These 5 Women Are Shattering the Sports Glass Ceiling

One of my favorite movies of all time is A League Of Their Own. I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen it, but I could probably recite the whole thing to you line-by-line. I loved seeing women take the field and navigate the challenges of playing a sport that until then had only been played by men. Women have certainly come a long way from skimpy uniforms and wearing make-up on the field. These 5 women below demonstrate just how far women have come as they shatter gender stereotypes in all kinds of sports dominated by men.

1. Cheyenne Woods 

Historically golf has been a man’s sports. It wasn’t until 2012 that the Augusta National Gold Club even opened its memberships to women – the first time in the club’s 80-year history. Today, however, 24-year-old Cheyenne Woods is paving the way for young women golfers. As just the sixth African American women to play on the LPGA Tour, Woods is on her way to play an entire season of professional golf around the world. In fact, she has already won a professional tournament in Australia.

When asked about what her uncle, the famous Tiger Woods, has taught her about the game she says:

He taught me to trust my ability. In golf, a huge part of the game is mental, and if you don’t believe in yourself, then you’re not going to play well. Trust what you’re able to do, and that will be huge when you’re out on the course.

Woods has found great pride in defying gender and racial stereotypes as a golfer. “It’s rare to see people of color in professional golf,” she says. “Golf is seen as a men’s sport, but also, it’s seen as a white man’s sport… There’s a lack of [diversity] on both the men’s and women’s sides.”

Luckily, Woods is setting the stage for more women to tackle the world of golf.

2. Alyssa Ages 

When you look at the world of Strongman competitions you see, well, a lot of men. But these days you’ll also find Alyssa Ages, a New York City fitness enthusiast and marketing pro, who recently earned a personal best with a 265-pound deadlift at a competition in February. Ages is obsessed with pushing her limits; she’s run five marathons and completed both a triathlon and an Ironman, defying people’s expectations.

Ages also loves being part of a group of women who train and work so hard.

The camaraderie is unparalleled; I’ve never seen anything like it in a competitive setting. Knowing what these other strong women can do pushes me to work harder, trust my strength and my training, and not hold back. Having a support system makes long hours in the gym—and competing—together much more fun. We bust our butts, then go balls to the wall…and then all take Instagram pictures together.

Maybe thanks to women like Ages they’ll change the name of Strongman competition to Strongman AND Woman.

3. Becky Hammon 

This last summer Becky Hammon, a former WNBA superstar, made history by becoming the first full-time assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs marking the first time a woman has held such a position in any of the four major professional sports leagues in America. She capped the year off being named espnW Woman of the Year.

Of her career, Hammon says she’s has always been an underdog, but one with a fierce determination to succeed:

I think my story, just in general, is a story of someone who was overlooked, someone who was told they can’t, someone who was told, “You’re too slow. You’re too short.” I’ve heard every reason why I shouldn’t be successful. And yet, you just take that all in. I always say you should be very careful with the voices you listen to. And my closest voices have always told me, “You can.” I think that’s the voice that I chose to listen to.

Hammon is also a big believer in the advantages of playing a sport, not only the studies that show you get better grades or make better choices, but the bigger message of teamwork and reaching your full potential:

You learn to play on a team, to get along with each other, to enable each other, to make each other better, to not be threatened by one another, but that we can both be great together. And just the idea that you could do anything you want to do. I mean, the sky is really the limit. I’m doing basketball. You can be a CEO of a company. You might even be the president of the United States someday. I think women are just scratching the surface of what we can accomplish.

4. Michele Roberts 

There was more good news for women in basketball this past summer when Michele Roberts was named the Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association. The 58-year-old lawyer isn’t one for beating around the bush so when she threw her hat in the ring for the job she confronted the issue of her gender in a field that is overwhelmingly male head-on telling the group of voters, “I bet you can tell I’m a woman and I suspect the rest of the world can, too…My past is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.”

Hours later she got the job in a search that started with nearly 300 candidates.

About getting the job Roberts says:

I don’t live my life saying, “What ceiling am I going to crack tomorrow?” What I have done, and what I tell my nieces to do, is not to worry about whether you’re the only one, but worry about whether you’re the best one.

Roberts may not be living to crack glass ceilings, but she certainly has, and her example will help pave the way for women who come after her, too.

5. Sarah Thomas 

Some many argue that there is no more male dominated sport than the football, but for the first time in the NFL’s 95-year history there will now be a woman on the field. Clad in her black and white stripes, Sarah Thomas became the NFL’s first full-time female referee this year.

For Thomas this is just one example of a career full of firsts. She became the first woman to officiate for the Gulf Coast Football Officials Association that oversees high school games. She was also the first woman to be picked as a referee for a major college football game and the first woman to officiate a Bowl game, and the first woman to referee in a Big Ten stadium.

Despite being the only woman on the field, Thomas has an uncanny ability to blend in which makes her such a good official says sports writer Rick Cleveland: “If you notice officials, it usually means they’re not doing their job correctly. And I can’t remember a time that I’ve seen a game that she officiated when I noticed her.”

For Cleveland, who is also the executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, Thomas’ gender has no bearing on her ability:

Football is thought of as probably the most, quote, “manly” of sports. But it’s like [long-time NFL official] Jack Vaughn told me a long time ago, you don’t have to be a man to tell whether somebody jumped offsides or not. And you don’t have to be a man to learn the rules of football.

These five women are powerhouse examples of what women can do in the sports industry. Are there any other standout women you can think of?

Photo Credit: LeeBalcom

67 comments

Jerome S
Jerome S1 years ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for sharing.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Julia Cabrera-Woscek

Bravo ladies!

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago

Thanks

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Janis K.
Janis K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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A F.
Athena F3 years ago

thank you

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Arnold B.
arnold B3 years ago

thanks

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Rachel Nichols
Rachel Nichols3 years ago

tyfs

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Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Good for them.

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