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Women in DFW Sports Blazing Trails For Next Generation By Taylor Baird

The women who work in sports in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have been trailblazers long before movements like ‘Me Too’ or the push for social justice during COVID-19 changed the game. As teams and venues learned to navigate “the new normal” of social distancing and health and safety standards, women at all levels within each organization helped push sports forward, even as games were being played without fans. “The good thing for women in sports is we’ve done a lot of the firsts already,” said Sarah Woodruff, Associate Director of Football Operations at SMU. Taunee Taylor,

AVP of Alumni and Player Relations for the Texas Rangers, has seen a lot of those firsts up close herself. She said when she started with the club 40 years ago, most of the time women were only hired in support roles. “Of late it’s been rewarding to see that there have been tremendous strides made by women for advancement in all facets of the business, regardless of in the office or on the field,” she said. “I am excited that we have been able to pave the way so that young girls have no limits as to the goals they’ll be able to pursue in baseball or otherwise.”


Now, when girls look around the sports world, they are seeing more and more women in a variety of positions throughout organizations that are proving to them that they can aspire to – and have success in – a career in this industry. Delanie Foley, the Director of Booking at AT&T Stadium, believes that the expansion of the business side of sports has also broadened access to the sports world for young girls and women. Whether it’s in coaching, refereeing, management, operations, or on the business

Delanie Foley, AT&T Stadium

side helping to make teams run smoothly, that explosion of sports beyond just the game itself has provided women a myriad of new opportunities. Those opportunities are coming in some of the most visible and most valuable sports in the industry, too.

golf is. It builds confidence, boosts business networks, can provide a career path, and economic opportunity.” With the help of organizations like Women in Sports and Events (WISE), girls and young women have even more access to resources, mentors, and programs to turn the dream of working in even the most high-profile segments of the sports industry a reality.

Sandy Cross, PGA of America

“There has been a very positive shift for women in the sports industry as more women have taken on leadership roles over the last few years,” said Melissa Koehler, Director of Marketing at American Airlines Center. “As leaders in the sports industry, it is important to foster continuing growth and lift up young women within the industry through mentorship and internship programs. Through organizations like WISE and mentoring opportunities across the industry, I believe this will continue.”

Women are leading the way as business owners and entrepreneurs in America

“Women are leading the way as business owners and entrepreneurs in America,” said Sandy Cross, the Chief People Officer of the PGA of America. “I see this continuing to transcend into the $84 billion golf industry. More and more women are discovering how incredibly empowering BEHIND THE BANNER MARCH 2021 EDITION

Another way women impact the sports industry is finding Caption Text


ways to utilize the wide-ranging platforms and reach offered by sports. “My passion for making a sustainable difference in the community has always been extremely important to me and I’m very fortunate to be in a job where we have the resources available to help make positive change happen,” said Chelsea Livingston, the Director of the Dallas Stars Foundation. “Being a professional sports

Chelsea Livingston, Dallas Stars Foundation

team, we have a unique platform to work with and highlight organizations that are doing amazing things in the community.” For LaDondra Wilson, the Dallas Wings Foundation Executive Director, that meant launching the club’s charitable arm in the middle of a pandemic to continue the important groundwork that was set in motion last summer by Wings player Isabelle Harrison through the #IAM campaign.

“The purpose is to show all that their struggles are seen by the Dallas Wings organization and that the team is here for anyone that has faced social inequality of any kind,” explained Courtney Oversby, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Wings. After Wilson was hired, she put the ethos and organizational structure in place to successfully launch the foundation just four short months later, a rather tall order.

LaDondra Wilson, Dallas Wings Foundation

Stories like Wilson’s that detail the impact women are having on the sports industry in the Dallas-Fort Worth area could fill many pages. The impact they will continue to have in sports is integral to moving us towards a new post-pandemic “normal” where sports offer us something to look forward to experiencing together once again.

As leaders in the sports industry, it is important to foster continuing growth and lift up young women...


athletes unlimited volleyball set for success in dallas Will the next generation of professional sports focus on an athlete-dominated model as opposed to the traditional team-owner led structure? That’s the vision of Athletes Unlimited, an upstart group looking to change the way business is done in professional sports. The concept seems logical. Athletes earn money based on their teams’ success. And, yes, teams is plural, as players aren’t committed to a single team during a season. They switch teams weekly with drafts held on social media. This again allows the focus to remain on the athletes, as fans begin to follow the players instead of specific teams. For the athletes, this model allows them to grow their own personal brands and monetize their efforts. Thus far, Athletes Unlimited has produced seasons in softball and women’s volleyball, which is wrapping up its inaugural campaign this month here in Dallas. In the Athletes Unlimited structure, all events within a season emanate from a single location. In volleyball’s case, all matches are played at Fair Park Coliseum, with contests airing on cable television and streaming worldwide on the likes of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, and Dailymotion. Once the volleyball season ends, the focus will turn to women’s lacrosse, which launches in July. It’s certainly a different take on your traditional sports model, and don’t look for the NFL or NBA to be making the transition any time soon. But for team sports outside of the major leagues, this is a new concept worth paying attention to, as it just might prove that innovation in sports is not yet dead after all. To the athletes goes the glory, and that’s especially true with Athletes Unlimited.

Q&A with AU Volleyball player

jordan larson Tell us how your experience has been with Athletes Unlimited and what it means to launch the only pro indoor women’s league here in Dallas? It has been amazing. I’m really so grateful to be here and to be able to play in the states. The city of Dallas has been a wonderful host. Unfortunately, due to COVID, fans are not allowed to watch your games in person. Can you describe the competition and what they’re missing. We are incredibly sad that no fans can come! They are definitely missing out on some high-level intense volleyball. Lots of long rallys and girls trying to find rhythms with their new team.

BEHIND THE BANNER MARCH 2021 EDITION

You are playing for the Pink Fund – tell us a little bit about it and your reason for playing for them. I am super excited to be playing for the Pink Fund. My mom was actually diagnosed with breast cancer when I was young and went through some financial troubles, so the fact that the Pink Fund provides women financial help during some of the most stressful times was a huge reason why I choose them. How did you adjust from playing in college to playing internationally? What were the biggest challenges? I think for me, the biggest challenge was that self accountability. I think in college we get quite a bit of help from support staff, so when graduating it all fell on to your shoulders. Learning that balance and what works for me was a big adjustment.


What advice do you have for players going overseas for the first time? It must be quite a culture shock. It is definitely quite a shock, but I would encourage players to lean into that discomfort. I believe there is only personal growth when putting yourself in those situations. It definitely isn’t easy. What keeps you motivated to keep playing volleyball professionally? This a great question, I think, for me, the one thing that keeps me motivated is striving for excellence. I feel like I still have so much to learn and I just want to be the best I can be. What is your hope for the future of women’s volleyball? I hope that young girls will have the chance to see what is happening right now, the ability to play pro volleyball in

the states and say, ‘I can do that one day. I can stay close to home and my family can come watch.’ It gives me all the feels thinking about if I ever have a daughter. Have you been to Dallas before and have you been able to see any of the city since you arrived? I have been to Dallas before, but many years ago for some club tournaments, I believe, so it is really great being back in the city. I have been able to walk around downtown and see some things around the Cotton Bowl. Seeing all the parks in the city is amazing. It makes me wish I would have brought my dog.


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RANGERS SET FOR OPENING DAY AT GLOBE LIFE FIELD Talk about anticipation. First, the Texas Rangers finally put the finishing touches on their much-anticipated new stadium, complete with the retractable roof that promises to make summer evenings in Arlington more bearable. But just as the organization was ready to welcome the masses to its new palace, the world shut down, and the new ballpark next to the old ballpark sat as an empty shrine, a tease to the future and a time when the world is back to normal. We’re not quite back to normal yet, but it just might feel that way April 5 in Arlington when the Rangers host their first-ever home opener at Globe Life Field. No COVID restrictions. A full stadium of Rangers fans there for afternoon baseball. A heated rival in the opposing dugout. The optimism that comes with a new season. Welcome back Texas Rangers! While this Rangers ballclub may not have the prognosticators thinking World Series, this season should be fun to watch. How will the new stadium play? How many homers will Joey Gallo crush? Who’s going to take command as the leader on the mound? And which young guys will step forward as the future of the organization? Answers to all of these questions should play out over the coming months. So let’s sit back, enjoy the comfortable nights at the new park, and appreciate being able to get out and take in America’s pastime.

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Behind the Banner - March 2021  

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