Becky Hammon made history with the San Antonio Spurs as she became the first woman to act as head coach for an NBA team during a regular season game, back in early January of this year. Head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected from the game against the Lakers for arguing with a referee, resulting in Hammon filling in for the remaining two quarters.
Although a monumental achievement, Hammon stepping in as head coach has highlighted the continuing and prevalent gender disparities in professional sport. When considering professional sports leagues, it is rare that professional women’s leagues come to mind, as we tend to tunnel vision only on male professional sport, leaving increased obstacles and little room for women’s progress within this sporting world. Research has shown that even with equal credentials and coaching abilities, athletes continue to feel less comfortable with a woman as the head coach of their organization. This is an indication that the reluctance and continued hesitation towards women coaches has far less to do with their actual coaching ability, and more to do with prevailing understandings of gender and the roles it carries with it.
The fact that Becky Hammon was the first woman to ever even act as temporary head coach in the NBA illustrates how sport in general remains to be a patriarchal domain favouring stereotypical understandings of masculinity, not only in the athletes but also within the teams management. Professional sport has to continue to generate opportunities for women equally and equitably to that of men, and Becky Hammon’s head coaching experience can be seen as one of the first steps in the marathon towards the right direction.