In my approximately 18 years of playing sports, I have never been coached by a woman. Though shocking, my experience is not uncommon. With women making up only about 40% of coaches in college and only 27% in youth sports, there are countless female athletes who never had the opportunity to be coached by a woman. Unfortunately, the presence of women in management doesn’t prove to be anymore significant. Women make up only 20% of college athletic directors. While these statistics only highlight the lack of diversity, all hope is not lost for women in sports. Fortunately, as society progresses, so does the sports industry. In fact there are a number of women who are actively and successfully putting a dent in the sports world. Take a look at these women who are changing the way of sports.
If anyone knows how to win and create a path for other women, it’s Mia Hamm, the woman who put women’s soccer on the map. As a two-time FIFA World Cup champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, four-time NCAA DI National champion, and two-time FIFA World Player of the Year, her trailblazing is undeniable. While her career was certainly impressive and helped shape the soccer community today, what she is doing now may have a greater impact. After her retirement, she became a global ambassador for FC Barcelona and joined the board of directors of A.S. Roma, a Series A futbol club. In 2014, Hamm became a co-owner of Los Angeles FC, a men’s professional soccer team that joined the MLS in 2017. In a male-dominated field Mia Hamm is once again showing that people’s preconceived notions about the role of women are wrong. As one of the biggest names in soccer history and arguably one of the best American players to date, Mia Hamm is proving that women deserve to be at the head of the table and can lead and develop all athletes, not just female.
Another pioneer in her sport and someone who has shown that you can be a force to be reckoned with no matter your gender is Ronda Rousey. She changed what it means to fight like a girl. Women are not always considered as competitors in the MMA and UFC world, but Rousey proved that with hard work and sheer dedication to your sport, you can succeed. In 2008, she became the first American woman to win a gold medal in judo. In her UFC career, she won 12 consecutive fights, 11 of which were won in the first round. While she did suffer her first loss in 2015 to Holly Holm, Rousey showed that a setback did not define her; she continues to have the most first round title-fight finishes in UFC history. She even pursued a bit of an acting career, displaying her versatility in her professional life. Then, on July 5, 2018, Ronda Rousey became the first woman ever to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. Although she has recently chosen to step away from UFC fighting, her strength, perseverance, and contribution to her sport is something that all athletes should recognize and appreciate.
While women are certainly making waves in the professional arena, such as Casey Stoney, head coach of the first Manchester United Women’s team, college sports have also taken a huge step toward change. One such agent of this change can be seen in Edniesha Curry, assistant coach of the University of Maine’s Men’s Basketball program. She is the only woman holding a full-time position as an assistant coach in Division I men’s basketball. This is practically unheard of, with only three other women having served similar positions. Clearly, her appointment is one that should not be taken lightly. With a successful collegiate career at the University of Oregon; a professional career in the WNBA and international play; time spent working Jr. NBA clinics and numerous camps; and her participation in the NBA’s Assistant Coach’s Program, Curry’s knowledge and passion for the game are unparalleled. It is this kind of diligence and sacrifice that leads to success, and that is exactly what is needed for the sports community to become more diverse and promote equality.
These and many other women have pushed the limits and overcome adversity not only to better their own careers, but to change the way that men and women think about and play sports. While each woman has been pivotal in paving the way for more female involvement and leadership, there are significant strides to be made. The future of sports is leaning toward equality, and that is the kind of community that I can’t wait to be a part of. For more information on how to become a part of the change and network with others that are part of this movement, come to our event, the 2018 Women In Sports Mixer! Click here for event and ticket information.