No, I am not talking about the women in the adult industry, nor am I talking about the women in mainstream movies and TV, and I am certainly not talking about women in politics.
This is all about the ladies in, and coming into, the coaching ranks in the four major professional sports, baseball, basketball, football and hockey. I know there are some guys out there that consider this a ridiculous idea and women have no place in “men’s” professional sports. But let’s face it, this is not the 1950’s anymore, times have changed, even if some people are stuck in a time warp and can’t see it or admit to it. The simple fact is that women coming into the coaching ranks in the four pro sports is nothing new and has been happening in small doses for the past ten years or so. Only now it is becoming a bigger move and gaining more notice in every sport. There are female head trainers in all four sports so why not coaches as well?
There was a big furor and a lot of not so kind remarks by many fans when the Yankees recently announced the hiring of Rachel Balkovec as the teams hitting coach. She will work with the ML team in spring training and then work with the Yankee minor league teams during the season. Balkovec served as strength and conditioning coach for the St. Louis Cardinals before being chosen as the minor league strength and conditioning coordinator for the team for the 2014-2015 season. She also worked as the Astros’ Latin American strength and conditioning coach in 2016. In 2018, she became the strength and conditioning coach for the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks. But the Yankees are very satisfied with her resume and what she can bring to the organization.
That same day, though it almost went unnoticed the Chicago Cubs hired Rachel Folden as a coach also to work with their organization on all levels. But believe it or not those two were not the first, that honor goes to the Oakland A’s who hired Justine Seigal as a coach in 2015 to work with both the ML and minor league clubs. She had previously been a coach for the Brockton Rox minor league team. The fact is with so much put on analytics, health, nutrition, body maintenance, etc. with the players, more and more ML clubs are going outside the box to find new types of coaches that will help in every level from minor league to major league. If those hires have the credentials and happen to be female, so what?
The NFL has had female coaches on the staffs of various teams for several years, not only in strength and conditioning but in actual position roles. One of the first to do it was Bruce Arians when he was coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Now the head coach of the Bucs, he continued that trend with two female coaches on his Buccaneer staff. Maral Javadifar is the assistant strength and conditioning coach and Lori Locust is the assistant defensive line coach. Both women came highly respected, have the background and solid resume and have been a plus to the staff and accepted by the players. In addition to the Bucs, the 49’ers, Raiders and Bills also have full time female coaches on their staffs and more will be coming in the future. Again, if they are qualified for the job what difference does gender make?
The NHL has had a couple of female assistant coaches or skating coaches in the past few years, the most notable being Dawn Braid of the Arizona Coyotes. Ms. Braid was a consultant for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, and Calgary Flames. For seven years she served as the director of skating development at the Athletes Training Centre in Ontario. Also don‘t forget that 27 years ago the fledgling Tampa Bay Lightning made history with Manon Rheaume in goal against the St. Louis Blues. Today she coaches junior girl’s hockey in the Detroit area.
In the NBA there have also been females in assistant coaching roles for several years. Most notably is Becky Hammon who has been Paul Popovich’s assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs since joining the Spurs in 2014. She is a former college standout and WNBA six time All Star. As I write this Ms. Hammon is being strongly considered as the new head coach of the NewYork Knicks. If that does happen it will be another first in pro sports.
The simple fact is that you will see an increase of more qualified women coming into the four professional sports in important coaching positions, not just as window dressing to satisfy a “women’s movement”. I will also say that of the four sports the NFL will be the first to have an active player on a team’s roster. Within five years do not be surprised if there is a female kicker, or two, on an NFL team……..it will happen!
Art Koch, National Features & DVD Editor, NightMoves Magazine and AAN