The world of sports may have been turned upside down by COVID-19, but ladies were still able to make a huge impact in the Return to Play in many different leagues. Read on to see some “female firsts” from this condensed year of sports.
Opening Day 2020 in the MLB has come and gone, and the NBA has started its preseason scrimmages. Despite being professional men’s sports leagues, it’s the women involved who are making waves. Assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs, Becky Hammon, became the first woman to coach a game in the NBA, as head coach Gregg Popovic took a step back and retained the assistant role so Hammon could be the head coach for a preseason scrimmage. While it wasn’t for a regular season or playoff game, it was still a great step forward for women in the game of basketball.
Another female first in basketball was when Boston Celtics assistant coach, Kara Lawson, was hired as the first black coach for Duke University’s women’s basketball program. As with Hammon, Lawson is a WNBA alumni, who is used to breaking down barriers and advancing women and POC in basketball. As a sign of respect and celebration, the entire Boston Celtics team wore Duke University women’s basketball shirts to practice after it was announced that Lawson would take over coaching the Blue Devils’ program.
History was also made in the MLB this season, as Alyssa Nakken became the first woman to coach on-field in an MLB exhibition game. Nakken took over coaching first base in the late innings of the San Francisco Giants’ exhibition game. She was hired as an assistant coach back in January of 2020, but has been with the organization since 2014. She left her position as Chief Information Officer for the University of San Francisco baseball team, to intern with the Giants, and has worked her way up to her current position, in charge of many health and wellness initiatives. She also was a star athlete for the Sacramento State University softball team.
Blake Bolden is a decorated hockey player. She has won a Clarkson Cup in the now defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She is the first black player to play in the National Women’s Hockey League, also winning the inaugural Isobel Cup with the Boston Pride. She then played overseas, before returning to the United States. She became involved with the LA Kings organization by chance; she met President Luc Robataille, and he was impressed by her contributions to the sport of hockey. After the Seattle Kraken named Cammi Granato as the first female pro scout in the NHL, the LA Kings named Bolden to their pro scouting team.
Earlier this year, Kiana Scott also broke down barriers in the Ontario Hockey League. She was named as a bantam scout for the Erie Otters. General Manager, Dave Brown, says she has a great eye for talent, and that landed her the job with the Otters. Prior to being hired by Erie, she spent two seasons with the International Scouting Service‘s Mentorship Program. She is the first and only female scout in the Ontario Hockey League.
To read more about another first in the world of sports, check out our article on the first trans model for Sports Illustrated