Women ConqHERing Sports History

Women ConqHERing Sports History

March is Women’s History Month. It is a time to look back and celebrate all the contributions women have made to American history, culture, and society. At Eastbay, our ConqHER campaign continuously highlights women who are breaking barriers in sports. This March we will be sharing some of the stories of women who made history on and off the field in 2020.

Chiney Ogwumike

Chiney Ogwumike is not only a dominant force on the court but off it as well. A decorated high school and college career led her to be the #1 overall pick in the 2014 WNBA draft by the Connecticut Sun. After multiple All-Star appearances while on the Sun she was traded to the LA Sparks and reunited with her sister Nneka. It was recently announced she and the Sparks had agreed to a multi-year deal keeping her in LA for the foreseeable future. In 2018, she signed a multi-year deal with ESPN, making her one of the youngest people to become a full-time basketball analyst. This year she made history as the first Black woman to host a national radio show for ESPN.

Sam Mewis

Sam Mewis’s footballing resume continues to get more impressive. The USWNT midfielder has been a staple in midfield for the Americans and was a part of the team that won the 2018 World Cup. Currently, she is holding down the midfield for 2nd place Manchester City in the Women’s Super League. Recently, it was announced she was the 2020 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year, the first time she has won the award.

Breanna Stewart

Breanna Stewart is arguably the most talented and decorated player to come out of the UConn women’s program. She is now one of the most dominant players in the WNBA, winning an MVP and multiple titles with the Seattle Storm. In 2019, Stewart suffered one of the worst injuries in sports when she ruptured her Achilles. After sitting out that entire season, she returned to help lead Seattle to another title and was named one of Sports Illustrated ‘Sportspeople of the Year’ for her activism off the court.

A’ja Wilson

At every level of the sport, A’ja Wilson has dominated. She was a champion and McDonald’s All-American in high school. In college, she led the South Carolina Gamecocks to their first championship in school history and was a three-time consensus All-American. She was recently named the 2020 WNBA MVP after helping lead the Las Vegas Aces to the WNBA Finals.

Aliphine Tuliamuk

Aliphine Tuliamuk will be representing the United States as a long-distance runner at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Tuliamuk placed first in the Olympic Marathon trials in Atlanta, Georgia with a time of 2:27:23. A former cross-country runner at Wichita State, Tuliamuk was the first person from her village in her native home of Kenya to graduate from college.

Jennifer King

Jennifer King recently became the first black woman to be hired as a full-time coach in the NFL. The former two-sport athlete at Guilford College was an intern with the Carolina Panthers, where she served as the wide receivers coach in 2018 and running backs coach in 2019 under Ron Rivera. She then followed him to Washington, where she is now the assistant running backs coach.

Sophie Luoto

Sophie Luoto has exceeded expectations in every role she’s stepped into in her professional career. She began her journey into football while still in college at UCLA when she started working for the athletic department as a student recruiting assistant. Afterward, she took a job at UC Berkley where she was quickly named the Director of Operations. During her time at Cal, several members of the LA Rams organization reached out to gauge her interest in working for an NFL team. She accepted and spent a few years working on the business side before being asked to return to the football side.  After a year and a half, she earned the Director of Operations title which made her the highest-ranking female executive in the NFL.

Chelsea Romero

Chelsea Romero has always loved the competitiveness of strength & conditioning. She enjoys inspiring and motivating people day in and day out to reach their goals. Chelsea knows that hard work can lead to incredible opportunities. While working at UC Irvine, she had a chance encounter with the LA Rams head of strength and conditioning. After offering to work for free, she became the training camp intern serving mostly as an extra set of hands at first. It wasn’t long before she was offered, and accepted, a position that made her the Rams first-ever female strength and conditioning coach.

Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya continues to fight for the human rights of female athletes everywhere. The South African runner was born with a rare genetic condition that causes elevated testosterone levels. This has led many people to demand she take testosterone blockers or simply block her from running. Caster will continue to lead the fight for her right to run the way she was born.

Becky Hammon

Becky Hammon may be the most well-known female coach in the Big 4 leagues. She is an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich, a role she’s held since 2014. She has made a name for herself as one of the most well-regarded assistants in the league and received buzz as a potential head coaching candidate this past offseason. This season, after Popovich was ejected during a game against the LA Lakers, Hammon assumed head coaching duties making her the first woman to coach in an NBA game.

Kim Ng

Women have steadily entered the basketball and football coaching and front office ranks for the past couple of years, but baseball has lagged a little behind. That began to change when the Miami Marlins hired Kim Ng as their general manager, making her the first female general manager in the Big 4 sports leagues. Kim is a graduate of the University of Chicago where she played softball for four years and earned a B.A. in public policy. She was hired by the Chicago White Sox after graduation and has worked for numerous other teams like the Yankees and Dodgers. She also served as the Senior Vice President of Operations for the league office before accepting her new role with the Marlins.

Sabrina Ionescu

Sabrina Ionescu was born to get buckets. After a spectacular career at Miramonte High School where she graduated as the all-time leader in points, assists, steals, and triple-doubles, Sabrina chose to attend the University of Oregon and play for the Ducks. During her senior season in a game against #4 ranked Stanford Ionescu became the first NCAA player with 2,000 points, 1,000 assists, and 1,000 rebounds in their career. Following her career at Oregon, Sabrina was the #1 overall pick in the WNBA draft by the New York Liberty, where she plays today.

Alyssa Nakken

Alyssa Nakken made history this year by becoming the first full-time female coach in MLB history after being hired by the San Francisco Giants. Alyssa played college softball for Sacramento State, where she was a three-time all-conference selection at first base. She initially interned with the Giants working on their health and wellness programs before going back to school to get her Master’s degree. The Giants then promoted her in January 2020 to a full-time coach.

Katie Sowers

Katie Sowers has made history twice in the past 5 years. In 2017 she became the first openly LGBT coach in the NFL when she came out as a lesbian. In 2020, Katie became the first female coach to coach in the Super Bowl when the San Francisco 49ers went up against the Kansas City Chiefs. Her career began when she was an intern scout with the Atlanta Falcons before moving over to San Francisco as an offensive assistant on Kyle Shannan’s staff.

Mickey Grace

Mickey Grace knows that she can accomplish whatever she sets her mind too. The former Math and leadership teacher in Philadelphia was recently chosen to be a part of the Scouting Apprenticeship Program with the Los Angeles Rams. Mickey is a former high school football player and in addition to teaching also serves as the defensive line coach for her school.

Sarah Fuller

This past college football season was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before as COVID-19 wreaked havoc across campuses. Games were canceled, players were forced into quarantine, the whole thing was a mess. From this mess came an opportunity for Sarah Fuller, Vanderbilt’s starting goalie on the women’s soccer team. Vanderbilt had an upcoming game against Missouri, but due to opt-outs and contact tracing protocols, the team had no available placekickers. Head coach Derek Mason reached out to Fuller to see if she would be interested in trying out for the team. Soon after, she became the first woman to play in a Power 5 conference game. Later in the season, Fuller became the first woman to score in a Power 5 game when she went 2-2 on extra points against Tennessee.

 

Maya Moore

There is almost no parallel in the sports world for what Maya Moore has done. She is one of the best players in her sport: a four-time WNBA champion, MVP, and six-time All-Star. Yet she has willingly sacrificed two years of her prime, two years of not playing the sport she loves, to try and secure one man’s freedom from prison. This past July, Jeremy Irons, who was serving a 50-year sentence for burglary and assault, walked free after 20 years. Irons, whose conviction was suspicious given the complete lack of evidence, said of Moore, “She is light, pure light.” Moore has said she will give an update on her basketball career in the future, but whether or not she returns to the court, we should all be inspired by her courage and dedication to justice.

Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas has made history multiple times. She was the first female referee to work a major college football game. Then Sarah became the first woman to ref a college football bowl game. Finally, this past February, Sarah became the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl. She continues to be an inspiration for all the other women out there looking to go into officiating.

Amy Trask

Amy Trask has been in and around football longer than many people have been alive. The “Princess of Darkness” as she is affectionately called by Raiders fans started out in the legal department of the Los Angeles Raiders back in 1987. She was named their CEO in 1997 making her the first female CEO in the NFL. After resigning from the team in 2013, Trask went on to serve as an analyst for CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network. She recently won the 2020 Top Women in Media award given by Cynopsis Media.

Samantha Gordon

Most people remember Samantha Gordon from when she was absolutely cooking boys on the football field when she was nine. The videos her father uploaded of her blowing past or juking boys twice her size immediately went viral. Now 17, she has continued to fight for all-girls football rights in her home state of Utah.

Congratulations to all the women who made sports history throughout 2020. Here’s hoping you continue to make history in 2021. If you want to see more women who are breaking barriers check out our ConqHER page to see their stories.

A big thank you to the artists who provided these images. Jennifer King was done by Destyni Swoope, Samantha Gordon by Amanda Mendez, Chiney Ogwumike by Caroline Blanchet, and Kim Ng and Sarah Fuller were created by Lari Alejandro. 

 

Game Recognize Game: Clint High School’s Amari Morales is our February Winner

Game Recognize Game: Clint High School’s Amari Morales is our February Winner

Each month Eastbay is highlighting a top high school athlete by spotlighting their accomplishments both in and outside the game. This month’s winner is volleyball, softball, and basketball player Amari Morales from Clint High School in Texas.

Amari is a junior with three letters in volleyball and softball and two in basketball. She’s the captain of her club volleyball team and of her high school volleyball and softball teams and was a two-year All Conference team selection in volleyball. This past season, with an average seven assists per set, Amari helped lead her high school team to their first playoff win in 23 years. Her passion and drive on the court are matched by her dedication in the classroom. She maintains a 4.0 GPA and, in 2019, she received an AAU Academic All-American award.

Outside of school, Amari also shows up for those around her. Over Thanksgiving, she helped make and hand out over 300 meals to help feed those in need in her community. Amari was nominated by Power Sports Academy Athletic Director Robert Morales Jr. As one of her coaches, and her dad, Robert says the most impactful thing about Amari, and what truly sets her apart, is her unwavering commitment to her teammates.

We asked Amari what being a student-athlete means to her. Here’s what she had to say:

 

What is your definition of a successful student-athlete?

“I strongly believe that succeeding as a student-athlete not only requires unbreakable character, high moral standards, and incomparable work ethic, but also the ability to maintain a healthy balance between athletics and education.”

What has been the highlight of your athletic career so far?

“The moment that stands out to me is receiving an Academic All-American award for the 2019 AAU Nationals in Orlando. It made me realize that the athletic community holds success in the classroom as highly as it holds performance on the court. I also came to see that I could never have accomplished this without my “tough-love” support system in my corner. Their persistent presence has pushed me to never accept mediocrity in anything I do.”

Who is your role model in athletics?

“From a very young age, I looked up to my aunt and my parents as my athletic role models. They shared their love of the sport with me and showed me that I am capable of anything I set my mind to. My drive and perseverance are derived from the passion they embedded in me.”

What do you love most about competing?

“Though my teammates and coaches change from season to season, my answer to this question will always remain the same: The thing I love most about competing is working as one with my team in order to accomplish a mutual goal. My teammates are like family and the connection we make through literal blood, sweat and tears makes being beside them on the court the best part about competing.”

What are some of the goals you’d like to achieve after high school?

“After high school, I would love to continue my education while playing the sport I love at the collegiate level. I plan to major in biology to pursue a career as a scientist. Nothing would make me happier than to find a place where I can make both of my goals a reality.”

 

To nominate a deserving athlete for Eastbay’s Game Recognize Game series, fill out the form here.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram @officialeastbay and @eastbaywomen

The Ultimate College Basketball Quiz

The Ultimate College Basketball Quiz

College basketball is in full swing and despite some canceled games and empty stadiums, there have still been several excellent battles so far. With March Madness rapidly approaching it’s time to test your knowledge on the history of several of college basketball’s premier programs and standout performances in the tournament. Take the quiz now!

Evaluating the Contenders for the NBA Title

Evaluating the Contenders for the NBA Title

Basketball is back after a very short break and this season promises to be one of the weirdest yet. It is impossible to not see COVID affecting every team at least once throughout the season. Many of the top teams will be coming off a heavily abbreviated offseason which might force coaches to adjust rotations to lighten the load for some veterans. Today we’re looking at eight teams that have a shot at winning the title this season. The list is in no particular order, and before Brooklyn fans get mad at me let me explain why they aren’t on this list. I know Kevin Durant has looked good so far, but I just want to see him play for a month at this level and then I’ll be all the way in. I also am extremely suspicious of Kyrie Irving staying healthy for a long stretch this season. I’m sure Brooklyn will make me eat my words by the end of the season, but I want to see it before I believe it.

LAL

The rich get richer. Title winning teams almost always get objectively worse the following offseason: players get older, some are traded, some sign elsewhere for more money or a larger role. These teams also rarely have the assets or cap space to replace lost players or make any significant upgrades. This is why what LA accomplished is so impressive. It’s hard to quibble when a team wins the title, but it was clear LA lacked ballhandling juice throughout the regular season and playoffs. Their offense was an adventure, and not in an exciting way when LeBron was on the bench. Adding Dennis Schroeder, who was dynamic as the 6th man and third guard in Oklahoma City last year, is a nice upgrade. His 3-point shooting may regress from his career high last year of 38% (his previous high was 35%), but he’s still a better option than Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso. Signing fellow 6th Man of the Year Award finalist and winner Montrezl Harrell for the midlevel exception was also a good piece of business. The fit with Anthony Davis is questionable, but he is clearly going to provide more energy and better offense than Javale McGee and Dwight Howard. Finally, getting Marc Gasol to come over from Toronto and delay a return to Spain was huge. Though he’s near the end of his career, Gasol was still able to spearhead an elite Toronto defense thanks to his IQ and savviness. With LeBron and Davis back and healthy again for another season, it’s hard to find a reason that LA shouldn’t be the favorite for another title this season.

Miami

Miami had a pretty lowkey offseason. There was a lot of noise about whether they would hoard their cap space for the loaded free agent class of 2021 or would they throw Houston a massive offer for James Harden. In the end they lost some rotation pieces and added other role players to replace them. Losing Jae Crowder to Phoenix hurt, but Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless should give them 70-80% of what Crowder did. While Goran Dragic certainly won’t play at the same level he did in the bubble, it’s not hard to imagine Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson taking a step forward. While their run to the Finals was semi-surprising, it wasn’t built on a foundation of unsustainable play. They play with a purpose and flow on offense that generates easy looks for their shooters. As long as Jimmy and Bam are healthy and playing, their free throw rate should be near the top of the league. Their defense may be weak at the point of attack, but it’s elite on the wing and backline, and Erik Spoelstra is adept at developing game plans that stifle opposing offenses. There is no reason they shouldn’t be considered a contender for the Finals again.

LAC

The playoffs were an absolute disaster for the Clippers. Blowing a 3-1 to Denver, double-digit leads in multiple closeout games, Paul George bricking everything, and chemistry issues bubbling up left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. Doc Rivers, who took a lot of heat for his lack of in-game adjustments, is gone, as is Montrezl Harrell who was a massive disappointment in the bubble and gave voice to the chemistry issues that plagued the team. In are Ty Lue, who knows how to lead a team with interesting personalities to a championship, and Serge Ibaka, one of the more sought-after free agents for contending teams. Ibaka provides a cleaner fit than Harrell, thanks to his shooting and rim protection. The Patrick Beverly, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, Serge Ibaka lineup will instantly become the group that every reporter will clamor to see in crunch time. The pressure will be immense this season. George re-upped his deal to stay locked into LA, but Leonard still has a player option following this season. It wouldn’t shock anyone to see him leave if the team disappoints again.

Milwaukee

Speaking of pressure. Milwaukee’s playoff performance only ratcheted up the stress on the front office and Coach Budenholzer this season. Milwaukee will most likely be the #1 or #2 seed again. Their style of play, letting Giannis play downhill while spacing the floor with shooters, and a defense that prioritizes protecting the rim will always be a winning formula. Jrue Holiday is an upgrade over Eric Bledsoe, and they signed some quality bench players for the regular season in DJ Augustin, Bobby Portis, and Torrey Craig. Ultimately the regular season doesn’t matter. This team needs to show up and make serious noise in the playoffs. This season will be about integrating Holiday and building chemistry between him, Giannis, and Khris Middleton. Brook Lopez needs to prove he can hit threes more consistently, and Donte DiVincenzo needs to make another leap.

Denver

Though not as talked about as other teams out west, Denver enters this season as Finals contenders. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are as dynamic a pair as anyone in the league, and Michael Porter Jr. has the chops to be the third star the team needs. He’ll need to prove to coach Mike Malone he can be trusted on the defensive end, but he won’t be exposed as badly during the regular season as he was in the playoffs. Will Barton should be back and fully healthy, giving them another option on the wing, and hopefully, Gary Harris discovers his shot again. Jerami Grant leaving for Detroit hurts, especially considering it wasn’t because of money, but JaMychal Green is a fine substitute in the regular season. The playoffs will be another story, but hopefully MPJ will be able to handle those minutes. Continuity will be Denver’s greatest strength and should carry them to a top 3 seed in the west.

Dallas

Luka Dončić is nothing less than an MVP candidate this season. The third-year player is a bona fide superstar, and Dallas has done an excellent job putting a team around him. Kristaps Porziņģis will miss the beginning of the season as he recovers from his torn MCL, and his health is a huge factor in how much noise they make in the postseason. Trading for Josh Richardson strengthens their defense, and he has more upside as a secondary playmaker than Seth Curry does. James Johnson finished last season strong in Minnesota, but whether any of that will carry over to Dallas is hard to predict. Rick Carlisle is still a top-five coach in the league and will be more adept at managing player absences than others.

Boston

Boston enters the season a slight notch below Milwaukee and Miami but is still a real threat to come out of the East. Losing Gordon Hayward for essentially nothing (they got a massive player exception, but that doesn’t help them right now) and having Kemba Walker go down until January after an injection in his knee puts a damper on their season. However, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart are all really freakin’ good. Tatum is a superstar, Brown an All-Star, and Smart is their best defender and heart of the team. Even with an average supporting cast, those three are good enough to carry a team to a top-three seed in the East. In such a compact season, it helps that Boston’s core is younger and may not require the tactical rest and games off as some of the more veteran teams, giving them a leg up in the regular season.

Philadelphia

When was the last time Philly had a quiet offseason? Every year, no matter what, Philly always creates a ton of talking points before they even take the court. Doc Rivers comes in to replace Brett Brown, and Daryl Morey is hired to run basketball operations. Rivers will be responsible for creating a culture of accountability and organizing an offense around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid while Morey addressed and will continue needing to improve the team’s shooting and playmaking. Bringing in Seth Curry, who is an elite marksman, and Danny Green should give Embiid and Simmons more room to operate. Saying goodbye to Al Horford means Tobias Harris should get more run at the four and opens up more minutes for Matisse Thybulle. This team just makes much more sense than it did a year ago and should expect to compete for the conference finals.

Improve Your Handle with Basketball Drills from Drew Hanlen

Improve Your Handle with Basketball Drills from Drew Hanlen

Drew Hanlen is a basketball skills coach & consultant who counts stars Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, and more as full-time clients. He is also the CEO of Pure Sweat Basketball, and his internationally renowned Unseen Hours Skills Clinics have been held in 26 countries around the world.

Drew knows what it takes to succeed on the court, and one of the most important things is to have a tight handle that allows you to consistently attack your defender without turning the ball over. Check out both drills below to learn some new moves to add to your arsenal.

Cross-Step Basketball Tutorial

Step 1: A long lunge forward making sure the ball and foot hit at the same time. Make sure to decelerate on the front foot.

Step 2: Use a pocket dribble and an anchor step to get back on balance while still protecting the ball. Balance is crucial to maintaining your attacking momentum.

Step 3: Once you’re balanced, change directions either using a behind-the-back or crossover dribble and then attack the basket.

Same-Foot Stop Basketball Tutorial

Step 1: Lunge your strong-hand foot forward and take a pound dribble at the same time. The dribble should be just outside your heel to protect the ball.

Step 2: Flip your stance with either a between-the-legs or behind-the-back dribble to create a new attacking angle.

Step 3: Attack in the new direction.

You can also find some of Drew’s favorite gear to play and train in when you shop his gift guide at eastbay.com