Women coaches make mark in men’s professional sports
When Becky Hammon was hired as a full-time assistant coach in 2014 for the San Antonio Spurs, it started a trend in men’s professional sports that continues to gain momentum.
In April, the NFL appointed Sarah Thomas as their first female referee.
In July the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL hired Jen Welter as a coaching intern for the team’s summer training camp and preseason. There are expectations that she will remain on the staff throughout the regular season.
The Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies have also jumped on the bandwagon and hired female coaches. The Kings hired Nancy Leiberman as a full-time assistant and the Grizzlies hired Nicki Gross as an assistant coach to their NBA D-League team, the Iowa Energy. Gross is the only woman currently coaching in the D-League.
Welter is a former college rugby player who played for the Texas Revolution, a team in the Indoor Football League so she has experience in the football world. Lieberman has played and coached in the WNBA and is nicknamed “Lady Magic.” Thomas was the first to officiate a major college football game, a major bowl game, and the first to officiate in a Big Ten stadium. She also officiated in the United Football League and worked the league championship game in 2010. Gross was a video coordinator for the Energy during the 2014-15 season and will be the third female coach in the history of the D-League as Stephanie Ready coached for the Greenville Groove in 2001 and Lieberman coached for the Texas Legends in 2011-12.
Bruce Arians, head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, believes that the hiring of these female coaches opens a door for women in men’s professional sports and will ultimately have a positive effect on the whole industry.
Opponents of women coaches in men’s sports might view these hires as a publicity stunt for a team. However, after Hammon helped guide the Spurs summer league team to a title, people should realize that women who are coaching in men’s professional sports are very capable of being successful. The big question now that should be on the minds of sports fans is when will a woman become a head coach in the NBA or when will a woman become the lead official for an NFL or college football game? With the trend that has been started by Hammon, Welter, and other female coaches and referees, it could happen sooner rather than later.
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