Powerful women pitch for more coverage in sports


NBC Sports

Mo’ne Davis throwing a fastball in the Little League World Series. She will now attend Hampton University to play softball.

Aphrodite Dimopoulos, Staff Writer

March is an extremely significant month for girls and women all over America.  As declared by Congress in 1987, Women’s History Month was established to highlight the strides made in women’s rights and to empower girls everywhere.  

Inequality is an undeniable issue in our society, particularly in sports.  However, there are numerous women who have paved the way in sports and continue to challenge norms.  Some of these groundbreaking women include Diane Crump, Mo’ne Davis, Janet Guthrie, Becky Hammon, and Manon Rheaume; all of these empowering figures inspire the young generation of female and male athletes today.

“I feel that people usually make a big deal about the MLB, NHL, and NBA, but we never hear about the WNBA or the NPF,” said senior Jessica Mark.  “People always underestimate the powerful women in sports.” 

Guthrie, while not being the first woman to operate a race car, did become the first woman to ever compete in the NASCAR hosted Winston Cup Series, which is known today as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

She competed in 1976, a time when the fight for women’s rights was only beginning.  After completing a wonderful race, Guthrie finished in 15th place.  Although this did not grant her a medal, it did break through a gender barrier that had never been touched before.  

Guthrie did not stop there, and the very next year, she became the first woman to run in the Dayton 500.  Still not satisfied, Guthrie switched to open wheel racing and became the first woman to ever qualify for the Indianapolis 500.  

While her accomplishments were completely new for any female, they are remarkable on their own as well.  Fewer than 20 racers ever, both male and female, have ever competed in both the Dayton 500 and the Indianapolis 500, making Guthrie’s accomplishments even more outstanding.

“I really admire all these athletes who have given me the opportunity to play sports. I love running, and I would not be able to do it without these inspirational women,” said junior Sally Hirschwerk.

Similar to Guthrie, Crump paved the way for women in the sport of horse racing.  Although horse racing is a sport that has lost its popularity in recent years, Crump spearheaded a movement in the 1970s to advocate for female athletes in a sport that was seen to only have male competitors.  

Before her debut in 1970, no female jockey had ever ridden in the Kentucky Derby, arguably the world’s most famous horse race.  Crump, a woman who had fallen in love with the sport since she was young, worked her way to the Derby.  On May 2, 1970, Crump finally saddled up on her horse, Fathom, and charged towards the starting gates.  

The journey to get to the Derby was no easy one.  In her first race, the Hialeah Park Race Track in Florida in 1969, Crump required a police escort in order to get through the crowds.  The police were necessary, as mobs of angry spectators spit and screamed hatred, misogynistic words about how Crump would “ruin the sport of horse racing.”

Crump ultimately used this hatred as fuel in her race and continued to persevere in her strength and inspire women jockeys for years to come.

Many women faced similar challenges to Crump and Guthrie when they joined other male-dominated sports.  

In 1992, The National Hockey League (NHL) signed its first ever female player when the Tampa Bay Lightning signed goalie Manon Rheaume as a free agent.  

When questioned on his decisions, Lightning General Manager Phil Esposito opened up to the public, explaining how publicity played a major role in inviting Rheaume to try out for the team.  Yet, when he saw Rheaume play in person, it all changed. 

As Rheaume tried out, Esposito watched in awe as she proved that she had the skill set to compete in the highest level of professional hockey, regardless of her gender.  Rheaume is a name commonly associated with women’s achievements in sports because of her extensive repertoire of achievements. 

Not only was Rheaume the first woman to sign an NHL contract, she was also the first woman to ever sign with a top junior division team and the first woman to ever play in one of the four major men’s pro sports leagues.  Also being the proud owner of two gold and one silver olympic medal, Rheaume proved through her accomplishments that hard-work and dedication can take you to any level of competition.

Moving into the 21st century, women have not stopped testing the limits of what their gender can accomplish and overcome.  On August 5, 2014 Hammon was signed by the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach, making her the first female full-time assistant coach in the not only the NBA, but also in any of the four major North American sports.  

Hammon did not stop there.  The following year, she was named the Head Coach of the Spurs’ Summer League team, also the first female to hold this position.  When Hammon received the position of assistant coach, many fans were upset as they believed it was all for publicity and attention. 

This, in fact, was proven to be false as Hammon’s basketball background was examined by fans of the sport.  Having an extraordinary college career for the Colorado State Rams, she was only the five alumnus to ever have their number retired.  Despite being undrafted after her senior season, Hammon signed with the New York Liberty to play in the WNBA. 

She played for eight seasons with the Liberty, and then moved to the San Antonio Stars to play another eight seasons with them.  Over the course of her 16 years in the WNBA, Hammon was chosen to be a part of six WNBA All-Star teams, was selected as one of the fifteen best WNBA players of all time, and was twice First Team all-WNBA.  When interviewed on her future plans, Hammon said that  she is honored to be where she is now, and hopes that she can continue to coach and inspire girls to climb to achieve their dreams.

As for the female youth making strides in sports, teenager Davis made her mark at the Little League World Series in 2014.  During those games, the then thirteen year old Davis attacked the Philadelphia mound as her national sports scene debut, pitching for the Taney Dragons.  Simply stepping onto the field, Davis made history by being the first African American female to ever play in the the Little League World Series games, let alone the 18th female ever to do so.

Refusing to simply accomplish only one major milestone, Davis stunned the crowds and fans watching at the games and at home by pitching a complete shutout game.  This was the first ever shutout pitched by a girl and was also the first win ever for a female pitcher.  Davis only allowed two infield hits and struck out an incredible eight batters.  As for speed, Davis was pitching 70 mph fastballs, the parallel of throwing 93 mph in the major leagues, and throwing a curveball that left her opponents swinging blindly.

After the game, Davis was receiving Twitter shoutouts from top athletes from across the world, including world-famous baseball player Mike Trout  and NBA player Kevin Durant.   Davis’ final game in the series gained a 3.4 overnight rating, more than doubling the average LLWS game ratings and making it the most watched series game of all time.  

Unfortunately, the Taney Dragons did not win the LLWS Title, but those games were only the beginning of Mo’ne’s career.  In August 2014, Davis graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, being the first Little League player to ever do so, and she took won the ESPY Award for Best Breakthrough Athlete.  Others who have won this award include Tiger Woods, Mike Piazza, Lebron James, and Tom Brady.

In Schreiber, girls sports have also been improving as more and more female athletes are moving on from Schreiber sports to competing at the collegiate level.  This year, three female athletes signed their National Letter of Intent: Dalia Bercow to play field hockey for Haverford College, Ava Gellis to run track and field for Lehigh University, and Francesca Karmann to play tennis at Fairfield University.

All three of these girls have performed at the highest levels with their Varsity teams, leading the way to many accomplishments being won in Schreiber’s name.

“I do appreciate how Schreiber keeps the girls to the same expectations that the boys are given.  The girls teams are expected to play to the same intensity as any boys, but more importantly we are taught to try out absolute hardest and not let anything stand in our way,” said freshman Amber Kakkar.

Although the month of March is one specifically dedicated to women’s history, strides are being made for girls and women in sports every day of the year.

Influences such as Crump, Davis, Guthrie, Hammon, and Rheaume all have used their hard work to prove to younger girls that becoming a successful female athlete is a feasible accomplishment.  Schreiber’s own athletes have felt this influence, and use it to motivate themselves to improve and strive for greatness.