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In celebration of women's history month, we are featuring five women who have changed sports forever. These women are successful athletes, coaches, and officials who were willing to get uncomfortable, follow their passion and break down barriers along the way.
The Boston Marathon was first run in 1897 and is the oldest continuously running marathon in North America. Five years before women were allowed to enter the race, Kathrine Switzer registered under the name “K. V. Switzer.” After the oversight, Jock Semple, a race official, attempted to physically remove her as she ran. The photographs became famous and made more headlines. Despite the widespread support, the marathon directors didn’t change the rules until 1972. “I knew if I quit, nobody would ever believe that women had the capability to run 26-plus miles. If I quit, everybody would say it was a publicity stunt. If I quit, it would set women's sports back, way back, instead of forward. If I quit, I'd never run Boston. If I quit, Jock Semple and all those like him would win. My fear and humiliation turned to anger.”
Becky Hammon was hired by the San Antonio Spurs in August of 2014 as a full-time assistant coach, making her the first-ever full-time assistant coach in not only the NBA but also any of the four major professional sports! Hammon came fully qualified for the position. She played for the San Antonio Stars and the New York Liberty and made an appearance in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. We have a feeling Becky will continue to make history. She is just getting started and we look forward to hearing more about her budding career.
Before Serena Williams was queen of the tennis courts, the crown belonged to Billie Jean King. In her many accomplishments, King has won 39 Grand Slam Titles, founded the Women’s Tennis Association, and the Women’s Sports Foundation. In famous fashion, she was twenty-nine when she accepted the challenge of the then-55-year-old Bobby Riggs to a tennis match, best known as The Battle of the Sexes in 1973. Viewed by an estimated 90 million people around the world, King beat the arrogant Riggs in three sets.
An official first. Sarah Thomas is breaking down barriers as an official in professional sports. Thomas was a student-athlete and has always had a passion for sports. Looking for an outlet to keep that passion alive, Thomas became a football official. Since then, Thomas has been breaking down barriers in football at the collegiate and professional levels. Thomas became the first female to officiate a football game in 2007, and 2008, she was the first female to officiate an NCAA Bowl Game. Shortly after, in 2015, she became the NFL’s first full-time female official. This past February, Sarah made headlines once again. Sarah was the first female to officiate the Super Bowl. Sarah Thomas is quickly breaking down barriers in professional sports – and we love cheering her on!
From kart racing to NASCAR, Danica Patrick had no way of knowing just how far her car could take her. Patrick has become a household name for her talent behind the wheel. Competing world-wide, Patrick is now the most successful women in American Auto Racing. Danica is the first to ever win an IndyCar Series race. She earned this title in 2008 at the Indy Japan 300. She also holds the most top-ten finishes by a woman. Danica has announced that the Indianapolis 500 was her last, but we can’t wait to see what is next for her!
It's all in the name. We could go on and on about all the success Swoopes has had in her career. Her legacy is filled with a plethora of firsts:
All the hard work and dedication has brought Swoopes to be inducted in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. “Growing up, I had so many goals and dreams and things I wanted to accomplish with my life and, to be honest with you, I don’t think ‘Hall of Famer’ was ever on that list,” said Swoopes. “Because that’s the best of the best and I’ve had a privilege and an honor to have played with some of the best, against some of the best, watched some of the best, and for me to now be considered one of the best, it’s a remarkable accomplishment.” Her inspiration continues as women entering the sport now watched her journey as they grew up. Little girls all around had a player, a star, that they could look up to.