Women play an instrumental part in the success of UTA Athletics.
Softball head coach Peejay Brun led the team to a championship in 2019 at the National Invitational Softball Championship and has developed the skill sets of various athletes since coming to UTA in 2018.
Both on and off the field, her athletes continue to grow through sports. Brittany Wyllie, former infielder and UTA alumna, currently serves as the athletic communications coordinator for the softball program.
Out of the four sports information director positions within the athletics department, Wyllie is the only woman to hold that role.
“I love that I’m a female in [a sports information director] role,” she said. “I love a challenge, and I love proving people wrong.”
Even with the softball program’s success — producing four Sun Belt First-Team selections, six Sun Belt Second-Team selections and one Softball America All-American — women in sports continue to deal with challenges such as social stigmas, equality and image issues.
Senior infielder KJ Murphy said she was recently scrolling through Twitter when she found a softball highlight. As she scrolled through the comments, she saw several remarks saying “softball is not a sport,” and “that’s not athletic.”
She said men think less of women’s sports because of the level of athleticism, but softball is not far off from baseball when it comes to what skills are needed.
Murphy knows this personally, having experience playing baseball at age seven before moving on to softball at age 10 and playing several other sports throughout junior high and high school.
Eventually, she had to decide what sport to play for the rest of her career.
“It just got to the point where you can’t do everything. You have to pick one,” Murphy said. “I had more passion for softball. I was better at softball, so I just knew that’s what I wanted to move forward in my career with.”
Like her former teammate Murphy, Wyllie also faced a difficult choice: continue with the sport she had played for the past 16 years or move on.
After making her debut as a Maverick in 2017, Wyllie played three more years for the team until 2020. Like several other teammates, her senior season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wyllie said it was in her best interest to move on after how much the sport impacted her physical health, and she didn’t want to hold off on the opportunities she had lined up after her playing days were over.
However, becoming a sports information director wasn’t always in the cards for Wyllie.
As a communications broadcast student, she wanted to pursue a role as a sports anchor, a position she was familiar with during her time in television production.
During her time in a sports reporting class she came across Jason MacBain, associate athletic director for communications, who was giving a presentation of what a career as a sports information director entails.
Wyllie said she had no idea what the position would be like, but she was interested and reached out to MacBain.
“I was kind of torn if I wanted to pursue my sports reporting desire,” Wyllie said. “I just knew that I wanted to be involved in sports in any way that I could.”
Like her players, Brun faced a similar dilemma in her life before becoming a coach. Brun was a music major during her time at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, but she was an athlete before that.
Brun grew up playing baseball until her freshman year of high school, when she took up softball. She said she didn’t like softball when she first started playing, saying “It just wasn’t baseball.”
She said there weren’t many girls who knew how to throw a ball at the time, so it was frustrating transitioning to softball after growing up playing baseball with boys.
Eventually though, Brun came to love the game of softball when she went to college and met other athletes who respected the game and knew how to play.
Fast forward to 2021, and Brun said women’s athletics have grown much more than when she started because women’s sports are broadcasted more.
“The more that [media has] actually put female athletics out there, the more it grows for the younger ones,” Brun said. “I just think that we’re seeing that big change now.”
Women’s athletics have shown that change. The faceoff between Dawn Staley and Joni Taylor will mark the first time two Black women head coaches competed in the Southeastern Conference women’s basketball tournament final. Sarah Fuller is a goalkeeper for Vanderbilt University’s women’s soccer team who became the first woman to score in a Power 5 football game.
Women are doing more than playing and coaching, they are taking their work to front offices. A recent example of this is Kim Ng, general manager of the Miami Marlins and the first female general manager in Major League Baseball history.
Murphy plans to make an impact by pursuing a career in law enforcement after graduation. She understands it’s a male-dominated field, but it’s something she loves and has passion for.
“Women are starting to make a big impact,” Murphy said. “Women aren’t holding back anymore. They are going for those jobs, and they don’t care if it’s male-dominated at this point.”