We've been writing about women's pro sports quite a bit lately, and for good reason. Whether it's a massive global tournament or a massive global protest, there's a lot happening as female athletes fight for the same exposure, opportunity, and reward that males receive.
But the world of sports is about more than just players. Coaching is another area where women have found access difficult. In a report from a couple years ago, of the around 2,600 coaches in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and MLS (both top teams and minor league clubs), just six of them were female. SIX.
That's a mere .2%.
Which is why were so excited for Jessica Roque. This 30 year-old from Mississauga, Ontario just spent a week as a guest coach for the Sacramento Kings of the NBA. As, and it turns out, she made a bit of Canadian history, too.
Come on down!
Jessica was always a great player. She was a star high school baller, and played college basketball from 2006 to 2010 at Cleveland State in the U.S. Then she got into coaching. Right now, she's the assistant coach for the Ryerson women's basketball team. So how did she end up in Sacramento? A friend texted her!
Roy Rana is an assistant coach with the Kings. But he used to coach the Ryerson men's team, where he met Jessica. So when an opportunity came up for a summer tournament position, he sent her a text. That was all the opening that she needed!
So incredibly grateful to @Roy_Rana for the opportunity to be out here in Sactown for the California Classic. Thank you for empowering me and those around you to shine bright! pic.twitter.com/qEHWegDkS6
— Jessica Roque (@JRoque50) July 4, 2019
This move makes her the first Canadian woman to ever serve on an NBA bench. Awesome!
NBA leads the way
Of course, people like Jessica Roque are still the exception not the rule. After all, this was just a guest coaching stint for a week during a summer league. It's hardly a full time job. But those do exist for women, and the NBA is leading the way.
The San Antonio Spurs made headlines back in 2014 when they hired Becky Hammon as an assistant coach. As one of the league's best franchises of the last two decades, the Spurs have proved that a woman can be just as effective on the bench as a man.
And this coming season, the NBA and its development leagues will feature eight women as coaches (including Canadian Tamara Tathan who will coach the Raptors 905, the team's G League club). While that's still a small number compared to the hundreds of male coaches in the NBA system, it's a strong leap forward for that report of a few years ago.
Will Jessica become a permanent addition to that group? As she told CBC.ca, "If head coaching jobs come open, I apply. If someone gives me an opportunity to go to a Kings camp, I go. And kind of just see where that takes me."