Carli Lloyd entered this summer second or third fiddle in the public eye to teammate Abby Wambach, the face of U.S. women’s soccer for the past decade. It took about 15 minutes in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final for Lloyd to become one of the country’s most famous and popular athletes, showing how fast perceptions can change.
As a country and a culture, we are in the midst of a turning point in sports. Lloyd is currently sharing the spotlight with Serena Williams, who has won four consecutive major tournaments and could complete the traditional grand slam at the U.S. Open this fall. Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the NBA’s Summer League, Becky Hammon, the first female head coach on any level in the pro basketball league, led the San Antonio Spurs to the title. Speaking of championships, it’s hard to do justice to Ronda Rousey’s dominance of UFC in just a few words. Last but certainly not least, Jen Welter, a former rugby player for Boston College, became the first female coach in NFL history in July, working with the Arizona Cardinals’ inside linebackers as training camp/preseason intern coach.
Women’s sports have been on an upward trajectory for some time, but something feels different now. This is particularly true in the case of the U.S. women’s national soccer team. “A lot more people were invested in it,” says Monica Paul, executive director of the Dallas Sports Commission. “I noticed a lot more involvement than four years ago, from kids talking about the World Cup to the men in our office who were all abuzz. It was nice to see.”
The trickle-down effect of the on-field action to behind-the-scenes planning in the industry is impossible to ignore. As athletes and fans fully accept female athletes and coaches on the same level as their male counterparts, attitudes will change in all aspects of sports. The path will become easier for women’s sports planners, in no short measure thanks to the elite event professionals who have outperformed outdated stereotypes for years and, in some cases, decades.
With our women in the sports spotlight, which we will be rolling out online soon, we’ve decided to do our part to make sure they get the recognition they deserve for not only trailblazing, but elevating the sports tourism industry as a whole. Look at any of the accomplishments of these women, and they would be impressive—regardless of gender.