Posts Tagged ‘Title IX’

Happy #FathersDay to my favorite feminist

June 15, 2014

I was raised by a feminist: but not the one you think. Truth be told, my dad was probably a better 70’s era feminist that my mother (and she was a feminist). My parents raised three children in the chaos that was the era of bad car seats, no helmets and toys with lead. Amazingly, we all survived (although sometimes my sister and I wonder if feeding my brother lead based paint because we were told kids liked the taste explains some of him).
My dad has never found it necessary to use a monosyllabic word when an uncommon polysyllabic word sufficed. More importantly, after stating whatever SAT worthy sentence he was discussing, he’d then explain the statement in normal human language (it’s because xxx). He never spoke to us as children: he translated adult into kid. One of his favorite stories is about a toy I had as a toddler: it had various shapes (circle, rectangle). My father taught me alternate words: rhombus, parallelogram, trapezoid. My grandmother played it with me once asking me the shape and instead answering rectangle, I provided ‘parallelogram’ as the answer. My mother said it was the last time my grandmother played the name the shape game with her daughter’s children.

Having daughters in the early days of Title IX meant that we could participate in the various sports leagues. Let me be clear: participation was playing the minimum, as catcher in T-ball because we had a tendency to pick flowers in the outfield or otherwise be disinterested. And we were bad: really bad. Our team didn’t lose – but that was not due to the contributions of my family. My dad would spend parts of each weekend playing 2-1 basketball games. Dad is 6 5. We were under 5 feet. He blocked our shots: he didn’t let us ‘win’ per se: if we scored before time was up we ‘won’. He also shot sky hooks (seriously). Barbie dolls, baseball bats, books: all were fair game. He taught me how to keeps score at a baseball game, he let my sister have peanuts and whatever else she ate. He didn’t view one over the other: he nurtured our interests and spent time with us.

Once, somebody made the comment to my father about how my dad had to ‘babysit’ the three of us: my dad said, you don’t babysit your own children: unheard of 30 years ago. He gave quirky advice as we headed to college “don’t ever call home after a night of drinking”. We would call my mom for the idealism: we would call my dad for the pragmatism. But the pragmatism wasn’t gender based: it was reality based. Take an economics class, take statistics. He raised two daughters and a son who work STEM based careers before it was trendy (and the one with a history degree finally figured out math).

I’ve always thought fathers receive the short end of the parenting stick. My dad cooked, did some of the housekeeping, gardening, helped with the canning. He avoided the laundry (budgetary reasons) and wisely stepped away from the decorating the house for Christmas. I’ve been told ‘most’ men don’t do this. The feminist ones do: and they are responsible for many of the cracks in the glass ceiling.

Love you Dad.

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Julie #Hermann: Not Just A #Rutgers Issue (I’m Looking at You #Tennessee)

May 27, 2013

I follow the University of Tennessee Lady Vol Athletic programs. I started following them the way of many non-alum by way of their program flagship for women’s athletics, the basketball program which until this year had been coached under the legendary Pat Head Summitt.

I am not sure where the line is on Hermann and saying 1996 was a different ‘era’ (it has been 17 years) as far as how players expect (yes, I wrote expect) to be treated.  In the article published in the NJ Star-Ledger, the paper reports on a letter delivered to Joan Cronan (then the AD for the women’s athletics department, Tennessee merged their programs less than 5 years ago) which The Star-Ledger summarized as:

“Their accounts depict a coach who thought nothing of demeaning them, who would ridicule and laugh at them over their weight and their performances, sometimes forcing players to do 100 sideline push ups during games, who punished them after losses by making them wear their workout clothes inside out in public or not allowing them to shower or eat, and who pitted them against one another, cutting down particular players with the whole team watching, and through gossip.”

The letter was given to Cronan in the spring of 1997.  1997 is a critical year in the time line: the basketball team had just completed their second title run during which the team had 10 losses.  HBO would run a documentary called A Cinderella Season: The Lady Vols Fight Back. The promotional information from DCTV?

“Winners of the 1996 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, the University of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers seemed poised to contend for the trophy again. But halfway through the 1997 season, the team were not living up to their promise. They were losing almost every important game of the season. Injury to a star player, Kellie Jolly, didn’t help. It seemed that even the remarkable efforts of Chamique Holdsclaw would not keep the team from falling apart. Could this team really win again?

A Cinderella Season: The Lady Vols Fight Back follows the legendary Lady Vols for an entire season, from 6:00 am torture runs to inside the locker room, from the bench during games to bus rides, broken bones, and broken hearts. You will feel like a member of the team as they turn tears into triumph at the 1997 NCAA Championship.

The film also captures the intensity and drive of Pat Summitt, the Tennessee coach, as she molds her team into winners.”

In her second book, Pat Summitt states, Raise the Roof, Pat Summitt writes “Anybody who had gone through our 29-10 season had run miles and miles of wind sprints” (page 32).  The 29-10 season? The 1996-1997 academic year. Later in the same book, Summitt discusses the relationship with the off guard in the 1997-98 team which would win a third consecutive national title “You’re being selfish and stubborn.  You are acting like a brat.  Is that who you really are?” (page 168).  Summitt states this was offered as a challenge to then freshman Semeka Randall.  Name calling a player by a high profile coach, later acknowledged in a published book: zero consequences.

There is more from the same book:

To LaSonda Stephens in an open practice “You need to grow your little ass up”.  (page 196)

Bringing a copy of an unflattering newspaper article to Semeka Randall for her to read.  (page 208)

From Pat Summit’s first book, Reach for the Summitt:

“I saw the spot on the wall where I had thrown a cup of water in frustration with my center, Abby Conklin.” (page 4) in the presence of Conklin and the coaching staff (page 16).

Making a team practice in un-washed game day uniforms (page 107-108).

Notice a pattern here? The difference, of course, is that Pat Summitt’s players didn’t revolt.  The stories in and around the Lady Vols program around Pat Summitt are legendary.  For many years, Pat Summitt was considered THE coach in women’s athletics.  A young volleyball coach arrives to Knoxville and bears witness to behaviors which has created a beloved coach and a winning program.

Fast forward 20 or so years, where are the criticisms for the University of Tennessee for not investigating (remember, Hermann quit coaching and became an administrator at Tennessee) now? The outcry in Knoxville is a bit alarming.  Yes, Summitt stepped down due to early onset Alzheimer’s but her behavior of disrespect to players was openly accepted.  And Hermann’s replacement? 4 transfers this year under heavy questioning over verbal abuse of players.

I don’t know where the line is; I do know this.  I don’t believe for one second Hermann forgot all of the incidents (maybe some of the finer details) but her behavior on the Knoxville campus mirrored the documented behavior of the iconic basketball coach that continued after Hermann’s departure from the Knoxville campus.

Where is the line in the sand? And why is only one former coach being criticized?

Chance encounter

March 27, 2012

Fourteen or so years ago, my brother and I cut across a parking lot by Thompson-Boiling Arena on the way to a Tennessee/Notre Dame football game. We wove among tailgaters talking about our mom’s cancer having come back, trying to make sorts of the crushing news and the next thing I knew my brother was sprawled (and I do mean sprawled) out on the ground having been taken out by a kid. I looked at the kid to make sure he was ok, smirked at my brother and in with in a second was paralyzed by fright. A voice said something like this “Tyler, I’ve told you a hundred times”. I REALLY made sure the kid, one Tyler Summitt, was ok. The last thing I needed in my life was my brother harming the prince of East Tennessee. Everybody knew Tyler, everybody knew Pat and now my brother was sprawled out on a parking lot having taken out a kid. Great.

The first thing Pat Summitt did was make sure my brother was ok. | stood there stunned. Pat made Tyler apologize, then she apologized and we parted ways. As we walked away, I looked at my brother and said you had better be grateful you didn’t harm Tyler Summitt.

Since I went to my first UT game in 1988 until last year, one thing was the same. Pat would prowl the sidelines, barking at her team, the officials, Smokey and just about everybody at TBA. This year has been nothing short of painful. Every game, every venue opposing fans would pay tribute. Reporters from major outlets have talked about how Pat Summitt single handedly changed the perception of women’s athletics (with a major assist from Title IX). As clearly as I can see the fantastic title game in Kansas City, I can see the painful losses – the national title game in Philly where they carried Geno around … and the back door cuts after back door cuts. The loss in the 2001 regional semi final where I was so mad, I went out at got something good that was orange. A cat (really) – it’s how Jackson came into my life. He was almost named Pat – but I had a nephew Patrick and well, Jackson is a boy.

Pat Summitt has done it all in her sport: the first Olympic Captain for women’s basketball, 1098 career victories, more than one court named after her, legions of fans, a 100% graduation rate: last night 3 graduate students started for Tennessee. I turned the game off at half time. I couldn’t watch it anymore. Tennessee was going to lose. I couldn’t see through my tears. This wasn’t the most talented team – Baylor deserved the win. I wanted a fairy tale ending. I wanted one more title.

The answer is that this is the legacy of Pat: more teams are more competitive than at any other time in women’s basketball. Stanford, Baylor, UConn, Tennessee, Kentucky, Duke, Maryland, Notre Dame, LSU, Georgia all have or are building in the case of Kentucky, deep basketball traditions. Women in sports are becoming more the norm: I work with a former DI hockey player. My niece is a fantastic ball player. A daughter of a friend is on a traveling volleyball team. There were other programs that embraced Title IX (Anson Dorrance at UNC leaps to mind with soccer) but basketball is a sport that most individuals will probably play (from H-O-R-S-E to competitive) at some point during their lives.

I watched the clips from Holly Warlick and Kim Mulkey today. Both were fraught with emotion and near tears. At some point, Pat will step down. Probably this off season. It hurts. Alzheimer’s is an ugly, brutal disease that does nothing but rob people.

As I’ve thought about how much this feels painful, I remember that crisp October afternoon. A chance encounter with an iconic figure. And oh, how she will be missed.

If only there were fairy tale endings

February 12, 2012

I love March Madness.  For most of the month, I’m transported into a land where David’s beat Goliath, where crazy shots win the games and, where, at the end, many players will have played a game competitively for the last time and the tears you see are real tears of realizing that this was the last time you would get to do something you would love.  This year, I have a hunch it will be the last time we see Pat Summit prowl the lines as the legendary coach of the Lady Volunteers.  If there is a fairy tale ending, for Pat, UT would cut down the nets in Denver.  The reality is that it won’t happen: and oh, I wish I was wrong.  I was in the stands in Kansas City (I can still see that in-freaking-sane 3 point shot by Kellie Jolly).  I was there in Knoxville, Boston, Philly, Palo Alto, New Orleans when they didn’t cut down the nets.  I court side in Tampa and grabbed my ACL repaired knee when Vikki Baugh hurt hers.

It doesn’t matter where you in the stadium, when the Lady Vols play, you can hear Pat’s voice.  I’ve heard that distinticve Middle Tennessee twang all over the country as I’ve caught games when I could.  This year I saw the Lady Vols play at Madison Square Garden.

Maggie Dixon Classic

All season, long time assistant Holly Warlick has been running the huddles.  In an exceptionally perceptive, well written article, Dan Flesser examines the role that Warlick has tried to balance this year.  At the University of Tennessee, there is a saying “Vol For Life”: it comes out of the saying on the locker rooms that states “Today, I will give my all for Tennessee.”  Warlick was the first athlete – male or female – to have her jersey retired.  She was one of the first basketball All-Americans at UT, while attending on a track scholarship because basketball did not have enough.  Working without a contract, she is trying to balance something most of us cannot fathom.  Summitt isn’t just her boss, but a life long mentor and friend.  Warlick’s words were telling: she doesn’t know if Pat will be back next year.

These are the ways I want to remember Pat (bad fashion and all):

Leading Rocky Top at UT Men's Game

8th National Title

That is 3 in row!

Not always a fashion plate: always coaching

 (Even the serious fashion faux pas outfits!)

Coaching in the huddle

There will be some hard decisions to be made in Knoxville at the end of the season.  Sadly, I think it is time for Pat to step aside at the end of the season.  She’s given her all for Tennessee. She is a VFL.  And my fairy tale ending is this ending in number nine.  I know that won’t happen (Stanford!).  My only hope is that this can happen with grace and dignity for all parties involved.  This doesn’t have a happy ending.  One of the greatest coaches, one of the greatest women pioneers in athletics doesn’t get to ride off into the sunset.  May her legacy be the generations of women who embody Title IX and having the courage to publicly battle Alzheimer’s.

Backing Pat and Other Random Thoughts From Early in the WCBB Season.

December 14, 2011

I’m a hoops junkie.  March is my birthday-Christmas-any celebration you want to name with an extended dance version track.  I live stream games on the phone, stay up until all hours of the night watching Cinderella’s try to win a game and seeing how making the tourney for some schools is just as (if not as exciting) as reaching the Final Four for major powerhouses.

Last season, Gary Blair led Texas A&M to the Aggies first national title. It really was a joyous event for WCBB junkies.  Blair served as an assistant in the vaulted program at Louisiana Tech for many years before becoming the head coach at Arkansas and then Texas A&M.  It was a great ending to a sport that has been dominated by 2-3 programs for a long time.  And to see Blair, who opted to remain coaching “girls sports” in Texas reach the pinnacle of his profession carried over into the off season.

And then the unthinkable happened.  Pat Summit announced she had early onset dementia/Alzheimer type.  Pat Summit: one of the iconic figures of women’s athletics.  Hell, she rehabbed from a torn ACL when that was a career ending injury while coaching the new University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer basketball program.  Over the years she has an obscene winning record, a 100% graduation rate for those who have stayed 4 years (and next semester she will sport 3 graduate students on her roster, Lady Vols just don’t graduate, they graduate early), every class has been to the Final Four since the NCAA started sponsoring a tournament, and all but 3 classes have won a national title. Mind boggling.  Yes, UNC Soccer, Penn State Volley Ball and UConn have had longer winning streaks and more national titles.

But Pat is more than that: she built a program in the infancy of Title IX to a consistent national power. In the heart of football country, in a state where basketball is rarely on the radar screen, she convinced people to become fans of the game: not just her program.  This past weekend, I was at Madison Square Garden for the Maggie Dixon Classic.  I sat next to a group of people from Vermont who came specifically to see the UT Lady Vols.  I asked if they had ties to UT: they’d never been to Knoxville but are fans of Summit and what she has done to raise the visibility of women’s athletics.  As I waited for my train back to Boston, there was a noticeable amount of UT orange in the waiting room.  We all started re-hashing the game: I was the only one who had ever been to Thompson-Boiling arena to see a game.  When I mentioned my parents had season tickets, it was like I said I had seats a Lambeau field.  There were UConn fans who felt the need to go and cheer for Pat despite the unfortunate ending that series had, people who simply knew how much she did along with a handful of others to make Title IX work.

One of the issues I’ve had with the LV program over the years is the public criticism of the players.  I prefer Geno’s closed practices, limiting his players from public scrutiny (and truth be told, I like his sense of humor a bit better, even though I’ll always root for the Lady Vols first!) as much as possible.  Both pushed each other into making better programs.  Both coaches, along with Leon Barrymore, C. Vivian Stringer, Tara Vanderveer and Jim Foster built programs when graduation meant the end playing the sport.

So I stood there on Sunday, watching Pat Summit, receive one of the dozens of accolades she will probably pick up this year about speaking up.  I’m a sap: I had tears in my eyes.  When Kim Mulkey and Brittney Griner took time to give her a hug, in the middle of the basketball game, when Sue Wicks

reminded everybody present that Pat Summit was one of the reasons so many women, both athletes and non-athletes can reach the pinnacle of a given profession, I realized how lucky I’ve been to watch the Lady Vols for over 20 years, every season, in and out.  I still think Geno’s way funnier.  But Pat? I think she put the first crack in Hillary’s glass ceiling.

Last night as the Lady Vols played their annual game against Rutgers, I received a text from my mom saying the standing ovation for Pat was well over a minute. At the RAC. When I saw my twitter feed light up with comments from the ESPN announcers and other individuals present about the standing ovation, when I heard about the Rutgers team selling bracelets for the Pat Summit foundation, after the Baylor team wore purple to raise Alzheimer’s awareness and Carson-Newman wore the We Back Pat shirts during an exhibition game, I thought about how one person could make an impact.  In 1974, women’s athletics was an afterthought in the college sport scene: now the Final Four, Frozen Four and championships in soccer and volleyball routinely sell out.  How women’s athletics is not an afterthought: how rivalries exist and how Title IX needed just as many coaches who knew young women could be as competitive as young men.

And I thought about Pat: who has really been there since the start, who has seen the evolution of women in athletics.  And I bawled: because after a life time of shaping and molding a generation of players, coaches and young women, she deserved to retire when she wanted to and enjoy the fruits of her labors.  And that how even if you have everything money can buy, sometimes, that’s just not enough.

It’s only a few months into the season, already the sport is mourning the loss of 2 coaches in a plane crash, too many ACLs to count and realizing that one of the leaders of women’s athletics is facing the battle of her life.  But the lining is that this is all news: 40 years ago, it probably wouldn’t have even made a mention in the local paper.

The Women’s World Cup

July 19, 2011

An open letter to the US Women’s National Soccer Team (that probably only my mom will read),

You didn’t win the World Cup.  It bites.  Not meeting a goal always does, it’s why we set them.  Pundits, philosophers, teachers all say you learn more in losses than in victories. Meh.  I’m not convinced. Sure, as an athlete it gives you game tape to break down, improve your skills (a rarity for a career, I can’t look back at mistakes on my day job with a tangible copy to see how to improve. Luckily, I don’t do anything important!).

I heard a few of you say you want make your own chapter, loose some of the shadow of ’99.  Maybe it’s a good thing; maybe it’s something that as a non-athlete I don’t get.  What I do know, is that most of you were probably in the crowds cheering on that magical ’99 team.  There were a few lightening bolts for those women: at home, coming off the ’96 and ’98 Olympic games where the women’s teams dominated (soccer, basketball, softball and hockey).  The ‘99ers were the Title IX daughters.  The ones who had to fight to get on boy only teams as playing fields slowly opened to girls.  I know, they are my age and when I heard them speak about being the ‘only’ girl, or shortening the name of Patricia to Pat, I nodded.  My sister and I were the first two girls in our town’s t-ball team.  We were very bad players (ok, let’s face it, t-ball isn’t really a sport…it’s about learning teamwork!).  The boys didn’t want us on their team, we were clueless (my sister asked why they didn’t sell peanuts at t-ball games) and well, maybe managed a hit every other game and played the minimum.

By the time we were in high school, the t-ball teams were full of little girls.  No longer were girls relegated to swimming, diving, track and other individual sports.  Slowly, “powerhouse” universities started to emerge in team sports for women: UNC for soccer, LaTech, Tennessee and later UConn for basketball, UCLA and later Arizona for Softball, Stanford and now Penn State for volleyball.  Look at your roster now: you don’t have to go to UNC to become a national team member (Ok, Julie Foudy would yell Go Cardinal!).

Your legacy can’t be the same as the ‘99ers.  They fulfilled Title IX.  Your team, your generation has done so much more.  You are risk takers: you went to different schools and created traditions.  You’ve tried so hard to get a women’s league going, again.  You’ve won an Olympic Gold Medal (and let’s face it: I know the World Cup is your sport’s pinnacle, but in so many ways, the Olympic title is much easier understood).  You represent with class, and dignity.  You don’t make excuses.  And you left your all on the field.

You are the next generation.  Your expectations are greater, they should be.  But the world is catching up and that is better for all women.  You captivated a nation during a long summer of divide.  My nephews watched with their sister.  Their sisters pointed out the men didn’t medal, and “the girls won the silver.”  I know I have to attend a few soccer matches in the fall for a pair of 6 year olds who at last check were trying to hit beach balls with their heads.

In a few years, when you ask a 12, 13 or 14 year old what they remember about the 2011 World Cup.  The probably won’t say “You lost to Japan.”  You’ll probably hear about teamwork, not giving up, some crazy headers and how it looked like fun.  And you might hear a story about a kid who picked up the game from watching.

You might not have won a trophy: but you made an impact.  Once again, you reminded young women and little girls that we can do anything.  And you picked up the respect of a few boys for how you played the game, and that is never easy.  And you reminded us all, that sometimes, the struggle is the victory.

It’s your game; it’s your national championship

April 5, 2011

Title IX, enacted in 1972, required equal opportunity for girls and women in high school and college athletics. In 1973, a young high school coach named Gary Blair started teaching and coaching in Dallas. Initially, he had hoped to become a football or baseball coach: instead, his first opportunity was to coach girls basketball: more specifically a new program (probably in light of Title IX).  When given the opportunity to move on to become an assistant in a high school football program, Blair turned the job down. Make no mistake: turning down football in Texas is, well, like turning down basketball in Indiana.

Perhaps it is more than fitting after a long road in high school and college coaching won his first national title in Indiana with his team from Texas A&M.  Blair took a 9th seeded Arkansas team to the Final Four in ’98.  Tonight, he finally received his ring.

The young women playing collegiate athletics didn’t live in a time when sport wasn’t open to them.  Gary Blair is one of the many teachers, coaches who took a chance and started coaching young women. He turned down the biggest sport in his home state to coach girls – back when that was an insult. His speech was gracious to Notre Dame. His humility is a lesson for everybody. His team gave him the greatest gift they could give their coach: a national title. In Indiana, in the stadium where Hoosiers was filmed, a team of unknown players delivered. It is the stuff movies are made of: tonight, it was magical. Tonight, a person who has given so much to the sport got something back. Tonight the good guy won. Congratulations Coach Blair; those of us who love the sport couldn’t be happier for you and the Aggies.  You reminded us why we love the sport.

College Sports

January 1, 2011

Penn State VB

So, another January 1st, another day of college football and the celebration of the bowl season, college athletics and the positive side of sports (I don’t want to get into all the violation craziness): the sheer joy of victories, the real tears of upsets.  2010 should be remembered in NCAA world for two historic markers: the UConn women’s improbable win streak ended at 90 in basketball,  and the Penn State women’s volleyball team had an over the top win streak of 109 ended then went on to win their 4th straight Division I volleyball national title.

There will always be debates about parity in women’s athletics versus men’s athletics, that it’s “harder” to win 30 games men’s hoops than women’s hoops but the reality? A 30 win basketball or volleyball season is to be celebrated: without debate of gender.

The young women playing high school and college sports today are the daughters of Title IX.  They didn’t grow up when young girls playing a sport was an anomaly. Drive through the suburbs of Chicago, Dallas, SF, Denver on a Saturday: just as many pig-tailed girls playing soccer, t-ball, basketball as boys.  When I signed up to play t-ball at 5, I was the first female to ever play for the park league in my medium-sized Chicago suburb.  The next year, my sister was the second.  My oldest niece plays 3 sports and is widely thought of to be the best athlete in her school.  She asked if she could play football, and was told yes.  She would have been the starting quarterback but alas, discovered that her other passion, cheerleading was FOR football (sigh).  She doesn’t know an era where young women cannot receive college scholarships for athletics or academics.

From Division III swimmers to Division I fencers, most play for the love of the sport, with little opportunity after college aside from rec leagues, teaching others and the lessons learned from playing a team sport, being part of a team in predominately individual event sports and the dedication and time management to be a student-athlete.  Like any other group, there are a few that break the rules but there are so many more that compete to compete.  And yes, it’s still fun to discover that a friend of yours holds the college record at your school 20 years later.

What makes the dominance of Penn State and UConn in their respective sports so amazing is that for the first time, there was a glare of a spotlight, there was expectations of “never loosing” and there were grown men and women as well as children watching.  For the first time, two sports showed the fulfillment of Title IX.  Their accomplishments were celebrated on ESPN, national media outlets and on their college campuses.  The “streak breakers” of Stanford (for both!) had a 4 year undefeated dual meet swimming record of its own back in the mid 90’s.

Sports and the lessons learned in competition carry over.  And as the Penn State campus celebrates its 4th straight volleyball title, and as UConn learns from its defeat by Stanford, the greater lesson should be learned.  Throwing, spiking and passing like a girl? It’s something to be celebrated.  Just as the bowl season is to be enjoyed: it takes commitment, dedication and a passion to play at the collegiate level.

Kick back and enjoy watching your favorite team and sport. But remember, these really are just kids playing for the love of a sport.  And somewhere, I am certian, John Wooden enjoyed watching the fall sports season.