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We might have to wait a few more years for the first female player in a major men's sports organization, but women have already begun to pave the way by breaking through into top coaching and official positions.

In recent years, leagues like the NFL and NBA have started to recognize great sports minds regardless of gender. These women have made great strides in their professional lives and could be the start of trend that moves us towards more inclusive sports.

Jen Welter

Jen WelterPhoto Credit: azcentral.com

Jen Welter's work as an assistant coach for the Arizona Cardinals made recent waves in media as she is the first female to hold a coaching position of any kind in the NFL. This isn't the first time the linebacker specialist broke new ground for women in sports.

In January 2014, Welter became the first woman to hold a non-kicking position in a men's professional league when she played running-back for the Texas Revolution. In addition to being one of the toughest athletes on the field, Welter also holds a masters degree in sports psychology and a Ph.D. in Psychology. 

Violet Palmer

Violet PalmerPhoto Credit: Zimbio.com

In addition to two NCAA Division II championships and one of the highest regarded refs in the WNBA, Violet Palmer became the first woman to officiate an NBA game in a 2006 face off between the Indiana Pacers and the New Jersey Nets.

Since then, Palmer has become a staple in the NBA referee family, officiating hundreds of games while maintaining heavy involvement with the WNBA.

Becky Hammon

Becky HammonPhoto Credit: USAtoday.com

Hammon accomplished a lot in the WNBA. She led the league in scoring while playing for the Tennessee Fury in 2003, then became a sensation in San Antonio after leading the Silver Stars to the league's best record in 2007, earning the nickname "Big Shot Becky."

In the summer of 2014, Hammon was hired by the San Antonio Spurs, becoming the first female assistant coach in the NBA. In 2015, she led the San Antonio Spurs to a Summer League championship, becoming not only the first woman to head coach a summer team, but also the first to win a summer league title.

Sarah Thomas 

Sarah ThomasPhoto Credit: ABClocal.go.com

As the first woman to officiate a major college football game, the first woman to officiate a bowl game, and the first to officiate in a Big Ten stadium, Sarah Thomas once again made football history by becoming the first full-time female official in the NFL. 

Thomas' hiring came during Spring 2015, so her first game as a union official has yet to be seen, although she did work as a non-union official during the 2012 NFL referee lockout. 

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