Women in Sports: Playing with the Boys


Jun 5, 2014

Women in Sports: Playing with the Boys

From MAKER Lisa Leslie, the first woman to dunk in a pro game, to Violet Palmer, the first female NBA referee, women have been a big part of basketball history. Growing up, Lisa had to play with boys who didn't pass to her - so she used to steal the ball from her own teammates to take shots. Eventually the crowd would yell at the team to pass to her, because every time she stole the ball, she scored.

In honor of Lisa and the women who've made a name for themselves even when the boys tried to keep them down, we're taking a look at women who've played the sports that many traditionally think are "men's sports."

View the gallery above to learn about the women who never saw their passion for a sport as an obstacle, but as an opportunity and learn more about Lisa from her MAKERS interviews below.

Don't see a female athlete that should be on the list? Tweet at @MAKERSwomenwith your suggestion!


While dunking has been the staple of the NBA, Lisa Leslie was the first to do it in the WNBA, taking a big step for the world's respect of female athletes.  "Dunking is that separation between men and women's basketball. And if you can dunk, they're like okay we can give you a little more credit."
Violet Palmer broke a major glass ceiling in sports in 1997 when she became the first woman to officiate in the NBA, as well as the first female official in any major U.S. professional sport. 
Sam Gordon Gordon is the 9-year-old football sensation who grabbed the world's attention when a YouTube highlight video showcased her astounding abilities. She is the first female football player to appear on a Wheaties box. Photo: Disney-ABC via Getty Images
Erin DiMeglio DiMeglio became the first female quarterback in Florida history to play in a regular-season varsity game. She was also a recipient of Foot Locker’s Scholar Athlete Program and DoSomething.org’s $20,000 scholarship.  Photo: MCT via Getty Images
Holly Mangold Mangold played high school football as an offensive lineman. She was the first female non-kicker to play in an Ohio Division III high school football game She was a member of the 2012 US Olympic Team and competed in the superheavyweight division of the weightlifting competition. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Julie Chu The three-time Olympic Medallist is heading back to Sochi in 2014. Chu started playing hockey at the age of eight after an unsuccessful attempt at figure skating. Today she plays a forward on the U.S. women's ice hockey team. Photo: Getty Images
Tami Maida Maida was a junior varsity quarterback at Philomath High School in Philomath, Oregon. In 1981, she became the first known quarterback to also become homecoming princess. Helen portrayed Maida in the CBS movie "Quarterback Princess." Photo: Corvallis Gazette-Times
Alyssa Lampe Lampe is a freestyle wrestler who won the bronze medal in the 48 kg division at the 2013 World Wrestling Championships. Women’s wrestling made its Olympic Debut in Athens 2004. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Olivia Viney In 2013, Viney became the first female player to play a state Championship in the state of Michigan. Photo: YouTube
Liz Heaston Heaston is the first woman ever to score in a college football game on October 18, 1997 as a placekicker for the Willamette University Bearcats, which was competing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Photo: Willamette.edu
Jamie Burke Burke made her debut for the USA National Team in 2004 against the New Zealand Black Ferns and has played in both the 2006 and 2010 Women's Rugby World Cups. She was one of the team captains at the 2010 World Cup. Photo: Getty Images
Ashley Martin Ashley Martin became the first woman to play and score in an NCAA Division I American football game, and one of the first ever to score points in any college football game. Photo: YouTube
Marlen Esparza In 2012, Esparza became the first woman to qualify for the Olympics in the first year that women’s boxing was made an official event. Photo: Getty Images for HBO
Katie Hnida Hnida became the first woman to score in an NCAA Division I-A game, college football's highest level. In 2010, she became the kicker for the Fort Wayne FireHawks in the Continental Indoor Football League, making her the league's first female player. Photo: Getty Images
Julie Harshberger Harshberger was the second woman ever to play in the Continental Indoor Football League, the first being Katie Hnida of the Fort Wayne Firehawks. Harshberger would go on to become the first female to make a field goal in an indoor football professional game. Photo: YouTube
Tiffany Brooks The free agent right-handed pitcher and first baseman in Independent League Baseball became the first female baseball pitcher in the 21st century to sign a contract with a professional American men's baseball team.
Sarah Schkeeper The guard for the Women's Football Alliance's New York Sharks has started in every career game since her 2009 rookie year. Photo: Sarah Schkeeper
Kelly Clark Clark became a member of the U.S. Snowboard team in 2000, and later won a gold medal in the Winter Olympics. She's heading back to the Winter Games in Sochi this year. Getty Images
Adrienne Smith Smith played wide receiver for Team USA in the 2010 IFAF Women's World Championship and 2013 IFAF Women's World Championship. AFP/Getty Images
Maria Pepe Pepe is known as the first girl to play Little League baseball. By pitching in the spring of 1972, she became the first girl in more than two decades to even try to participate in one of America’s most beloved youth pastimes. Little League’s national powers-that-be moved quickly to remove her from competition. Watch Maria Pepe's story.  Getty Images
Lindsey Van Van was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics who believed that female ski jumpers' rights were violated because only male ski jumpers were permitted to compete in the Vancouver Olympics. The appeal was unsuccessful, but in 2011, it was announced that women's ski jumping on the normal hill would be included in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Photo: Getty Images

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