Female representation in coaching staffs increases

March 18, 2020 — by Apurva Chakravarty and Shama Gupta

Over recent years, female representation in sports organizations such as the NBA, NFL and the MLB with traditionally all-male staffs have started to increase. Many of these new changes have happened in Bay Area teams, with Katie Sowers, offensive assistant coach for the 49ers, as the first woman to coach a Super Bowl team and Alyssa Nakken, assistant coach for the Giants, as the first woman to join an MLB staff. 

TLC coordinator Lindsay Harris is a former San Jose State basketball player and a private coach for many Saratoga female basketball players. She is also a coach for club teams.

Harris went on to say that just as male coaches don’t have to have played the game at the highest level to be able to coach well, female coaches don’t need to either. As time passes, Harris hopes to see more and more women step into coaching roles that have traditionally been held by men. 

“It’s a big step for us,” she said. 

Until the Arizona Cardinals hired Dr. Jen Walters as a preseason intern coach in 2015, the National Football League had not had a single woman on any coaching staff for any team. With the first female referee hired in 2007, the first female owner of an NFL team in 2008 and the first female NFL reporters starting in 2009, the NFL coaching staff was one of the last areas of the sport to incorporate women. 

Sowers believes that it is very natural for men to have a woman coach. 

“People tell me that people aren’t ready to have a woman lead,” Sowers said in an for Microsoft ran during and after the Super Bowl. “But these guys have been learning from women their whole lives — moms, grandmas and teachers.” 

 Another major sports organization with few female coaches is Major League Baseball. In January 2020, Alyssa Nakken joined San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kaplan’s coaching staff; she is the only full-time woman to join an MLB staff.

Nakken’s main responsibilities prior to becoming a coach included developing, producing, and directing health-and-wellness initiatives and events, according to the SF Chronicle. She joined the Giants as an intern in 2014, when she was assigned projects about the amateur draft, player development and international operations. 

When play resumes after the coronavirus pandemic, Nakken will help the team in a variety of ways including in-field practice and cage work. 

Outside of Bay Area teams, the San Antonio Spurs broke the tradition of predominantly male coaches in the NBA by appointing Becky Hammon as the first female in NBA history to serve as a full-time assistant coach. 

Hammon, a former WNBA player with the San Antonio Stars, has worked with head coach Greg Popovich for six seasons. Because of this, many NBA fans were confused as to why Tim Duncan was named acting head coach in a game that Popovich missed over Hammon. Duncan had only been hired to the staff last July after playing on the Spurs from 1997 to 2016. 

After causing much speculation about the change, some fans have a theory that the Spurs are grooming Duncan to be the next head coach, according to ForTheW!n. If Hammon or another woman were to be appointed as the next head coach, it would be a first for the major American sports.

While there are only a handful of female coaches in male sports, trends are going in the right direction and breaking down decades-old stereotypes. “I’m not trying to be the best female coach. I’m trying to be the best coach,” Sowers said in the commercial. And she’s right.

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Photo of the week

On March 27, members of the Air National Guard converted the Santa Clara County Convention Center to a temporary federal facility for about 250 coronavirus patients. The center is to house those who have tested positive for the virus, but don't require intensive in-hospital care. More information can be found through the local news. Photo courtesy of Randy Vazquez of the Bay Area News Group.

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