On Thanksgiving...Four Things I'm Grateful for in Women's Sports

On Thanksgiving...Four Things I'm Grateful for in Women's Sports
Chicago Red Stars captain Lori Chalupny (left) and Julie Johnston help the US Women capture the World Cup over the summer

Happy Thanksgiving, my Token Female friends! I usually grouse on these pages 364 days of the year about the lack of coverage of women's sports...the lack of inclusion for women radio sports anchors...the general state of women and equality in America.  And in 2015, I found just a few reasons to be grateful:

1)  U.S. Women Take the World Cup 2016:

Hope Solo,  US Women's National Team goalkeeper

Hope Solo, US Women's National Team goalkeeper

This Thanksgiving, chew on this: True, there were no sports-bra waving moments, but the world still partied like it was 1999 after the US Women captured the World Cup in July. And the way Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and yes, troubled goalkeeper Hope Solo got there... captured the world.

For one solid month, the world lived, breathed, and ate soccer for breakfast, lunch and dinner this summer. From June to July, using their signature attacking style, the US women conquered a "difficult" Group D, beat Colombia to win the Round of 16, edged China PR 1-0 in the quarter-finals and took down Germany in the semi-finals before racing out to a 4-0 lead within 16 minutes of the Final against Japan, as reported by FIFA.

Leave it to President Barack Obama to summarize the women's climb back to the top of soccer's international mountain, at a ceremony at the White House:

“It was a victory that took all 23 players,” President Obama explained. “It took Christie Rampone’s leadership, Alex Morgan’s playmaking and Heather O’Reilly’s game face.

“It took Becky Sauerbrunn’s quiet dominance. And Abby Wambach’s not-so-quiet dominance. Abby said that she wanted her final World Cup to be like a fairytale. And I’m not sure she could have written a better ending.”

And the buzz continued for the rest of the NWSL's professional season. According to the Chicago Tribune's Phil Hersh, average attendance for the NWSL's 10 teams in the six weeks after the World Cup was up by nearly 33 percent over the same period last year, to 5,642 per game, and selling out the last half of their season at the Benedictine University-Village of Lisle Sports Complex.

That made it Thanksgiving for the team, financially and otherwise.

2) The 'Other' Cup Champions...the Chicago Bandits

Olympian Monica Abbott and Amanda Williams of the Chicago Bandits show off their 2011 NPF Championship rings. Abbott and the Bandits earned another NPF Championship ring in 2015

Olympian Monica Abbott and Amanda Williams of the Chicago Bandits show off their 2011 NPF Championship rings. Abbott and the Bandits earned another NPF Championship ring in 2015

 

Just as the buzz was wearing off Chicago's latest Stanley Cup, the Chicago Bandits professional softball team delivered its own Cup...the Cowles Cup, its third NPF Championship crown in 10 years. The sustained excellence of this franchise, led by Olympic pitcher Monica Abbott (who pitched a no-hitter last summer), cannot be overestimated:

*They've played in the NPF Championship Game for four consecutive years

*Their All-Decade Team looks like the NPF Hall of Fame: Jennie Finch, Stacy May-Johnson, and Tammy Williams.

    • *Credit owner Bill Sokolis, who built the 1,600-seat The Ballpark at Rosemont, the only stadium in the country built for a women's professional softball team, for consistently fielding a team that's on top in all aspects of the game

 

 

3) The Chicago Sky's Elena Delle Donne

Sports Illustrated's shot of Elena Delle Donne

Sports Illustrated's shot of Elena Delle Donne

Is there anyone who's a better ambassador for the WNBA than Elena Delle Donne? When she's not averaging 30 ppg on the court, or challenging skeptics "Just try us...you'll be hooked!"

 

While battling concussions, a recurrence of Lyme disease, and knee injuries, Delle Donne  in 2015 scored a league-high 23.4 points per game, shot 95% from the free throw line and came in third in rebounding. She received 38 of 39 first place votes, naming her WNBA MVP.

 

As if that weren't enough, Delle Donne found time to lead a breakneck schedule off the court, making countless appearances on behalf of the Special Olympics as Global Ambassador and serving as the face of Lyme Disease Research.

4) Nancy Lieberman and Becky Hammon, NBA Assistant Coaches

Trailblazer Nancy Lieberman, one of the first scholarship recipients under Title IX, was hired by

Trailblazer Nancy Lieberman, one of the first scholarship recipients under Title IX, was hired by

 

When asked if she could imagine any other life besides basketball, Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman just laughed. "I'm a lifer," she told me in 2011. The lifer became legend in July 2015,  when she was hired by the Sacramento Kings as an assistant coach, becoming just the second female assistant coach in NBA history.

But this wasn't the Texas native's first rodeo in coaching. Back in November 2009, she became the coach of the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League, an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, thus becoming the first woman to coach a professional men's basketball team. But as her son T.J. grew, Lieberman told me she didn't want to be away from home as much as a coach had to be, and moved to a front office position with the Legends. She's also analyzed games for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

On November 25, Larry Brown Sports reported that the Kings may be eyeing her as a possible replacement for current Kings Coach George Karl, if they are unable to land Kentucky's John Calipari

Becky Hammon

Becky Hammon at the San Antonio Spurs' presser announcing her hiring

Becky Hammon at the San Antonio Spurs' presser announcing her hiring

In 2014, the Olympian and WNBA veteran was hired by the San Antonio Spurs as the first full-time female assistant coach in any of the four major professional sports in the United States. In 2015, the Spurs announced that Hammon would be the team's Summer League head-coach, the first woman to head-coach in that league. Hammon led the Spurs to the Las Vegas Summer League title on July 20, 2015. (Wikipedia).

I stand in thanksgiving for all who made these accomplishments possible!

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