Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Women’s History Month: 50 years of women’s sports at UW

UW women’s softball player shares inspiration, thoughts on career as collegiate athlete
Maddox Durst

As March unfolds, the University of Wisconsin honors Women’s History Month — a time to recognize the spirit of women who have shaped history, broken barriers and paved the way for future generations. At UW, female athletes stand at the forefront.

Fifty years ago, UW took a historic step by approving a 12-sport women’s program, according to Spectrum News. Before 1974, female students could only participate on club sports teams and were not allowed to play at the intercollegiate level. This decision marked the university as a pioneer, far ahead of the NCAA and Big Ten Conference which finally recognized women’s athletics in 1981, Spectrum News reported. These 12 women’s sports included badminton, basketball, cross country, fencing, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, tennis, track and field and volleyball.

For the past two decades, Badger women’s sports have etched their names in history. The women’s hockey team, with seven national championships and a roster of 22 all-Americans since the year 2000, exemplifies excellence on ice. The victories and triumphs resonated far beyond the rink, inspiring future generations of athletes.


Simultaneously, the Badger volleyball team has soared to prominence in the past 24 years. With a National Championship, seven Big Ten Championships and 19 NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 24 years, they’ve become a powerhouse in collegiate volleyball. Their relentless pursuit of greatness, illuminating a path for future generations of success on the court at UW.

Amidst this legacy, turn attention to the softball team, which took its first swings in the spring of 1996. This up-and-coming program emerged with a vision, scoping into the world of collegiate softball with determination and diligence.

Earlier this month, The Badger Herald spoke with freshman infielder Paige Miller, a remarkable athlete and proud member of the softball team. Her journey transcends the boundaries of the softball diamond — serving as a testament to the passion, power and true grit that characterize women in sports.

Miller passionately captures the essence of being a woman in sports.

“Being a female athlete has granted me the assurance that I am equipped with an extra set of tools that set me up for success daily,” Miller said.

These tools extend beyond physical capabilities — they encompass resilience, independence and leadership. Miller recognizes that her role goes beyond the softball field — it’s about inspiring others to embrace their potential.

Miller also acknowledges the privilege of competing against other dedicated female athletes who work tirelessly day after day. Miller’s comments explain how women’s sports aren’t always about competition, but celebrating collective success.

“Being a woman in sports makes me extremely proud,” Miller said.

Every victory and every milestone achieved by her fellow athletes adds to this pride. It’s a sisterhood — a bond forged through shared passion and relentless effort.

For Miller, Women’s History Month holds a deep meaning. She reflects on the female athletes who blazed the trail before her — the ones who created the environment she is lucky to be a part of today. Their sacrifices and resilience created a foundation for Badger athletes today. Miller’s goal is clear — to leave a positive and lasting impact on the softball program. She recognizes that her actions will create a lasting impact, influencing the generations to come after her.

Miller’s motivation extends beyond the diamond. It is in the eyes of the little kids who attend her games — the ones who eagerly wait at the fence for high-fives before each inning. It is the little kids who wait after the game to get autographs and pictures, no matter the outcome. They remind her of the pure love for the game — the same love that fuels her to be a female athlete every day. For Miller, being a college athlete is both an honor and a responsibility.

Though male athletics often dominate the sports world, Paige sees it as an opportunity — an extra layer of motivation and swagger that helps her grow and push herself to break records. The increasing viewership and interest in women’s sports add to the excitement — a wave of change that she rides with unwavering determination and eagerness.

Miller acknowledged the pay gap between male and female athletes but said her passion for softball transcends monetary rewards. She plays because she loves the sport. After all, it brings out the best in her. The pursuit of excellence, regardless of external validation, drives her forward and makes her the athlete she is.

Beyond the diamond, two influential women illuminate Miller’s path — her Mom, Lynn, and her older sister, Sidney.

Miller explains how they embody strength, hard work and self-respect — the very qualities she strives to emulate. Their legacy isn’t just about wins and losses — it’s about character, resilience and the unwavering pursuit of being true to oneself. Miller also looks to her current and past teammates for inspiration as they continue to push her, making her step out of her comfort zone and be the best version of herself. As a sisterhood, they share a bond that goes beyond wins and losses, celebrating the very journey they embark upon.

In the vibrant tapestry of Badger athletics, Women’s History Month weaves a powerful thread — one that transcends victories. From the hockey rink to the volleyball court, Badger women have etched their names in the history books, leaving an undeniable mark. Their triumphs go beyond scores — they inspire generations, break barriers and redefine what’s possible.

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