It’s “Official”

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Sarah Thomas is the First Woman to be a fulltime game official in the NFL. It was announced today that she will hold the position of line judge.

Sarah has been a First Woman before. She was the First Woman to officiate an NCAA football game, First Woman to officiate a college bowl game, and First Woman to officiate in a Big Ten stadium. She qualified for a permanent position in the NFL in 2013 and has been working exhibition games and other events for then NFL since then.

Sarah’s love of football is natural. She was born in Mississippi where football is a second religion. (I can attest to this fact as I was raised in Mississippi as well.)

When she began officiating, a mentor suggested she work harder to fit in, thinking it might not be helpful for her to call attention to herself. He suggested she put her ponytail up under her hat and not wear makeup. She met him halfway and now wears her ponytail tucked into her cap. Like most of the Mississippi women I know, however, she will not be seen in public without makeup.

Annika Sorenstam – Professional Golfer

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 8.33.01 AMI am struck by two things about Annika Sorenstam’s career as a golfer: her persistent rise from one first for women to another; and the fact that, even as late as 2003, she experienced discrimination because of her gender.

Annika was born in Sweden where she excelled in sports: she skied so well the coach of the national ski team invited her to train in northern Sweden; she played tennis so well she was a nationally ranked junior player; and, for fun, she also played soccer. She was only twelve when she started playing golf and, before long, golf was her consuming passion. She won tournaments in high school and was the first foreign-born freshman to win the NCAA Championship in the U.S. when she played for the University of Arizona.

Annika’s string of firsts in golf came through her performance and her earnings. A few highlights:

–first woman to record a score of 59 in one round and the first to end a season with a scoring average just below 70

–first woman to win the same major event in three consecutive years

–first woman to earn over $2 million in one year

–first woman to earn over $9 million in her career, then first to earn over $10 million, and so one until she became the first to earn over $20 million

–first woman to be the top earner in the European and LPGA tours in one year

And the list goes on.

She was also the first woman, since Babe Didrikson Zaharias in 1945, to be invited to compete in a PGA tournament. Even after all her achievements and, even though this invitation was extended in the modern era of 2003, some of the men of the PGA reacted negatively. Nick Price, the defending champion called Sorenstam’s presence a “publicity stunt.” Vijay Singh withdrew from the tournament saying Annika had “no business” competing with men, a statement for which he later apologized. Although she missed qualifying for the tournament, the press was filled with news of her graciousness.

In her second career Annika manages a golf course design company, a clothing design company, a company that provides personal services for athletes, a vineyard, and a foundation. She also runs a “boutique” golf academy where her sister, who also played on the LPGA Tour, is one of the coaches. Her persistence and achievements continue.



Maryam-Mirzakhani-Iranian-Woman-Win-Math-Top-Prize copyMiryam Mirzakhani, a professor at Stanford University, was the first woman and the first Iranian to earn the Fields Medal, the highest recognition in mathematics. Her understanding of the symmetry of curved surfaces was noted in her award. Before she entered college, in 1994, she had already achieved a first: the first Iranian woman to win a gold medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad. The following year, she was the first Iranian student (male or female) to earn a perfect score and win two gold medals.

Becky Hammon was named assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. Although she is the second female assistant coach hired by the NBA, she is the first hired on a full-time basis. This makes her first in any of Becky-Hammon-Wallpapers-Latestthe four major professional sports (baseball, basketball, football and hockey).

kacy-1405606299Kacy Catanzaro, who is also known as Mighty Kacy, was the first woman to qualify for the finals on American Ninja Warrior. A gymnast, she is only five feet tall and weighs only 100 pounds. She proves that power is not related to size.


And. . .Mo’Ne Davis was the first girl to pitch a first shutout in Little League history (see my last blog).

Mo’Ne Davis – Little League Star

MO'NE DAVIS SPORTS ILLUSMo’Ne Davis was the first girl to pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history. She was also the first Little Leaguer (boy or girl) to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She even has her own Wikipedia page.

She generated excitement for the game, with more viewers than ever before, and a positive note in baseball’s scandal-ridden recent past. She captured the imagination of other girls who long to step into her cleats. She surprised everyone when she said that basketball was really her sport.

What was most surprising, however, was the reaction of some male columnists who wrote she was receiving too much attention, that it would ruin her sports career, and that she should be in eighth grade not on tour. Really? Would they be writing the same words about a boy who had caused this much commotion?

Did they think about why she might have generated so much excitement? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that, in the 67-year history of the Little League World Series, in which over 9,000 children have participated, girls have been almost invisible. In 1972 Maria Pepe, the first girl to make it to the series, was thrown out because the other teams objected to her presence. Only 18 girls have played in the series and, of those, only 4 were from the United States. In fact, there were only two girls from the United States until this unprecedented year, the first in which 2 girls played the series.

Mo’Ne’s responses to reporters show that she is a level-headed young woman as well as a talented athlete. It strikes me that she is, at fourteen, probably more mature than some of the men who are writing about her. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Alice Coachman, Olympic Gold Medalist

Alice CoachmALICE COACHMAN OLDERan, the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal, died this week in her hometown of Albany, Georgia. She was 90 years old.

In 1948 Alice Coachman competed in the Olympics and won the high jump at the London Games. Alice believed she reached her peak in 1944 and might have won a gold medal that year, as well as in 1940, had the games not been cancelled because of the Second World War.


ALICE COACHMAN ATHLETEBecause of her race, and the fact that she lived in the South, Alice was barred from sports facilities because of her color. She improvised practice facilities, running along dirt roads and across fields. She also participated in other sports. At Tuskegee University, she was on a basketball team that won three straight conference titles.

When she returned from the London Olympics she met President Harry Truman at the White House followed by a 175-mile motorcade through Georgia to celebrate her victory. At the official ceremony in Albany, Georgia, however, the audience in the auditorium was segregated by race, the mayor did not shake her hand, and she was required to leave by a side door. Even her 25 national athletics championships, including 10 consecutive high jump titles could not overcome the color of her skin.

She was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975 and the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004. When her athletic career ended, she remembered her own hardships and created the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation, which provides financial assistance to needy young and retired athletes.