field is the exact same as our field. We didn’t get shortchanged in any way.”
The two teams practice the same amount of hours, according to Anderson, and they play a similar number of games, so it’s important to her that they are treated equally. Both teams work equally hard, and both teams are equally rewarded, she said.
“There’s nothing worse than seeing other people just get things handed out to them when you’re doing the same things,” Anderson said.
With the Frates Center, that has been far from the case. The facility demonstrates the care that the University has for the softball team and the players, Watkins said.
“It also shows that the athletic department supports Boston College softball and that they want to give the student athletes and the staff the resources to be able to be successful,” she said.
Without Title IX, however, Watkins said Anderson probably wouldn’t have access to the center, much less any athletic facility less than six years old. Not only that, but Watkins said Anderson likely wouldn’t have had most of the benefits she has now, including new uniforms, gear, or access to academic advisors and tutors.
“I really do think that [Title IX has] benefitted her a lot more than people think,” Watkins said.
Anderson’s coaching staff at BC, which she said is “phenomenal,”
“I think they show you that to get respect it has to be earned,” Anderson said. “It’s hard work to play with the boys, get all the things that the boys get. It’s hard work, but they show us that it’s not impossible.”
Still, Anderson sees room for improvement to ensure that female athletes receive equal treatment. Anderson said she was once asked to wait to work with a trainer when the football team was present, and because of this experience believes all injuries need to be prioritized.
“I wish sometimes we were taken a little bit more seriously when we speak about our bodies and injuries,” she said. “A football player’s treatment is no more important than mine is.”
Female athletes should also have equal opportunities when it comes to their income if they choose to play professionally, Anderson said.
In 2016, the Houston Scrap Yard Dawgs, a professional softball team, signed Monica Abbott to a six-year, $1 million contract—the highest paying contract in the history of professional softball. In comparison, MLB’s Max Scherzer—the highest-paid professional baseball player during the 2022 season—signed a three-year $130,000,000 million contract with the New York Mets in November 2021.
Watkins said baseball players can make almost a million dollars right after college. Professional softball players may only make around $50,000 a season, she said.
Anderson is in a unique position to expand her revenue while still in college, though, according to Watkins. This year, Anderson struck a name, image, and likeness (NIL) deal with Prime Time Baseball—a baseball workout facility—allowing her to profit off of her NIL.
BC softball and Crazy Dough’s Pizza, a pizzeria near the Harrington Athletics Village where the Eagles play, partnered in an NIL deal this fall. The deal states that all of BC’s returning players will utilize their social media accounts, primarily Instagram, to promote Crazy Dough’s. In exchange for using their NIL to promote Crazy Dough’s, BC’s players receive $50 a month along with Crazy Dough’s apparel, according to the contract.
“She’s able to really expand her network and expand her deal and be able to negotiate in a way where she’s actually generating a good bit of revenue,” Watkins said.
After college, Anderson hopes to play overseas for a year, but for now, she said she is extremely excited for her fifth year at BC and grateful for the past four.
“I’m extremely lucky for all of the opportunities and experiences that I’ve gotten here at BC,” Anderson said.