The Face of Sports Will Never Be The Same

Sarah Thomas
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: NFL official Sarah Thomas waits on the field during the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

2015 might be the Year of Women in sports which is good news for all of us. It seems that a portion of the glass ceiling has broken and women have made their way into the world’s most hegemonic industry. For this we must recognize and highlight some of the doors that women have opened in sports.

First NFL Coach

This past July, Jen Welter became the first woman to serve on an NFL coaching staff. Welter was hired by the Arizona Cardinals as a intern coach for inside linebackers during the preseason. Prior to breaking the NFL coaching barrier, she spent 14 years in the Champions Indoor Football League as the first woman to play a non-kicking position. Later, she was hired as an assistant coach for the Texas Revolution.  While her coaching stint only lasted a month, it still was one of the most important cultural shifts in sports. Welter now works as an NFL analyst for a Phoenix broadcasting network. You can read the entire story of Jen Welter’s journey here.

First NFL Official

In April, the NFL named Sarah Thomas as the first full-time female referee, allowing the 19 year veteran and eight year Conference USA official to shine new light into the profession. Thomas was backed by her strong resume, including being the first female to officiate a major collegiate bowl game. Thomas began her journey in 1999 at the high school football level. You can read her story here
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First NBA Coach Hired By Sacramento Kings

A year after Becky Hammon broke ground into the NBA when she was hired by the San Antonio Spurs, fellow female Nancy Lieberman joined the Sacramento Kings. Lieberman is no stranger to the spotlight, as in 2009 she was named the first head coach in the NBA when she undertook the head role for the Dallas Mavericks D-League affiliate the Texas Legends. At age 39, Lieberman was one of the original players during the 1997 inaugural season of the WNBA.

First Female Announcer

Jessica Mendoza was a four time all-American in college softball. She made history this past August as she became the first female analyst on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. A few weeks later, she was the first woman to call a playoff game. Now she’s on to the World Series. Despite the immediate backlash Mendoza received in the form of nasty tweets she continues to be a pioneer in the industry. You can read about her journey here

First MLB Coach

Justine Siegal has flown under the radar as she quietly became the first woman to coach pro baseball in 2009 for the Brockton Rock. She then found her way to be the first woman to throw MLB batting practice for the Oakland Athletics. In September, Siegal was hired on to the coaching staff of Oakland’s Instructional League. It seems now that people will know the name Justine Siegal. You can read the rest of her story here.

First Paid Women’s Hockey League

History was made October 11, as the puck dropped on the inaugural season for the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), the first paid women’s hockey league. The league consists of four teams and an 18 game regular season. The drop was even sweeter when Manon Rheaume, the first woman to appear in an NHL game, dropped the inaugural puck. You can read the full story about the NWHL here.

First Woman On Cover of Men’s Fitness

She’s the world’s fiercest woman in the UFC ring. Now she has become the first woman to appear on the cover of Men’s Fitness. This October Ronda Rousey graced the cover of Men’s Fitness Australia for its “Hardcore Fight Special Edition.” Rousey’s feat hasn’t come without heavy criticism. But as Ronda Rousey does in the ring, she put her enemies in their place. You can see the cover here.

First Female Athletic Apparel Brand

Major ground was broken when Oiselle became the first solely women’s only sports brand to pick up a major college program. This September, Yale cross country and track field signed an exclusive deal with Oiselle. That’s not the only milestone. Every year since its inception in 2007, Oiselle has doubled in growth and has logged a projects revenue of $10 million this year alone.

There’s no doubt that 2015 was the year of women’s firsts in sports. We saw female pioneers in an industry that has been called the most hegemonic industry in the world. There’s something about 2015 and women in sports. It shows that a culture can change and these women are the reason for the shift. I can’t wait to see the progress that happens in 2016. If we can build off what was accomplished this year, there’s no telling what the industry can become.



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