hrista Szalach, a junior in public relations and
strategic communication in the Brian Lamb School
of Communication and a midfielder on the Purdue
women’s soccer team, knows how to fire up the crowd at a
match. Last season, Szalach, a former gymnast, regularly
performed a flip throw-in, based on a front handspring.
The full body flip allowed her to catapult the ball farther
downfield and set up plays, including a game-winning goal
against Ohio State.
But even if she and her dramatic throw-in eventually
advanced to the National Women’s Soccer League, it’s
unlikely that many fans would have the chance to see
it. That’s the assumption you’d make based on the most
recent data in a longitudinal study of television coverage
of women’s sports by Cheryl Cooky, associate professor of
American Studies, and her colleagues Michael A. Messner
and Michela Musto at the University of Southern California.
Cooky became involved in the study, which began in 1989,
as a graduate student of Messner’s in 1999. Every five years,
members in the study group have recorded six weeks of
sports coverage, monitoring the 6 and 11 p.m. broadcasts
on the Los Angeles affiliates of the three major networks
and three weeks of the 11 p.m. broadcast of ESPN’s
SportsCenter. Then, through careful coding, they noted
the gender of the sport covered, type of sport, competitive
level of the sport (professional, college, and so on), type
of coverage (such as a feature or score box), and segment
length. They also documented specific production values in
the way a sport was covered, as well as data on the anchors,
analysts, and ancillary reporters.
Christa Szalach, a junior in the College of
Liberal Arts and a midfielder on the Purdue
women’s soccer team, dribbles the ball
down the field. Photo by Charles Jischke.