03/16/2012 01:31 pm ET Updated May 16, 2012

Female Athletes and Coaches Are Undervalued in the World of Sports

By Kelly McHugh

When it comes to sports media today, it is obvious that the primary focus is on the male crowd, while women in the world of sports often get misjudged.

According to a New York Times article from Oct. 2010 about introducing espnW, an ESPN channel made up of solely women's sports geared at reaching women ages 18-35, "Women make up 44 percent of football fans, 45 percent of baseball fans and 36 percent of professional men's basketball fans, according to research conducted by the sports leagues."

So while sports may have started within the male sphere, women make up a large percentage of consumers today. With the rise of women media consumers and incredible female athletes taking center stage in their specific sports, I often wonder why and how women in are underestimated in sports media, in business and on the playing field.

I believe this male-dominant sports culture often comes from the way women in society are viewed. If you visit Sports Illustrated's website, the first thing that you will see is a large banner linking to their swimsuit edition page. While swimsuits are making headlines on a leading sports news outlet, athletes like Brittney Griner and Abby Wambach have to work hard and be exceptionally talented in their sport to gain the attention of the media. Griner leads both men and women in scoring in the Big 12 Conference, averaging 22.7 ppg, and Wambach scored a goal in the 2011 Women's World Cup deemed the best play of the year, according to the 2011 ESPYs.

Pretty impressive, if you ask me.

But, if you are not the exceptional, record-breaking female athlete, making headlines is near impossible -- while a girl in a bikini can make the front cover of a widely read sports news magazine.

I am not saying men's sports and women's sports need to be aired equally, and I am not trying to take anything away from watching men's sports. I will always be a huge fan of MLB and the NFL, and I loved NASCAR long before Danica Patrick hit the track.

However, what I am saying is females in sports are highly underestimated when it comes to sports media.

I have even noticed my guy friends are far too often more focused on what ESPN broadcaster Erin Andrews is wearing over what she is saying.

So, my wish would be for men to take a different look at the world of women's sports. For example, do not just watch women's soccer because you think players are attractive, but watch it because these women work just as hard and possess just as much talent as the men's teams do.

And ladies, my wish would also be to go out and support your fellow female athletes here at K-State. In a recent interview I had with K-State Athletics Director John Currie, he had so much good to say about the women's athletics offered at the university.

"I'm really proud of all of our women's programs," Currie said. "We were one of a few schools in the country to have both men's and women's basketball in the NCAA tournament last year; we had the freshman of the year and the player of the year in women's tennis; our women's volleyball team went to the Sweet 16; Ryann Krais won the national championship [in track and field]. I mean, if you look across the board at K-State, we actually compete pretty well at everything."

K-State athletics is filled with women who work hard and train every day to represent the school. Many of these athletes excel not only on their playing field, but also in the classroom.
Currie also said the teams are represented by extremely successful coaches who know coaching at K-State is something special.

"We have a coach, Deb Patterson, who has won 320-something games in her career. She's our all-time winningest coach, she's been a longtime coach," Currie said. "Our assistant [basketball] coach, Kami Ethrige, is in the basketball hall of fame, was an Olympic gold medalist and won a national championship as a player, and then you look at our other coaching staff, like Suzie Fritz, who is the longtime volleyball coach."

I recently attended my first K-State home tennis match and had a great time watching these women who are so passionate about and talented in the sport they represent at K-State.

The women's basketball team currently has five seniors on the roster, all of whom have been making an impact on the court and around campus during their years at K-State. Just as the men's seniors deserve a good crowd for their final game in Bramlage Coliseum, I believe K-State students should support their fellow female senior colleagues as they step on Bramlage's court one last time.

Women in sports are not inferior to men today -- women in sports are strong, talented and smart, and they deserve not to be underestimated.

Kelly McHugh is a junior in journalism and mass communication.