A Reflection of Sports Involvement as a Player and Coach At the High School and Collegiate Levels
Barbara Marshall and Christina Smith
February 1st marked a significant date for all girls and women in sports. The day marked the 26th Annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD). This recognition day is one of many events which will highlight the 40th anniversary of the celebration of the passing of the landmark legislation Title IX, which bans sex discrimination for academics and athletics in schools. From a historical perspective, this legislation became law as a result of fathers pushing for the rights of their daughters to have fair and equal rights to participate in the sports just as their sons. For me, it was my mother who pushed for equal rights for my participation in high school sports.
Pre-Title IX in the 1960s - High School Sports
During my high school days in the mid-1960s, I would be absent from school for tennis tournaments sponsored by area colleges. Upon returning to school, my mother would write a note excusing me from school due to illness. I would represent our country club for affiliation to qualify for the tournament. Of course my brothers were always excused for their school athletic events. When I returned from the third tournament on the following Monday with my mother’s note in hand, the dean showed me the newspaper photo of me accepting the championship trophy. Sadly, I received an unexcused double absence. At least, I should have received an “atta girl” for winning the statewide tournament! Unfortunately, the only recognition I received was a double excuse and a “take your seat.” This scene repeated itself often to many girls everywhere. Not only in sports but in the academics, where girls could not take higher level math and science courses. Title IX legislation was long overdue and didn’t pass until June 1972. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s for Title IX to be enforced at most high school and collegiate levels of sports.
Pre-Title IX in the 1960s - College
At the first home game while watching the Shock players warm up on the court, my mind returned to yesteryear 1966 to my collegiate basketball playing days. My coach, who was also a tenured full-time professor, posted the roster and distributed uniforms. The uniforms were our physical education one-piece uniforms that we had to iron ourselves. We traveled to OU, OSU, Northeastern State and other cities by carpool with the upperclass teammates driving their cars. The season lasted 12-15 games including a season ending all-colleges play day. We played competitive ball; played to win. In the 1960, with the play day format, there was no ‘state champion’.
All American Red Heads as Role Models
As the WNBA Shock enter their third season of play with a new coach, it gives me time to reflect upon the years that many of my friends and I played basketball in college. At the end of the second season, the All American Red Heads, a professional women’s basketball team who were featured at halftime of a Shock home game. It just so happened that some of the Red Heads were our former professors and coaches from college. There was no Title IX for them during the 1930-1970’s. However, they found a way to play and these women were known throughout the United States for their outstanding skills, team play, and promoting the game of basketball. Thanks go to the Shock organization for bringing back the All American Red Heads basketball team so our Tulsa families and young girls were given the opportunity to know of this famous basketball team.
A couple weeks ago, a few friends and I attended a NCAA D-1 women’s basketball game between two top teams. At the beginning of the pre-game, I looked down on the bench, and counted four assistants and the head coach as well as support staff. I thought to myself, “Look what Title IX has done for collegiate sports!” A head coach now has the support to develop her program at the D-1 level of play.” The game we watched that Saturday was so exciting. It went down to the wire, with the team having the last possession, taking the final shot! So let’s hear it for Title IX! Then I found myself reflecting about what if...?
Coaching at the University of Oklahoma
After a year of teaching elementary PE, I was offered a dual teaching and coaching position at the University of Oklahoma in 1971. I remember talking with Bob Stevens, former head basketball coach at OU about the day when there was going to be big time women’s basketball on the OU campus. That was 1972. We were both working as Directors of Intramurals (Men’s and Women's) at the time. I didn’t realize Title IX was going to take so long to evolve into the program it is today. We anticipated a timeline of 1975-76. We miss that date by ten years!
My job description included a teaching load of five classes per semesters, coaching volleyball, basketball, tennis and serving as director of Women’s Intramurals throughout the year. My undergraduate degree in HPER and 4 years as a multi-sport varsity athlete prepared me for my role as Women’s “Athletic Director/Head Coach [in today’s titles] and Director of Women’s Intramurals. At the time, the total budget for all sports was $400.00!
Title IX was unspoken at the time. Remember, I was coaching during the 1971-1973 years. I remember during the basketball seasons, we were playing our home games on the court at the Men’s Intramurals (IM) North Base site, while men’s IM games were being played on both courts. Whistles blowing everywhere! Let’s just say, “Home court advantage” for our team! Now, the women play in the Lloyd Noble Arena! We are ever grateful for the founders and writers of Title IX.
Forty years of Title IX - and what do I see from the benches at basketball games?
I see better skilled players, players who are better trained, who have athletic trainers to tend to their sports injuries. I see players who are stronger and more athletic because they have strength coaches to work with them during the offseason and in season. I see players who play better because they have been playing basketball in leagues with skill coaches since a young age.
It is a gratifying feeling to observe these improvements in women’s sports because of the Title IX legislation. However, I hope to see continued growth in girls and women in sports at the local levels of development. What is more important as we celebrate NGWSD? Let us be sure that no girl is left out because she and her family cannot afford to participate in a sport or to belong to a team.
Tulsa Shock’s Role in NGWSD
The WNBA's Tulsa Shock is a sports icon in the community. They are committed to conducting the Youth Basketball Academy and school assemblies in the Tulsa community. The Tulsa Shock exemplifies the progress of Title IX and the development of programs for youth basketball players. Let’s see what the next decade will foster for young girls in Tulsa.
Christina Smith, BSE, University of Central Oklahoma, MA, University of Northern Colorado
Barbara Marshall, BSE, Northeastern State University, MS, Oklahoma State University