Let Her Play
Shanel Bramschreiber just wants to play volleyball, and for the first time this season on October 14, she will be able to suit and take the court with her new team. Bramschreiber is a Libero and defensive specialist, who played four seasons with the Baylor Bears before looking into other opportunities. Unfortunately for Bramschreiber and many collegiate volleyball players looking to go pro, the United States does not have a professional volleyball league. This means that to continue their playing careers, volleyball players need to move to a whole new country. During this process, Bramschreiber was in touch with an agent to help her navigate and figure out what was best for her. Since Bramschreiber is a libero, a position in which there are not many spots in the sport, her opportunities were few and far between. Her ultimate decision? Play one more year of collegiate volleyball at the University of Wisconsin, the defending champions. Her fifth and final year of eligibility comes because of the shortened COVID-19 season in which the NCAA rightfully gifted athletes who experienced that season, one extra year. This final season isn’t going as planned for Bramschreiber though. Before the season began, Bramschreiber was hit with a decision by the NCAA that ruled her out of half the season. Due to her contact with an agent, the NCAA made the decision to punish Bramschreiber by forcing her to miss 14 games of the season.
On August 26, Bramschreiber made an announcement on social media detailing some of the processes and calling out the NCAA for its lack of equality. The same NCAA that denied Bramschreiber, reinstated multiple football players under the same circumstances except they have received thousands of dollars from their signing with agencies. Bramschreiber pointed out that women’s sports and in general volleyball already have fewer resources and opportunities than male student-athletes who play football, baseball, hockey, and basketball. This forces volleyball players to put the rest of their careers at risk. After Bramschreiber’s announcement, rage ensued. Many athletes re-shared the post with the sentiment “LET HER PLAY”, while former Badger volleyball star, Grace Loberg, explained her similar situation with the NCAA just a year prior as she tried to enter the transfer portal to play beach volleyball. For each game missed, Bramschreiber shared a photo, whether it was her from media day or her on the sidelines, she was counting down the games.
On September 9, her post was a little different. September 9 was Bramschreiber’s fifth game missed and the day she put out her petition. With her petition, the goal is to eliminate the NCAA bylaws under section 12.3 regarding the use of agents in sports. “These bylaws cause several limitations that are very problematic for all NCAA athletes with a heavy, disproportionate negative impact on female athletes,” wrote Bramschreiber. “This change is urgent and essential because it does not allow male or female athletes to explore professional opportunities without jeopardizing their eligibility.”
Included with the petition and the reasoning of the petition, Bramschreiber wrote that the NCAA has acknowledged that the rule needs to be repealed. While the acknowledgment is positive, it shows just how much the NCAA will drag their feet to make things easier on them rather than the student-athletes within the organization. As of now, the petition has over 3,300 signatures. September 23 was the Badgers’ B1G season opener but Bramschreiber still had five games to go. She went on Ryan the Son’s podcast, The Other Category with Ryan the Son, to talk about how the process has impacted her mentally. On the podcast, she spoke about how she had to go through the process of getting a legal team and filling out multiple waivers to try and get any of her eligibility back.
Bramschreiber also started a page on Instagram called “Let Her Play Movement” where she posted a video of her explaining the situation and asking the NCAA to allow her to play. The page helps bring advocacy to her movement and spread her story. On October 8, as the Badgers geared up to play Purdue, Bramschreiber hit 14 games, meaning that she is now eligible to play for the Badgers for the very first time against Iowa on October 14. The irony of Bramschreiber being able to play on the 14th after missing 14 games is simply perfection.
As a Big 12 champion and Final Four finalist with Baylor, Bramschreiber is going to bring experience to the back line of the Badgers who currently have freshman Gülce Güçtekin at Libero. While it is uncertain whether Bramschreiber will start or not against Iowa, the ability for her to suit up is a huge win for the Badgers who are only six games into the conference season. They are yet to play Nebraska or Ohio State, and are still set to rematch Minnesota and Penn State.
Looking back at Bramschreiber’s time out, it shows us how backward the collegiate system is at times as it forces players who are so young to make major decisions that could cost them a career. The NCAA needs to make a change soon to not put another student-athlete in the same position they have put Bramschreiber in. For now, it’s go time for Bramschreiber and the Badgers.