A few months ago, we wrote an article highlighting professional women’s sports leagues in the US. Unknowingly, we left National Pro Fastpitch, the women’s professional softball league, out of the article. Starting Sporting Chic has been more educational than anything else. Thankfully, we were immediately made aware of our error and we wrote a follow-up article featuring NPF. One thing that we learned was that Monica Abbott had just signed a million-dollar contract.
A million dollars! How did we not know about this league, this athlete, or this deal? It was amazing to us that, as fellow female professional athletes who try to stay up-to-date with what’s going on in our world, we had missed such headline-worthy news. We wrote this follow-up article, a bit ashamedly, praising Monica and the progress she was helping women’s sports make, never dreaming that we would be able to get ahold of her for an interview.
Much to our surprise, we reached out to Monica and SHE ANSWERED. I have to admit that I was humbled and starstruck. Coming up with questions to ask her seemed like a task that I wasn’t quite ready for. But Monica, gracious and enthusiastic, answered all of my questions and gave us this opportunity to write a real feature on her. So keep reading!
Monica plays pitcher for the Scrap Yard Dawgs, a Conroe, Texas (Houston) based team in the NPF. The professional women’s softball league runs from June-August and consists of 5 teams. Monica graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2007. She’s the first woman in US team sports to sign a $1 million contract.
"I did everything as a kid,” Monica told Sporting Chic. “I loved being outside. Eventually, I stuck with basketball and softball throughout high school.”
Monica, standing at 6-3, credits a lot of her skill to the fact that her growth-spurts forced her to work on certain areas of her game with more focus. She explained, “I think it actually made me have to figure out how to be more limber and flexible at a younger age. Because I was always growing so fast, there were times I felt like I was clumsy… but once I finally ‘grew into my body’ so to speak, my overall athleticism skyrocketed and all the footwork and agility stuff I was doing not be clumsy or awkward during my growth spurts multiplied the payoff.”
Monica participated in the 2008 Olympics with USA Softball in Beijing where she won a silver medal. After that, women’s softball was dropped from the summer Olympics. While the College World Series remains popular, the only other events for female softball players who want to continue playing after school include the World Championships and the various professional leagues around the world.
Like many Olympic sports, especially on the women's side, USA Softball is funded solely by the USOC (the Olympic Committee.) While this funding is limited, it still allows for the team to get together during the summer months for events. During World Championship and Olympic years, the team gets together more, but players are still expected to train on their own for the majority of the year. This requires that a lot of players travel overseas to Japan to play in the league there. Monica plays for the Toyota team in Japan when she is not busy with her NPF team, the Dawgs.
So how do players like Monica get paid? There is some prize money from the games with USA Softball and there is the opportunity to play abroad. We were more interested in how the NPF, the American league, pays it's players.
Monica explained, “The NPF teams are owned by individual owners or business. The NPF salary cap doesn’t necessarily show the true salary. Most girls get paid a personal services contract as well outside of their playing contract.”
That’s kind of how Monica’s contract works. According to ESPNw.com, she gets paid a base salary of $20,000 per year for 6 years and then receives bonuses based on attendance on top of that. By the end of the 6 year deal, she will hopefully have reached her $1 million dollar maximum.
“Overall, softball financials are getting better, especially when companies step up to invest in women’s sports like softball and in the athletes that have a story to tell. We still have some battles to win on the financial side, but we are prime right now for big advancements. I can't wait to see who is going to be a part of it!”
The growth of the sport is something that Monica and the rest of her teammates are fighting for, just as those of us who play in the NWSL want to help grow women's soccer in America. The opportunity to continue playing sports after college will give young female athletes positive role models and higher dreams to reach for. Professional women's sports is one of the avenues through which women can continue to fight for equal opportunity, as well as cultivate environments for positive female empowerment. Here at Sporting Chic, we feel that sports has helped shape us into confident, self-assured young women. Fighting to give the opportunity to play sports to other women is something that we all feel very passionate about.
Monica's contract speaks volumes to the growth of women's sports in our country.
“My headline making contract says one thing- OPPORTUNITY! The door is open. Let us women athletes, career women, and all others capitalize on the opportunity to expect and demand more. We deserve to be treated fairly and our voice matters."
Monica sees several avenues to continue growing the sport.
"I think we can improve my having more media around professional softball, creating more of an atmosphere and fan involvement. I want Dawgs fans to get excited and do chants... that pumps me up!"
Part of what draws fans to sports in general is the passion that the players demonstrate. In doing what we love, in competition, in our relationships with our teammates- athletes are fun to watch when they LOVE what they do. Specifically, Monica loves the freedom that being a professional athlete allows. “I can set my work out times, talk to my coaches about adding more cardio or less and really being able to make a game plan to improve specific things in my game! I love it— plus I get to compete!”
Monica also enjoys watching other Olympic sports like Track and Field, Basketball, and Gymnastics. (See our article on Olympic Gymnast Sam Peszek here.) We didn’t force her to say this, but she enjoys watching the World Cup as well.
One thing that we want to reiterate is that Monica, while pretty inarguably the best women's softball player in the world, is totally down to earth. “When I get time to myself I like to travel for fun, or spend time with family. I love going to spin class and doing at home spa treatments!" We would love to see you at Soul Cycle, Monica. The taller, the better, right? Check out this article Steph wrote about when the three of us at Sporting Chic went together.
It's probably in your best interest to jump on the NPF/Monica Abbott bandwagon NOW. With Softball looking to make a comeback for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the Scrap Yard Dawgs stadium will be a hot destination this summer and the next few summers to come. Fortunately for us, we were able to speak with Monica and feature her inspiring journey in softball. We want to thank her for so graciously answering our questions and giving us so much insight into another female professional sports league! We can't wait to see some crossover between Houston Dash fans and Dawgs fans this summer!