This month, espnW, a division of ESPN, announced its Impact 25, a list of prominent women making a positive contribution to the world of sports. ESPN honored many strong, driven, hard-working and hard-playing women, from WNBA star Brittney Griner, to a personal favorite of mine, Ultimate Fighting Champion, Ronda Rousey. However, in terms of importance to the mission of PeacePlayers International, where the goal is to bridge divides, develop leaders, and change perceptions, nobody has done more to bring women to the forefront of sports this past year than San Antonio Spurs Assistant Coach, Becky Hammon. In fact, Becky Hammon has done so much good for the sports world this past year that she has been named espnW’s Woman of the Year.
Becky has changed perceptions of what it means to be a woman in the world of sports. She is the first full-time, salaried coach in NBA history. Becky has been a bridge builder in her time as a San Antonio Spurs assistant, creating a bond between the WNBA and NBA, and with Head Coach Gregg Popovich, a man who Becky regards as a “progressive” mind with “a great understanding of people and societies”, according to a recent interview. Without question, Becky has also cultivated herself into a great leader in a world of men. She has honed and enhanced a dominant Spurs team, keeping them among the NBA’s best, and has learned a great deal from her boss, Gregg Popovich, and PPI Board and Spurs General Manager, RC Buford.
PPI also prioritizes the involvement of girls in its programs, both as coaches and as participants. Our current PPI – Middle East Fellows, Heba El-Hendi, a Fulbright Scholar and AmeriCorps volunteer, and Courtney Boylan, a University of Michigan women’s basketball alum, have been making connections between people their entire life, and at PeacePlayers, they have continued these efforts. Noy Bachar, a seven year participant in PPI – Middle East, is a change maker that aims to play a role in changing perceptions of Arabs while serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. Chantelle Hutchinson, a 16 year old Champions4Peace participant, works on and off the court to develop the integral activities of PPI – Northern Ireland. And there is Romy and Malak, two girls that, through the simple act of being friends, have made a world of difference in changing the perceptions of their families and their communities.