National Girls and Women in Sports Day Column: Serena Williams, Becky Hammon Set Example Nationwide

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Feb 03, 2016 03:07 PM EST
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San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon
San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon stands on the court before the game against the New York Knicks on November 2, 2015 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York."

National Girls and Women in Sports Day was established to recognize "the extraordinary achievements of women and girls in sports" around the United States and this year the event is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

This year the theme for National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) is "Leading the Way," and the NGWSD website describes that as a "nod to all those individuals and organizations who are on the front line for girls and women in sports." The event was originally established back in 1987 as a way to recognize women in sports around the country and also as a way to honor Olympic volleyball player, Flo Hyman, who passed away from Marfan's Syndrome in 1986.

According to the NGWSD website, Hyman was a major supporter during her career of promoting equality for women's sports. Her example has helped shape the landscape for women and girls as they participate in sports around the nation. National Girls & Women in Sports Day is organized by the National Girls & Women in Sports Day Coalition, which includes Girls Inc., the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, the National Women's Law Center, and the Women's Sports Foundation, which was established by Billie Jean King back in 1974.

The group works to promote equality for women's sports and for women and girls participating in sports in general. The group also works to help the advancement of women's issues in the professional sports world. For many years, women and girls around the nation have not been treated equally by colleges, professional leagues, and other institutions when it comes to sports and while Title IX helped has great deal in that regard, there are still barriers that women and girls must overcome that men and boys never have to face.

The National Girls & Women in Sports Day Coalition is dedicated to helping to bring down those barriers and National Girls & Women in Sports Day is one of the most visible ways that the group does that. There are extremely talented women and girls participating in sports at all levels around the country and this day helps celebrate those achievements.

NGWSD is celebrated by sports leagues at all levels, including school leagues, private leagues, college leagues, college teams and more, but professional sports offers the biggest chance to spotlight the success of women in the sporting world. Over the past year there have been some great examples of what women can achieve in the professional sports world, which is often very male-dominated and male-centric.

Here is a look at just a few of the women in the pro sports world that are setting great examples:

--Becky Hammon was hired by the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 as a full-time NBA assistant coach after a long, successful WNBA career. Hammon made history as the first female full-time assistant in the NBA and last summer she reached another major milestone for women in the NBA, as she was the first female head coach of an NBA Summer League team. Hammon has continued to make history this season, as she will become the first female to ever be part of an All-Star coaching staff, as Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will be coaching the team.

--In January of 2016, Kathryn Smith was hired by the Buffalo Bills as a special teams quality control coach. According to Pro Football Talk, Smith is the first full-time female assistant coach in NFL history. Smith previously worked for the Jets for numerous years, including with now-Bills head coach Rex Ryan when he was there. Smith was the administrative assistant to coach Ryan for the 2015 season and she was promoted to the quality control coach position for 2016.

--Martha Ford took over as the controlling owner of the Detroit Lions after her husband William died in 2014. Ford is part of a small group of women owners, with Virginia Halas McCaskey and Carol Davis owning the Bears and Raiders, respectively and she has taken control of the Lions franchise over the past year. It was Ford who decided to fire team President Tom Lewand and General Manager Martin Mayhew and now she is working to help rebuild the team for the future.

--Amy Trask moved from working as the CEO of the Oakland Raiders for many years to working in TV as an analyst and she has shown that she is one of the brightest and most knowledgeable minds in the game. Trask also was part of the panel group that appeared on "We Need To Talk" on CBS Sports Network, which was the first ever all women's sports talk show about the NFL.

--Jen Welter made history after she was hired in the summer of 2015 by the Arizona Cardinals to be an assistant coaching intern for training camp in the preseason. The New York Times reported that Welter was believed to be the first female coach in the NFL. Welter described her feelings on the hire by saying to CNN: "It's another dream that we as women, especially in sports, have been very limited in what we can dream. And now it's possible. And that's the best thing to know. Because though it wasn't a dream I had, now every little girl who loves football can grow up with that dream or one similar."

--Serena Williams put together one of the most dominant years in tennis history over 2015 and she has continued to be a role model and one of the best examples of what women can achieve in sports. Williams recently lost the Australian Open final and in another great example of how she is as a professional athlete, Williams praised her opponent, Angelique Kerber, and took the loss with a great amount of class.

These are just a small sample of what women and girls have achieved in the sporting world over the past year and 2016 should be even brighter for women in sports at all levels across the United States.

One note to finish things off: While it's great to celebrate the Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, and San Antonio Spurs for making strides when it comes to hiring women in male-dominated leagues, the real hope should be that one day these moves are not celebrated at all. The real hope should be that the moves will become so common that people will not think anything of a woman being hired as an NFL coach or MLB general manager.

But things have to start somewhere, and the Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, and San Antonio Spurs should be celebrated for setting a strong example on National Girls & Women in Sports Day.

Check here for more on National Girls & Women in Sports Day.

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