By Ken Reed

For years, SportsWorld was a male-only bastion. Sports were in effect a private party for males. That private party has slowly — very slowly — been crashed since the 1970’s when Title IX became law and female journalists first began covering the major pro sports leagues.

This past weekend, Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller achieved another first for women in sports: the first female to play in a Power Five college football game. That came not long after Kim Ng became the first professional female general manager in the big four American sports leagues when the Miami Marlins hired her to run their baseball operations department.

I just had a few days to learn how to do this,” said Fuller, who was Vanderbilt’s kicker against Missouri. She is also a star goalie on the Vanderbilt women’s soccer team. “At first, there wasn’t a lot of pressure … I was just proud I was able to step out there and do that and represent female athletes.”

Last Sunday, The Cleveland Browns named Callie Brownson their interim tight ends coach, making her the first female position coach in NFL history.

It’s impossible to measure the impact breakthroughs like Ng’s, Brownson’s and Fuller’s will have on young girls who love sports.

“It’s hard to put into words what (Fuller’s) kick represented,” said Emily Zaler, an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Broncos. “It was more than a kick.”

More than a kick indeed.

“It was validation for so many women,” said Samantha Rapoport, the NFL’s senior director of diversity, equality and inclusion.

Pioneers like Ng, Brownson, Fuller and Rapoport didn’t have female role models to look up to when they were young girls wondering if it was possible for women to have careers in sports.

What Ng, Brownson and Fuller accomplished in recent weeks will hopefully signal to young sports-loving girls that anything is possible today when it comes to careers in sports for women.

“The more they see it,” Zaler said, “the more they believe.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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