Looking at the crowd of scouts on the sidelines at the NBA pre-draft camp about five years ago, you might not have even realized that there was a woman in the mix. "I suited up in baggy sweats and put my hair up in a baseball cap," says Bonnie-Jill Laflin, the first and only scout for the men's basketball league. "I didn't want to be judged by the way I looked or be treated any differently than the men. But I was inspired to be my true self when one of the men in the crowd came up and said, 'As long as you know what you're doing, who cares what you look like?'"
Today, the former Miss Dallas-Fort Worth is enjoying her career—without disguises—and is spreading the word about achieving her dreams and supporting causes close to her heart.
What was your career path like to become an NBA scout? I actually started as a cheerleader, first for the Golden State Warriors in the NBA and later for the San Francisco 49ers NFL team, because I heard that was the easiest way to get into the industry. Then I went back to school at the University of Texas for my broadcast journalism degree to pursue sport broadcasting. I covered the Los Angeles Lakers, and the general manager and owner of the team asked if I was interested in becoming a scout for their organization. They knew I had knowledge of the game and what to look for in a player. Click below to learn about breaking sports barriers and Laflin's love of animals.
Why do you think more women don't join you working behind-the-scenes in professional sports? It's really male-dominated and women don't think they can break into the field. You have to work just as hard, if not harder, as any man because you're under a microscope. Everyday it's like jumping a hurdle because people questions whether I have what it takes or not. But you can make it in this field as a woman if you put your mind to it and after a few years I feel like I'm respected by the majority of the NBA. Just because I'm pretty doesn't mean I can't do this job!
What inspired you to get so interested in athletics? I was a tomboy growing up but also very girly. I loved to play football, basketball and baseball, but also participated in pageants and loved to dance. But I think my parents really knew I was different when I'd read Sporting News during my free time or ask my dad how fast a certain athlete ran the 40 [yard dash]. Sports surrounded me and I'm still active today.
How do you like stay fit now? I change it up daily so it's never boring. I run hills and stairs, kickbox and lift weights. Bar Method and pole dancings classes are also favorites because they're so fun! Y
ou love basketball, but we hear you love animals just as much, if not more. Can you tell us about that? I grew up on a ranch where animals were like friends. People often overlook farm animals because they're focused on dog and cat rescue and think of farm animals as food. That's why I got involved with Farm Sanctuary, an animal protection organization, to help raise money and awareness for the cause.
What are your favorite vegetarian meals? A lot of people say "ugh" when I say tofu, but if you stir fry it, it's great! Just mix veggies, tofu and soy sauce and you have a meal. I have a big sweet tooth, so I'm happy chocolate is vegetarian!
Now tell us: Who are your favorite female sports and fitness groundbreakers?