Call me crazy, but I have always acted outside the box beginning in early childhood, when no one was going to tell me that I couldn’t throw a football, shoot a basket or run a mile. I was born with a feisty, can-do attitude that served me well in the face of naysayers.
In pre Title IX days when girls were shunned from sports, I stood on the sideline of the boys’ pick up basketball games and demanded, “I got next.”
In a time before accolades, scholarships and professional contracts, I trained hard for no tangible reason. In girlhood, I ran miles across the sidewalks of Sterling, defying the whistles, catcalls, and laughter by putting one foot in front of the other.
In college, while my counterparts partied, I shot hoops in a drafty gym to prepare for next season where we endured conditions more grueling than the game driving ourselves through blizzards to play basketball in empty arenas.
After my team in first women’s pro league (WBL) went broke, I had a good cry. Then I got back up, boarded a plane bound for Paris to play ball in the land of wine and cheese, totally ignorant about French language and culture.
At a time when most women stayed near their hometowns and settled down with neighbor boys, I moved to Europe in pursuit of an absurd dream to play professional basketball.
When France closed the door to foreign women players, I rode the rails across the border to Germany and learned another foreign tongue and way of life.
In countries where I knew not a soul, understood not a word, I learned to observe and listen.
I saw how people could be so different in language, custom and tradition, yet still so similar in the need to be loved and accepted for who they are.
When a car accident ended my career abroad, I didn’t pack up and go home. I married a Frenchman and stayed put. I carved my own niche as one of the few female coaches in the European international high school league.
During my career spanning 5 decades across 4 countries, I have worked with girls from around the globe.
I gladly passed on my knowledge to the next generations of female athletes who never doubted their right to play.
Over the years, I witnessed their opportunities grow greater. I delighted in seeing my daughter and nieces play basketball, soccer, rugby, and run marathons. I took pride in watching my former athletes pursue careers as doctors, lawyers, counselors, and teachers.
By going after my silly dream nearly a half century ago, I helped make it easier for every girl to grow up believing her goal was within reach.
Women, daring to stand up and speak out, have made amazing strides in academics, business, law and politics. For so many girls that courage – to do something never done before – was born on playing fields.
I never had the size, talent, or notoriety of our elite athletes of today. I was no Lisa Leslie, Abby Wambach or Serena Williams. I was just a small town girl filled with my own brand of insanity.
But I learned you don’t have to be famous to make a difference. You just have to dream big.
Go ahead call me crazy.
I am kind of proud of the claim.
It’s my birthday. Raise a glass to all women creating change by being crazy enough to believe they can!
Happy Birthday to an incredible pioneer woman who continues to inspire me and everyone else around you. You have touched so many lives in such a positive way. Celebrating you today, my friend. I will raise a glass to you as I party with the farmers this evening!
Thanks Tinie. Hope you and the farmers enjoyed celebrating my birthday. Wish I was there to raise a glass with my best buddy and toast our friendship.
Happy Birthday, Pat!! Yes, crazy in the very best way…keep on enjoying life and setting the example.
Thanks Barb. Crazy in the very best way…I like that!
Happy Birthday Pat! A true pioneer. Enjoy!
Thanks Dave. Hope you are enjoying retirement at your country estate.
Happy Birthday, Patty-baby!
A big hug from your former team mate
Thanks Bette. I still remember special birthdays I celebrated with you in Marburg and hope to visit you one day in Berlin. Hugs and love right back at you.
Pat, I raise my glass to you and to all the fine women who paved the way in women’s sports. It’s because of you that I had the pure joy of watching my daughter play in competitive sports through college. It helped to shape her into the strong, confident woman she has become. Cheers and Happy Birthday!
I know that if you could have had teams when you were growing up, you would have been leading the team as a point guard. So glad your daughter had the opportunity to grow stronger through sports.
Happy Birthday, Pat, and thank you for all of your contributions to women’s interests, women’s sports, and the growth of many, individual women in their own fields and careers!!
Thanks, it was so nice to hear from you. So glad you reached out to comment and reconnect via my blog.
Happy Birthday Pat!! I was lucky enough to have women’s sports evolving when I was in high school too. Once I found team sports, band and Pom squad were history for me! What wonderful lessons and experiences were gained through those sports.
Thanks for sharing, Jean. I never knew that, but you sounds just like me. Once we were allowed to play, no other activities could compared to the joy of sports. So glad we both had the opportunity to learn and grow on Sterling’s playing fields.
Well said commentary on a life well played! One of my favorite lines of a song is “I’ve always been crazy, but it’s kept me from going insane!” Crazy girls rule the world!! 😉
Thanks Sheila. I like that slogan… a life well played. You are a crazy girl too Sheila in your own right.
Happy Belated Birthday, Pat! My mom and I were just talking about how brave (crazy??) we were to move hundreds of miles away from home to places where we didn’t know anybody and try to make lives for ourselves. I wonder how many folks regret not doing the same thing when they had the chance? Good on you, my friend! Being a trailblazer can be scary, but methinks it’s more scary to live with the regret of not LIVING!!
Thanks Debbie. You are a trailblazer too. Where did you and your mom move from and to? I just assumed you were born and raised in the Land of Lincoln.
My mom’s a Mississippi girl. She and Daddy moved 11 times in their first year of marriage (mostly out west). I was born a Hoosier and lived in Mississippi and Texas before returning to the Land of Lincoln. Lots of time spent packing and unpacking, ha!
Your folks sure showed a lot of mobility for that time period. Where do consider home now? And why Illinois?
Inspiring. We have so far to go but this is a wonderful reminder of how far we’ve come, thanks to determination and hard work.
Thanks Alana. Yes, we still have a lot of work ahead, but the young women today seemed mighty determined to bring about change.