12 Women Who Changed Sports This Year

Photo: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images.
The conversation around women and sports has been fairly negative over the past few weeks. The domestic violence controversy surrounding the NFL has sparked discussions about the way professional sports organizations view women, and to what extent women ought to support these leagues.
But, not all the conversation has been so unfavorable. In fact, 2014 was quite a successful year for female athletes, coaches, and achievements. This year we saw a teenage girl break the ranks of little league baseball. We saw the first female coach in the NBA. And, we saw cheerleaders prove they’re so much more than a sideline peripheral.
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Indeed, a dozen women started new dialogue about what it means to be both a female athlete and a female fan. Ahead, women who aren’t just part of the sports conversation — they’re the reason for it.
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Photo: Courtesy of ESPN.
Mo’ne Davis Threw Like A Girl
In August, 13-year-old Mo’ne Davis became the first girl in the Little League World Series to pitch a shutout game. Her achievements extend beyond simple statistics, though. Davis garnered serious attention from the media, professional sports organizations, and celebrities. Her success inspired female fans everywhere. Davis’ accomplishments have changed what it means to throw like a girl. “I never thought that at the age of 13 I would be a role model, but now it’s real,” she told The New York Times.
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Photo: ZUMA Press Inc/Alamy.
Becky Hammon Made NBA History
In August, the San Antonio Spurs hired WNBA star Becky Hammon, making her the first full-time female assistant coach in the NBA. Hammon played for 16 seasons — during which she’s been to six All-Star Games and earned the title of one of the league’s top 15 players of all time. “Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic, and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs,” head coach Gregg Popovich told NBA.com.
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Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images.
Four Female Cyclists Cracked The Tour De France
Marianne Vos, Emma Pooley, Kathryn Bertine, and Chrissie Wellington started a petition for a women’s race that would run concurrently with the men’s race at this year’s Tour de France. Once they circulated it, the petition got more than 90,000 signatures. The four women were successful, earning a one-day La Course event for women. Though it’s not the full three-week length of the men’s, they’re still counting it as a victory. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Pooley told Bicycling.com.
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Photo: Courtesy of YouTube.
Jade Ryan Made Her Own Tricks
Australian skateboarder Jade Ryan doesn’t want to follow the traditional skateboarding path. Instead, she’s doing her own styles and tricks. By creating her own skate style, Ryan’s paving the way for those who want to take a more alternative approach to an equally alternative sport. “When I first started skating I had only seen like two videos, so I came at it not knowing much about skateboarding,” she told Elephant Brand Skateboards. “The way I started skating came out of being spontaneous. It’s only recently that I’ve started looking on the Internet and seeing other skaters,” she continued.
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Photo: Picture Perfect/REX USA.
Michelle Wie Came Out Swinging
When she was just 10 years old, Michelle Wie became the youngest player to qualify for the USGA amateur championship. By the time she turned 16, she emerged from amateur status and joined the professional ranks of golf. This year, she won her first major title at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.
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Photo: Courtesy of NFL.
Lacy T. Cheered For Better Wages
Lacy T. an Oakland Raiderette cheerleader, filed a class-action lawsuit in January against the Oakland Raiders. Her claims of wage theft and labor issues inspired four other cheer squads to file their own lawsuits. Though her intention was to tackle labor issues, she exposed a sexist underbelly of NFL cheerleading, bringing to light troubling handbooks and rules for the ladies with pom-poms. Her bravery resulted in a new $9 hourly wage for the Raiderettes.
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Photo: Barry Gossage/Getty Images.
Brittney Griner & Glory Johnson United
Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson are big deals in the WNBA. Plus, they were rivals on the court. After two months of dating, though, the two were engaged. Griner proposed to Johnson in August, making them something of a powerhouse couple. You can keep tabs on their beautiful relationship on Instagram.
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Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images.
Sarah Thomas Prepped For The Big Leagues
Sarah Thomas has been officiating football games for 17 years at the collegiate level. This year, however, she joined the NFL’s Officiating Development Program after a League scout discovered her. She’s one of two female members of the program. In 2015, she’s expected to become the first female referee in the League. Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, calls Sarah Thomas a natural. “One of the things we look for in young officials is, are they intimidated on the field? She is not. She has all the characteristics we want in an official,” he told Bleacher Report. She’s already worked the Cleveland Browns’ mini-camp this year, and doesn’t feel intimidated by the men on the field. Thomas told Cleveland.com “I like it when I leave the field and people go, ‘I told you that was a girl.’”
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