When considering the most inspirational women of this day and age, our minds often wander to those of grandeur and large influence, such as Beyoncé, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga and Oprah Winfrey, all of whom garner attention for various reasons.
Although I recognize what these women have done and applaud them for being so influential, the person who comes to my mind when I think about a woman who inspires me is Becky Hammon.
Hammon made news in 2014 when she earned the role as the National Basketball Association’s second-ever female coach. She had earlier played in the WNBA for 15 years, including seven seasons for the San Antonio Stars, earning a spot on Sports Illustrated’s Top Fifteen WNBA Players of All Time list in 2011.
Unfortunately, Hammon’s time with the WNBA came to an end in 2013 after tearing her left anterior cruciate ligament and being forced into a yearlong physical therapy. While recuperating, Hammon found herself attending San Antonio Spurs practices, games and coaches’ meetings in her free time.
With the Spurs, Hammon found that her opinion mattered in a landscape where women are usually pushed aside. She was named an assistant coach officially in 2014, and from there was named ESPNW’s Woman of the Year, became the first female to lead an NBA team to a Summer League title, and got to be the first woman to serve on the coaching staff during an NBA All-Star Game.
Within the sports world, women are hardly well received. Anywhere from office personnel to sports reporters, if they’re female, they often become the punchline in jokes and are constantly doubted.
For example, only two years ago Mike Francesa, a radio host best known for the New York City-based radio show “Mike and Mad Dog,” ranted about the likelihood of female coaches within male sports.
“It’s a gender situation,” started Francesa, going on to explain how even historical Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt would not be able to ever coach an NBA team.
Francesa continued: “She would have said, ‘I don’t belong there.’ But she could not coach an NBA team, nor would she even want to try.” Francesa went on to argue with a caller on the radio show by saying that women coaching men’s sports is unrealistic. His sole argument was rooted in the view that women do not and will not ever be able to understand a men’s league.
When asked if the same rule applies to men coaching women’s sports, the radio host rejected the idea that men would not be able to understand women’s leagues under that same logic. Francesa said the difference is that men are coaching women, so it’s somewhat beneath them and an easier feat.
This mindset does not only exist within Francesa’s brain, but also throughout every facet of the sports world, and it remains a constant fight for women.
As a young person who is gearing up for a future in tackling the sports journalism universe, women like Becky Hammon show me that, although it is more difficult for women, it is possible to succeed in the sports world. There will always be doubt, hatred and negativity, but Hammon was able to earn the respect of men in the NBA and show the world that, through one’s work ethic, gender becomes unimportant.
It is women like this who will change the face of organizations like the NBA as we know them. Hammon is an example of women who are blazing trails for others, breaking down the stereotype of “unintelligent” women in terms of sports knowledge and unleashing a new era where the future is indeed female.
Alexis Weber is a senior at Davis High School.