March 8th – It’s International Women’s day. There are tons of poems and pictures being shared on social media, bringing serious light to issues. But this post is not about that. We’re not going to talk about issues and inequality and disparity, because this is sports therapy – instead we’re going to make this about women’s impact on modern day sports. From owner to top executives to coaches to athletes to even broadcasters and journalists, both genders make sports what they are today. So, I guess I’ll do a tribute to some of them in this post and share their stories.
Amy Adams Strunk
Most people usually connect players and coaches to sports teams, and rightfully so because they are the bread the butter and the essence of what the game is about. But make no mistake, there are so many layers to the sports entertainment business and we should probably know the big dawgs running the show. We usually don’t know or hear about these people unless they do something disastrous, but I think that should be changed. So, I’ll start off with a little educating session of Amy Adams Strunk.
Amy Adams Strunk is the daughter of former owner Bud Adams (RIP). She’s basically been an independent business boss for the past several years, owning farming, ranching, oil, and gas companies. Yes, keep in mind this is Tennessee we’re talking about, so it’s not that weird to build your estate on that. Aside from this she is also the current controlling owner of the Tennessee Titans (with a 33% stake). She has done the franchise right in the past several years, bringing in stability in the front office, coaching, and quarterback position (fangirl voice: I LOVE YOU MARIOTA). She’s also committed to investing more into stadium and practice facility improvements and hiring more staff within the franchise and is on record for letting sports people handle sports business and not meddling.
Here’s to you Amy, the titans fan base is lucky to have you.
Rita Benson LeBlanc
So like most other kids I know in high school, when the bell rung I was either doing one of four things: out drinking with my buddies at some random park, playing videogames at home, discovering manhood via the internet at home, or at swim practice (which was very, very rare). I guess you could say I wasn’t exactly the ambitious type. But Rita Benson LeBlanc, however, was. When most kids are goofing off in high school, Rita was hustling – interning at the Saints and other league offices and learning the tools of the trade. After getting her degree from Texas A&M she went to work for the Saints full time, and later took over management of New Orleans’ indoor league Voodoo, earning accolades as the indoor football league’s top executive. After Katrina, she took on a more public role in the management of the Saints.
Rita is definitely a hard-working ambitious hustler that we can all have our children and grandchildren to look up to. Unfortunately, her sports management career is on a brief hold after clashing with her grandfather Tom Benson, owner of the Pelicans and Saints. Still, her dedication and passion to sports is something that she should be known for.
We’ve talked owner and executive, but let’s not forget that the actual games that entertain us the way they do are spearheaded by none other than the coaches. When we talk about legendary coaches, several names come to mind, Popovich, Belichick, Walsh, Krzyzewski, Lombardi, the list goes on. This is generally a male dominated field, with many factors that we can possibly use to explain why. But on most lists of all-time great coaches, Pat Summit usually comes up as well, probably the only woman on most lists. She holds the record for 1,098 wins in NCAA basketball, and paired that with 8 championships, a record at the time of her retirement. She contributed to a silver medal effort in the Olympics as a player for the US women’s basketball team and later finished the job with a gold medal as a head coach.
She was forced into early retirement with a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s, and unfortunately passed away in 2016 at the age of 64. Still her legacy lives on as one of the most dominant sports figures of all time, regardless of her gender. So, next time you want to have a little debate with your buddies about NCAA coaching GOATS, maybe consider putting some respeck on that name.
Straight gas all day. When a lot of people think of dominant female athletes, they probably think of a gymnast such as Simone Biles, Tennis champ Serena Williams, or the ghost of Ronda Rousey. But let’s give Jennie Finch a shout out because she’s as skilled as any other champion and has a lot of accolades of her own. If you don’t understand, softball is one of the hardest sports to play, and you basically have slightly less time to react to the pitch in softball than you do in baseball even though the pitch may be slower, given the closer distance.
Jennie Finch’s legacy starts in college, winning 51 consecutive games, which in any feat, sports or non-sports is next to impossible. She was the school leader in strikeouts, shutouts, innings pitched, and no-hitters. She also holds the single season ERA record in the National Pro Fastpitch league.
Aside from being a role model on the softball field, she’s also one off it. Looks aren’t everything and they’re not something that we should use to value ourselves as people, and Jennie Finch is an example of that. Yes, she’s stunning, but she doesn’t use her looks to define her, and doesn’t sell out for opportunities that just highlight her attractiveness. She retired from softball in 2010 to spend more time with family and now works for ESPN as an analyst.
Robin Roberts is one of my favorite personal heroes. A true conqueror of life and all the obstacles that come with it. We often get so caught up in all the drama and glamour of sports that we forget the people who fly across the country back and forth, wake up at the crack of dawn, put on their socks, and stand there in the freezing cold to make things much more entertaining for us than just grown men and women grunting and bumping into each other in silence, ask Draymond Green.
Robin Roberts graduated Cum Laude from Southeastern Louisiana University. She was offered a tennis scholarship but played basketball and ended up notching 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. She was ESPN’s first black female sportscaster, and this was the early 90s, so you can imagine for yourself how tough it was to navigate that uncharted territory. She was with ESPN for 15 years and later moved on to become the co-anchor of Good Morning America. In 2012 she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball hall of fame and in 2016 was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Aside from the obstacles in broadcasting, Robin has also face a lot of obstacles in life. In 2007 she was diagnosed with breast cancer but managed to overcome it with surgery in 2008. In 2012 she was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, and but also managed to overcome that as well with the help of a bone marrow transplant. Robin is an example of no matter what obstacles come in your way in life, keep fighting and there will always be a way out.
It’s obvious that there are so many amazing women who play integral roles in sports and constantly outperform talented men. I’ve only highlighted a few but there are so many more examples out there. Let’s not take our women for granted, and salute them for all that they do for us instead.