This year was a GREAT one for women’s sports. It was full of milestones, victories and historic firsts, capped off by the retirement of soccer legend Abby Wambach in December.
Wambach will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest female athletes in history. On the last day of her playing career she ironically starred in a Gatorade ad asking that fans forget her because she wants to leave a legacy where the ball keeps moving forward and the next generation accomplishes things so great she is no longer remembered.
Sorry Abby. Greatness is never forgotten. But as we take a look back over the past year, it’s easy to see that the ball is already moving forward and picking up pace. This year held many defining moments for women in sport.
Here are the 6 moments where women coached, spoke out, reffed and ass-kicked their way through 2015, paving the way for future generations of girls to live out their dreams:
Ronda Rousey becomes an Ass-Kicking Household NameEmbed from Getty Images
If you hadn’t heard of Ronda Rousey before this year, you sure have by now. The UFC Bantamweight fighter became known for her confidence and no holds- barred approach to fighting and speaking her mind. Rousey absolutely dominated her sport this year, knocking out one opponent in just 14 seconds, and remaining the undefeated titleholder at 12-0 before her loss to Holly Holm in November. (Watch out…she wants a rematch!)
Ronda Rousey’s popularity and performances in the ring catapulted her in to the mainstream, earning her numerous endorsements as well as movie roles in Furious 7 and Entourage. Never one to shy away from saying exactly what’s on her mind, she’s publicly stated she’d happily take on Floyd Mayweather but also that she hopes to leave a legacy of social change in women’s sports and the ridiculous standards women hold them self to.
In a recent interview in SELF magazine she stated, “I don’t want the word woman to be in front of champion.”
2015 FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup Canada
It could have been a disaster–At the same time as this year’s Women’s Soccer World Cup was due kick-off in Canada, it’s governing organization FIFA became embroiled in accusations of deep-rooted corruption and arrests of its top officials. Thankfully, fans still turned out and tuned-in to the tournament in record numbers to support the players on the field in the most exciting Women’s World Cup tournament to date. A record 750 million television viewers tuned in with 20 million tuning in to watch the riveting final in which the US team dominated and won 5-2 over Japan becoming the most watched soccer match in US history.
While we have yet to see what will happen with FIFA, the fans have spoken, and showed that support for women’s sport is not only alive and kicking but growing.
Jen Welter Coaches in the NFLEmbed from Getty Images
This summer there was a breakthrough in the NFL and in coaching. Jen Welter was named an assistant coaching intern for the Arizona Cardinals– becoming the first female to coach in the NFL. As an inside linebacker coach during training camp and preseason she brought her over 14 years playing experience as a linebacker in various women’s football leagues and as a running back for a professional men’s indoor team.
Welter told the AP, “I am waiting to see what will happen next and I’m really excited. I consider this a complete win. The biggest question coming in was would guys in the NFL respond to a woman coaching them, and the obvious answer is yes.”
Cardinals Head Coach Bruce Arians has already said he would be happy to have her back. And having Welter on the side-lines again in a league which was overshadowed by scandals and player’s off-field antics would be a positive addition– opening the doors of possibility for future generations.
Becky Hammon Coaches (and Wins!) in the NBAEmbed from Getty Images
And in another female coaching first (what a great year!) there was Becky Hammon, who not only became the first woman to serve as a head coach of an NBA D-League team, but also led her San Antonio Spurs to the Summer League title.
Hammon, a basketball legend in her own right, playing in the WNBA for 15 years and earning All-Star honors 6 times, continues to bring her knowledge of the game to the Spurs as she remains with the First Team throughout the regular season as an assistant coach alongside Head Coach Greg Popovich.
Jessica Mendoza calls MLB Games for ESPNEmbed from Getty Images
Another historic first this year was in the broadcast booth. This summer, Former Olympic Softball Gold and Silver medalist Jessica Mendoza took her expertise to the big-show becoming the first female in-booth analyst to call an ESPN Major League Baseball game. Mendoza had been working for ESPN broadcasting the Women’s College World Series and contributing to Baseball Tonight when she was called up to fill in for ESPN’s regular MLB analyst the controversial (and therefore suspended) Curt Shilling.
Jessica Mendoza stepped right in like she had always been there and provided expertise and thoughtful analysis like a pro. She will continue to provide color analysis for ESPN in 2016 for Sunday Night Baseball games.
Serena Williams Wins Like a BossEmbed from Getty Images
If any one woman in sport won 2015 like a boss, it was hands- down Serena Williams. Williams dominated women’s tennis this year with a 53-3 record and winning three of four calendar grand slams. She capped off her year by winning the coveted Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year award, the first individual female athlete to win the award in 33 years. Her Sports Illustrated cover which showed her sitting on an ornate throne in a lace bodysuit and high-heels immediately drew controversy over being “too sexy” and questioning if her sexuality was being exploited by the magazine (which also runs the controversial Swimsuit edition each year.)
Of course the cover was Serena’s idea – because no one tells Serena how to live her life.
Sports Illustrated revealed, “The cover was Serena’s idea, to express her own ideal of femininity, strength and power.” She also told E! News that she felt the cover was perfection, “The cover I thought was really amazing. It just captured everything.”
With this momentum in women’s sports we cannot want to see what 2016 holds! Bring It!
What were some of your favorite moments or athletes in women’s sport this year?