12 women breaking barriers in sports

Yahoo Sports

From athletes to coaches and executives, these women are blazing trails all around the world of sports.

The former professional softball player made history in 2015 when she became the first female analyst to call a nationally televised MLB playoff game. She joined ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast a year later and continues to serve that role today. Mendoza, who is Hispanic, brings a progressive angle to baseball with commentary focused on analytics. She most recently took a front-office job with the New York Mets where she evaluates players and provides input on roster construction.
Jessica Mendoza​
The former professional softball player made history in 2015 when she became the first female analyst to call a nationally televised MLB playoff game. She joined ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” broadcast a year later and continues to serve that role today. Mendoza, who is Hispanic, brings a progressive angle to baseball with commentary focused on analytics. She most recently took a front-office job with the New York Mets where she evaluates players and provides input on roster construction.
Firsts are nothing new to Hammon. She was the first salaried, full-time female assistant coach in the NBA; the first female head coach of an NBA Summer League team; the first woman to coach in an NBA All-Star Game; and the first woman to be promoted to top assistant coach of an NBA team. And the list just keeps growing. After being the first woman to interview for a head coaching job last year, albeit unsuccessful, Hammon might be wearing an NBA head coach title soon.
Becky Hammon
Firsts are nothing new to Hammon. She was the first salaried, full-time female assistant coach in the NBA; the first female head coach of an NBA Summer League team; the first woman to coach in an NBA All-Star Game; and the first woman to be promoted to top assistant coach of an NBA team. And the list just keeps growing. After being the first woman to interview for a head coaching job last year, albeit unsuccessful, Hammon might be wearing an NBA head coach title soon.
Ogunbowale couldn’t lead Notre Dame to back-to-back NCAA women’s basketball championships this season, but gained recognition when she hit a buzzer-beater in last year’s final. After her shot blew up on social media, she made guest appearances on Ellen and Dancing With The Stars. Ogunbowale is making the women’s game exciting, and, after going No. 5 in the WNBA draft this year, she’ll be bringing the hype to the next level.
Arike Ogunbowale
Ogunbowale couldn’t lead Notre Dame to back-to-back NCAA women’s basketball championships this season, but gained recognition when she hit a buzzer-beater in last year’s final. After her shot blew up on social media, she made guest appearances on Ellen and Dancing With The Stars. Ogunbowale is making the women’s game exciting, and, after going No. 5 in the WNBA draft this year, she’ll be bringing the hype to the next level.
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Welter became the first female NFL coach when she joined the Arizona Cardinals in 2015 as a training camp and preseason coaching intern. She also became the first woman to play men’s professional football when she entered a game at running back for the Indoor Football League's Texas Revolution. Her internship led the way for Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaches Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar, whose full-time positions make them the first two female coaches on an NFL team.
Jen Welter
Welter became the first female NFL coach when she joined the Arizona Cardinals in 2015 as a training camp and preseason coaching intern. She also became the first woman to play men’s professional football when she entered a game at running back for the Indoor Football League's Texas Revolution. Her internship led the way for Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaches Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar, whose full-time positions make them the first two female coaches on an NFL team.
The 19-year-old became the first African-American woman to skate for Team USA at an Olympics in 2018. Biney is only the second African-born athlete to represent the U.S. at the Winter Olympics. Her first appearance at the games was short-lived when she couldn’t make it past her qualifying heat in the 1500-meters and lost the 500-meter race in the quarterfinals, but she plans to be back for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Maame Biney
The 19-year-old became the first African-American woman to skate for Team USA at an Olympics in 2018. Biney is only the second African-born athlete to represent the U.S. at the Winter Olympics. Her first appearance at the games was short-lived when she couldn’t make it past her qualifying heat in the 1500-meters and lost the 500-meter race in the quarterfinals, but she plans to be back for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Saudi Arabia, known for its heavy restrictions on women, allowed female athletes to participate in the Olympics for the first time in 2012. Attar was one of them. The California-raised runner, who has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, returned for the 2016 Olympics. Attar competed fully covered in the games. Saudi Arabia was criticized for sending foreign-born athletes like Attar to compete when women living in the country are still banned from sports, but Attar hoped her participation would inspire those women to find ways to be active.
Sarah Attar
Saudi Arabia, known for its heavy restrictions on women, allowed female athletes to participate in the Olympics for the first time in 2012. Attar was one of them. The California-raised runner, who has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, returned for the 2016 Olympics. Attar competed fully covered in the games. Saudi Arabia was criticized for sending foreign-born athletes like Attar to compete when women living in the country are still banned from sports, but Attar hoped her participation would inspire those women to find ways to be active.
Balkovec broke barriers when she became the first woman to serve as a strength and conditioning coach in professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012. That role was an internship, and today she works as the Astros’ Latin American strength and conditioning coach. Balkovec, who is just one of three women with on-field coaching roles in the MLB, also has a motivational speaking gig aimed at empowering young female athletes.
Rachel Balkovec
Balkovec broke barriers when she became the first woman to serve as a strength and conditioning coach in professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012. That role was an internship, and today she works as the Astros’ Latin American strength and conditioning coach. Balkovec, who is just one of three women with on-field coaching roles in the MLB, also has a motivational speaking gig aimed at empowering young female athletes.
Hockey continues to be a male dominated sphere with few women in front offices and no women in player and coaching positions. But it’s Chayka who’s changing the game. Her analytics company, Stathletes, tracks data across 22 leagues including the NHL, CHL and NCAA. Chayka’s company gives NHL teams the opportunity to scrutinize draft picks’ game and potential, putting data at the forefront of team operations.
Meghan Chayka
Hockey continues to be a male dominated sphere with few women in front offices and no women in player and coaching positions. But it’s Chayka who’s changing the game. Her analytics company, Stathletes, tracks data across 22 leagues including the NHL, CHL and NCAA. Chayka’s company gives NHL teams the opportunity to scrutinize draft picks’ game and potential, putting data at the forefront of team operations.
The West Coast Conference was about to lose Gonzaga— its most revered program— to the Mountain West Conference. Then Nevarez stepped in. As the new WCC commissioner, she secured a deal to keep the Zags and the prominence that comes along with their NCAA tournament appearances in the conference. Nevarez is also the first Latin American to hold a commissioner chair in Division 1 college athletics and one of 10 female commissioners in the division. With racial and social issues at the forefront of her concerns, Nevaraz is looking to blaze a trail for women and minorities.
Gloria Nevarez
The West Coast Conference was about to lose Gonzaga— its most revered program— to the Mountain West Conference. Then Nevarez stepped in. As the new WCC commissioner, she secured a deal to keep the Zags and the prominence that comes along with their NCAA tournament appearances in the conference. Nevarez is also the first Latin American to hold a commissioner chair in Division 1 college athletics and one of 10 female commissioners in the division. With racial and social issues at the forefront of her concerns, Nevaraz is looking to blaze a trail for women and minorities.
Even with boxers Leila Ali and Ronda Roussey formerly rising to stardom, most fans have been apathetic toward the women’s ring. Shields has a chance to be the figure that changes that, and she has the confidence to do it. The only two-time Olympic gold medalist in U.S. boxing history had the two highest rated ShoBox broadcasts in 2018 on Showtime. Shields has also been outspoken about the gender pay gap.
Claressa Shields
Even with boxers Leila Ali and Ronda Roussey formerly rising to stardom, most fans have been apathetic toward the women’s ring. Shields has a chance to be the figure that changes that, and she has the confidence to do it. The only two-time Olympic gold medalist in U.S. boxing history had the two highest rated ShoBox broadcasts in 2018 on Showtime. Shields has also been outspoken about the gender pay gap.
Ng (Left) serves as the MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations. Over her 30 years in baseball, Ng had a short stint with the Yankees where she negotiated contracts for Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. She was most recently a potential candidate for nine top baseball operations positions, and she scored interviews with the Giants and Mets. Ng hasn’t been offered an executive position yet, but with her qualifications, she’s on the cusp of history.
Kim Ng
Ng (Left) serves as the MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations. Over her 30 years in baseball, Ng had a short stint with the Yankees where she negotiated contracts for Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. She was most recently a potential candidate for nine top baseball operations positions, and she scored interviews with the Giants and Mets. Ng hasn’t been offered an executive position yet, but with her qualifications, she’s on the cusp of history.
Not too many people can say they broke a world record at 9 years old. Only one person can say they broke a powerlifting world record at 9 years old: Naomi Kutin. Nicknamed “Supergirl,” Kutin succeeded in a predominately male sport as an Orthodox Jewish girl. Throughout her adolescence, Kutin struggled with religious obligations that prohibited her from competing on Saturdays, when most of the female trials take place. Instead, she lifted on Sundays with the male competitors. Kutin, now 17, still lifts today.
Naomi Kutin
Not too many people can say they broke a world record at 9 years old. Only one person can say they broke a powerlifting world record at 9 years old: Naomi Kutin. Nicknamed “Supergirl,” Kutin succeeded in a predominately male sport as an Orthodox Jewish girl. Throughout her adolescence, Kutin struggled with religious obligations that prohibited her from competing on Saturdays, when most of the female trials take place. Instead, she lifted on Sundays with the male competitors. Kutin, now 17, still lifts today.

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