When I first started playing soccer I was living in Southeast Texas and working in the sports information department at Lamar University. I guess you could say I was a late-comer to the sport. Once I learned the game, I made the most of it on the club level.
Soccer was already popular as a youth sport in Texas by the time I started playing, but it hadn’t reached the upper levels quite yet. My college didn’t have soccer for men or women. My high school barely had girls sports at all (volleyball and tennis in the 1970s).
Girls playing sports wasn’t frowned upon in my hometown, but it wasn’t encouraged. The opportunities were slim to none.
Today, girls and women have more opportunities than ever before. There are more college programs, more high school programs in a variety of sports.
There are female referees in high school football, men’s college sports and the NBA. Becky Hammon is the first female NBA head coach (Summer League) and is one of 11 female assistance coaches in the NBA.
There’s still a long way to go.
As of last May, there 63 percent of head coaches in NCAA Division I basketball are women. There are no female head coaches in NCAA Division I men’s basketball.
When I was in college, there were very few men coaching women. They weren’t interested. When the NCAA decided it was interested in women’s sports and took over from the AIAW (American Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) in the early 1980s, men took notice. Prior to 1972, women held 90 percent of the coaching jobs for women’s teams. Today, according to a story from Forbes Magazine, that number is 40.8 percent.
So, what’s my point? There is more than one.
First, women in sports — playing, coaching, broadcasting, sportswriting — is acceptable in the 21st century. That’s a good thing. Second, there is still inequality in several areas — particularly coaching and in the broadcast booth.
And finally, I encourage girls and women to keep up the good work. If you work hard like those did the previous 40 years, hopefully it won’t take another 40 years to see a female head coach in the NBA or a female calling an NFL game from the broadcast booth.
I hope to live to see the day.