Celebrating Women's History Month!

Athlete development is often perceived as just helping athletes with career transition. This viewpoint leaves out all of the successes that athletes are having during their athletic career. It’s Women’s History Month so let’s look at a few of the female athletes who have used sport to achieve excellence on and off the playing surface.


Serena Williams is regarded by many to be the best female tennis player in the Open Era. In addition to her accolades on the court, her strong character has made Serena a role model and an ambassador of tennis.

Off the court, Serena is a savvy business woman with many endorsement deals. Known for her fashion sense, she has run her own line of designer apparel since 2004 and became the first black female athlete to have a picture by herself on the cover of Vogue. Williams uses social media to express her views on social change and is involved in many charitable initiatives. In addition to her business success, Serena works in the entertainment industry, appearing on TV, in music videos, modeling for several magazine shoots and providing voice work on animated shows.


Venus Williams is generally regarded as one of the all-time greats of women's tennis and, along with younger sister Serena, is credited with ushering in a new era of power and athleticism on the women's professional tennis tour

Away from tennis, Venus is currently CEO of her interior design firm “V Starr Interiors”, and launched her own fashion line in 2007. She is part owner of the Miami Dolphins with sister Serena. They are the first African-American women to hold any amount of ownership in an NFL franchise. In 2001, she signed a five-year endorsement contract with Reebok International for $40 million. Her book “Come to Win” was No. 5 on the New York Times Best Seller list.

 


Rousey was a trailblazer in the UFC who really put women’s MMA on the map. Rousey was the face of women’s fighting in the biggest MMA promotion in the world. Her achievements in the sport paved the way for many young fighters to come.

After her exit from the UFC, Rousey has stayed in the spotlight by trying her hand at acting, starring in several movies and making appearances on TV shows. She also has made a splash in the WWE. Rousey is being positioned as one of the company's top superstars due to her crossover appeal.


Patrick is the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing. A pioneer for women in motorsports, Her achievements comprise of multiple firsts for women in American auto racing, including first to win an IndyCar Series race, first to clinch a pole position in the NASCAR Cup Series and the most starts, laps led, and top-tens in the NASCAR Cup Series, highest finish by a woman in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500. She is one of only 14 drivers to have led both races.

Patrick has also found success away from the race track including philanthropy work, endorsements, acting and hosting several TV shows, and has made several appearances on the cover of various magazines. Danica has thrived in an exclusively male environment while accentuating every part of her womanhood.


Legendary Billie Jean King is a former American World No. 1 professional tennis player and one of the greatest of all time. During her reign as tennis professional, King won 39 Grand Slam titles. She has been a mentor and inspiration to many women in the professional tennis world. For all her tennis accomplishments, Billie Jean King is probably best known for her 1973 "Battle of the Sexes” win against the chauvinistic former men's champion Bobby Riggs.

King is an advocate for gender equality and has long been a pioneer for equality and social justice. King also founded of the Women's Tennis Association and the Women's Sports Foundation.


Sörenstam is regarded as one of the best female golfers of all time. She tops the LPGA's career money list with earnings of over $22 million—over $2 million ahead of her nearest rival while playing 149 fewer events. She was also the first woman to play in a PGA event.

Sörenstam leveraged her professional golf career to pursue several entrepreneurial endeavors. She has combined golf, fitness and charitable works into various businesses. She is also involved in golf course design, clothing line, wine label, fragrance line and has had a serious interest in investments, real estate and the stock market since she earned her first LPGA check.


 

Three-time Olympic medalist and the winningest athlete in snowboarding history, Kelly Clark, has been an inspiration to many in action sports. Her namesake foundation strives to empower youth, using snowboarding as the medium for success.  By removing the financial barriers to snowboarding, the Foundation hopes to make snowboarding more financially accessible, increase and diversify participation in the snowboard industry, and facilitate opportunities for the widespread use of snowboarding as tool for personal success.

 


Despite being the daughter of one of the greatest athletes of all time, Muhammad Ali, Laila has fought her way through many hardships. Her parents divorced when she was 8. Ali was arrested several times and endured physical abuse while incarcerated. Ali today is a resilient athlete with a wit as fast as her father’s.

Accomplished in and out of the ring, Ali was a manicurist at age 16, graduated from Santa Monica College with a business degree, and owned her own nail salon before she followed her father into boxing. She went 24-0 in her boxing career and has since made a name for herself as a Reality TV star. Laila starred alongside Hulk Hogan in the 2008 American Gladiators revival. Hogan credits Ali for saving his life at a time that he was contemplating suicide.

Hogan told Today: All of a sudden the phone rang, and it was Laila, and she said, ‘Hey, what’s going on? You’re on the set. You’re all depressed. We’re worried about you. You going to be OK? She called with no agenda, just to say hi and check on me. It snapped me out of it. At that moment I switched gears. I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Her voice saved my life, it really did.

Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee is one of the best track and field athletes of all time. In addition to medaling in at four different Olympic Games, she has won big off the track with her philanthropy work.

Joyner-Kersee is a contributor to many causes outside of sport including children's education, racial equality and women's rights. She established the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation in 1988, which provides youth, adults, and families in East St. Louis with athletic lessons and the resources to improve their quality of life. In 2007, she co-founded Athletes for Hope with several other athletes. It is an organization that helps professional athletes get involved in charitable causes and inspires millions of non-athletes to volunteer and support the community.


Basketball hall of famer, Lisa Leslie has quite the list of accolades on and off the court. As an athlete, Leslie was a two-time WNBA champion, three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player, four-time Olympic gold medal winner and the first player to dunk in a WNBA game.

Off the court she has bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Leslie has worked as a sports commentator and analyst for several sports networks, such as NBC, ABC and Fox Sports Net. She’s a fashion model and an aspiring actress. Leslie released her autobiography called Don't Let the Lipstick Fool You and she also became a co-owner of the Los Angeles Sparks in 2011.


Game Change was founded in 2011 to serve and enhance the athlete development needs of major professional and elite sport organizations and athletes.  Game Change specializes in customized research and assessment services, the development of applied interventions and resources designed to provide long-term positive outcomes for organizations and individual athletes.  Game Change believes strongly in sport as a catalyst for societal change and adheres to the philosophy of ‘changing the world one athlete at a time’.
Kelsey Puckett