As soon as I was old enough to walk, I was off running. Before racing was fashionable for females, I dashed around the block of old East 19th Street neighborhood. In the winter, I ran circular laps around Jefferson, the first round school in town. In Jr. high, the coach let me run cross-country with the boys. In high school, when the law finally mandated equal opportunities for girls, I joined the track team.
Though my running days are long gone due to injuries, much to my delight my niece Marie was a runner. Though she no longer belongs to a team, she still enjoys a good race. Every July she competes in the Warrior Dash, a fun run where 600 runners lined up every half hour from 8am to 5 pm all weekend.
Her dad, Dick, a heart attack and cancer survivor, dedicated to fitness, joined her. After surgery in April to remove cancerous thyroid tumor, his goal was to run the Warrior Dash with his daughters. This type of cross-country run was fitting for his younger daughter, Hannah, a two time state championship rugby player, because it included army crawls and obstacles climbing.
Dick Carlson & John Pupkes coached daughters in team sports
The five-K run set on a ski slopes at Afton Alps Ski Resort in Minnesota was mostly uphill. Every 100 yards, an obstacle including a ten-foot high wall, had to be scaled by rope. Dick, ever the gentleman, sat on top of the wall to help women struggling to swing their bodies over the barrier. Then as soon as the contestants’ feet hit the ground, they crawled under barbed wire through mud.
“It gets tougher as you go cause your body is weighed down in muck,” Dick said, “and your feet slip and slide.”
But for Marie, a recent college graduate, the whole experience is “fun, fun, fun!”
To add to the gaiety, many competitors dressed in costume. At the end of the race, runners hosed off the mess and enjoyed a beverage, which for many was beer. Food booths sold chicken wings, turkey legs and hot dogs adding to the carnival atmosphere.
“Wear old clothes cause you’ll throw everything away,” Dick said, “except your shoes which are donated to charity.”
The entrance fee was $50 and competitors went home with T-shirts, buffalo warrior hats, participation medals, heads filled with pride and hearts bursting with joy.
“This year was better than last cause my friends ran,” Marie said, “ and so did my pops and sister!”
Thanks to Title IX dad coached daughters in soccer
According to the fifty-six year old dad, “It takes a lot of upper body strength to climb over obstacles and the run uphill was much harder than I expected!
But Marie, insisted, “It was awesome! I can’t wait till next year!
If you love to run and roll in mud, check out this site http://www.warriordash.com/ to find the Warrior Dash in your area. Hit the treadmills and pump that iron! Work it this winter, so you can roll with the warriors next summer!
Please hop on over to Sonia Marsh’s Gutsy Living blog today to see my “My Gutsy Living ” story~ From Cornfields to City of Lights I guarantee you will enjoy it.
Every Monday, Sonia features a short story on “Gutsy Living” about something Gutsy you have done in your life that either: changed you, changed the way you think about something or made your life take a different direction.
Hope you’ll stop by and leave a comment. We all have a “Gutsy Living” story. What’s yours? Sonia would love to hear from you on her Gutsy Living website.
When my daughter was born in Paris on a cool October day nearly three decades ago, I prayed for the strength to help make her resilient. No easy task as I was still enduring chronic pain from a car accident and I would be raising her in France in a cross-cultural marriage. As she grew, I dreamed of watching her run, jump and play. Like my dad once taught me, I showed her how to shoot baskets in the driveway and before long I was following her to games in the French and then later Swiss club leagues.
playing ball in apartment in Paris
When Nat entered the international school, I coached her and her friends. Every time she came out of a game pouting about an elbow to the face or knee in the back I encouraged her to brush it off and get back in the action.
Was I pushing her too hard or not enough?
When I had her play one-on-one against a boy and he accidentally broke her ankle, I could’ve kicked myself. I always pressed the limits. Nat played with exercised induced asthma, so I subbed her out of games, insisting, “Breath, Nat, breath. But tell me as soon as you can go back in.”
In all fairness, what coach likes their 6’2” center to sit out? After all, I had been raised by get-up-and-walk-it-off father and grandfather coaches.
I never knew if what I said made sense to a girl growing up in Europe where the emphasis is less about winning and more about participating. What good were my lessons?
However after shining in the Swiss basketball league, as a freshman Nathalie moved to the States and as a college freshman played in the DIII Final Four tournament for University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point under Shirley Egner, who became the most decorated coach in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC).
mom & daughter share triumph & defeat
The final game of Nat’s career ended in an upset. The athlete in her collapsed, but her fighting spirit will remain in the gym, another brick in the wall, forming the foundation of UWSP Pointer’s tradition. That athlete kicked the bleachers and cried in the shower, but the scholar in her rose early the next morning to ace the biochemistry exam.
I who once majored in “basketball,” floundered, searching for a career. So driven by my obsession with the game, I was lost when I could no longer play. My daughter knew instinctively that brains would outlast the body. Four days, after the disappointing end to her basketball career, Nat nailed her interview gaining admittance to the University of Minnesota Medical School.
But I will always remember that night when we stumbled off the purple and gold court at UWSP. I slipped my right arm around her waist as she draped her left arm over my shoulders. She leaned on me for support and I clung to her waist for balance; where my strength ended, her courage began. I drew on her calm, logical ability to see the big picture; she relied on my humor and spunk to make it through the moment. I marveled at her ability to memorize the chemical compositions of molecules, she admired my tenacity to keep fighting each day faced with debilitating pain. We are tougher, more resilient, and more compassionate because of each other.
When I was a child, women had no more chance of playing pro basketball than being CEOs, neurosurgeons or college professors. Yet during her college career, Nat guarded the superstar of Milwaukee School of Engineering, a woman whose job at NASA awaited her graduation. Nathalie became the first international player in the WIAC to receive the Scholar Athlete Award (2006-2007). She juggled the demands of academics, college basketball, and dual nationality, crossing between cultures. And in 2011 she took the Hippocratic Oath at University of Minnesota Medical School to become the first doctor in the family.
Today Dr. Lechault uses that same tenacity she learned on the basketball court to work incredibly long hours teaching adolescents good health habits, answering a pager in the middle of the night, calming distraught parents, and making tough, split second decisions in her work as a pediatrician. Happy Birthday, Nat, and hey, thanks for listening!
His name was synonymous with sports in Sterling. As a 1948 SHS grad, surely Sterling has never had a faster runner or a finer coach.
As an athlete, Dietz was a record-breaking runner on the track. Later as a teacher at SHS, he coached athletes to break records. Under his tutelage, the SHS track team won 26 conference titles. In addition to countless SHS Athletic Hall of Fame titles, he was also an Illinois State Track Coaches Inductee.
In high school, my dad, a defensive back playing for DeKalb, was assigned the task of guarding Sterling’s star running back.
a great athlete
“Our game plan was simple – tackle Dietz!” my dad recounted, “Only problem, we had to catch him first. We chased him up and down the field all night.”
My dad and Duwayne’s rivalry ended the day my dad started teaching at SHS in 1958. Every teacher who worked at SHS and every athlete who ever graduated from Sterling has his own favorite, “Dietzism,” engrained in his “thick skull.”
“For 25 years we shared the same office, so we told a lot of stories,” my dad said. “Duwayne became a colleague, a friend and a mentor.”
My dad learned the ropes of coaching freshman football as an assistant to Duwayne.
“At halftime of an away game we played so badly in the first half, Coach Dietz loaded the team back on the bus, and threatened to turn it around and drive them back home.”
Coach Dietz on SHS’s track field (his home)
When Duwayne retired in 1989 after 34 years serving students and athletes, my dad roasted him royally; SHS fittingly named the track after him.
Coach Dietz served his community and his country. As a paratrooper during the Korean War, he made 57 jumps and remained in the Army reserves for 30 years. A decorated colonel – strong, tough, feared and respected – he dressed sharp, stood straight and remained fit. He barked orders in a gruff voice. He was a man of few words, not all of them nice. But underneath the rugged façade was a loving father, caring coach, and strong leader. Everyone at SHS wanted to do right by him.
“Good run, Patty,” he said after my 880-yard dash. “What was your time?”
After he stopped me in the hall to inquire, I worked my butt off in track because I knew the next time he asked my time better be faster.
Everyone at SHS feared and admired Coach Dietz. But his bark was louder than his bite. Like all athletes, I’d jump at his command, then he’d soften the blow with his trademark grin, so that I knew he was kidding (or was he?)
Wrapped within the sadness of his death was also a sense of celebration for a man who shaped so many lives with his hard drive and high standards. Because Coach Dietz demanded excellence, I sought it in myself.
Dwayne Dietz was a Hall of Fame Athlete and Coach who raised a Hall of Fame Family.
He coached one son, an outstanding track star, as well as his son-in-law, a SHS standout football player. He taught with still another son-in-law. He left behind his lovely wife, Ruth, and 5 children and 14 grandchildren. Respected by the community, loved by friends and family, his passing leaves a hole in the hearts of many.
I feel fortunate to have grown up listening to the legends on the breezeway of their old house. His third daughter has been my best friend since third grade. As kids on the block, we all knew Mr. Dietz had our back.
With his parting, my hometown lost a hero. Another part of my childhood slipped away.
In my original game plan, I thought that when I retired from playing basketball in my fifties, I would ski mountains and run marathons into old age. Alas, an accident at the peak of my career at age 26 ended my basketball playing days. Illness filled my life with detours. Today a bad back, blown-out knees and chronic pain from fibromyalgia prevents me attaining the goals I once set.
The first part of my life as a first generation Title IXer, I fought to get off the sideline and into the game; the second half, I learned how to be a gracious cheerleader. That is why I am so proud of my daughter for incorporating fitness into her daily life as a doctor, to my friend Tina for winning a Gold Medal in basketball at the Senior Olympic games, for my little sister and her friends in their fifties for competing in their 2nd mini triathlon.
Karen sets a new personal best
Karen and her friends, Ann Jackson and Jean Pupkes, joined 317 other participants on Saturday July 21st in the 9thAnnual River City Days Triathlon Sprint held in Chaska Minnesota.
fab’ 50s finish sprint triathlon
Training for the triathlon may be just as difficult as the actual event. Karen alternated training schedules prior to the meet. A strong swimmer she loved the first leg, a third mile lake swim, yet struggled with the final 3.1K run. This year my brother-in-law Dick, 2 months after undergoing a thyroidectomy to remove a cancerous tumor, decided to join her. An avid biker, Dick whizzed past people on the 16 mile ride, avoided sinking on the swim, and walked the first K, all uphill, of the run.
While my sister and bro defy age by challenging their bodies to remain fit, I am inspired to focus not on what I can’t do, but on what I can. Since my mid twenties, I have seen a team of doctors for a list of ailments. For the past 4 years, as a guinea pig in a clinical trial treatment for a multisystem inflammatory autoimmune illness, I have avoided light exposure.
my umbrella and me
But that doesn’t stop me! I hike in the Alps under an umbrella, walk to work covered in gloves and a hoody, and swim across the lake in my wet suit and scuba gear. In solidarity with my sister and brother in law, I participated in my own mini triathlon. Early Saturday morning, I biked 7 miles, walked a mile and then swam a half-mile. Afterwards, I couldn’t lift my arms to hold a book. I broke no records but as the sole competitor, solitary contestant, I won the event!
In a personal best, Karen had the best time in her age group for the swim and beat her overall time by 12 minutes. Dick, setting his own record, inspired anyone who has battled cancer.
My adult life is not as active as I had once hoped; yet I have accepted that I will never ski down Mont-Blanc, because I can still admire the mountaintops from my window. I will never again play the game I love, but I can impart my love of the game to the girls I coach. I will no longer knock down J’s (jump shots), but I can swim through summers on my beloved Summit Lake.
“You don’t have to be a victim of your environment. You learn that through sports, you learn that through teamwork. You decide who you want to be and then you go pursue that. “ I learned this key lesson from my college coach, Jill Hutchinson, a legend in women’s basketball. With that mindset, it is no surprise Jill influenced the lives of so many young women in her 28-year tenure as ISU.
She refused to be a victim of gender.
Historically in America, women and sports were incompatible. While at University of New Mexico (1963-1967), Hutchinson was reprimanded for competing in a national tournament in Gallup, NM as part of an AAU state championship team. When a professor, who was then president of the Division of Girls and Women’s Sport (DGWS), announced that women were not suited for team sport, Jill challenged her comment in class.
“She ripped me from one end to the other,” Hutchinson recounted. “I walked out of class in tears. I remember telling some kids in class that I was going to make sure girls have an opportunity to play.”
Before the time women were recruited, I chose Illinois State University on a gut feeling. Coach Jill Hutchinson won me over with her enthusiasm for life and the game.
Coach Hutchinson with Coach McKinzie
Not only were female athletes new, but women coaches were an anomaly.
While Hutchinson racked up championships in her 28-year tenure at Illinois State, she also succeeded at the international level leading the US to a gold at the 1983 World University Games and a silver medal at the 1978 Pan American Games. On the national level, she is known for helping the women’s game grow from obscurity to its current level of popularity.
In spite of the obstacles she confronted, Hutchinson was never bitter. When inducted to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Knoxville Tennessee, Jill said, “I am very fortunate to have lived in the time I have. The progress from the time when we could only play three players on each side of the court to where we are today has been a great experience.”
She was a rookie coach, learning the ropes as she went along, yet she never feared asking questions or standing up for what was right. Jill gained ground with class and kindness at time when women met roadblocks. When women athletics moved from McCormack gym to Horton, they were unwelcome. “I brought brownies to the workers and won them over.”
“Her legacy is etched in stone in national basketball archives with 460 wins and an impeccable graduation rate at Illinois State,” said former ISU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan.
She coached numerous professional players and two Olympians, Charlotte Lewis and Cathy Boswell, but what makes her proudest is the fact that every senior athlete she coached earned a degree, even if she came back years later to attain it.
“If you’re willing to win at all costs, if you don’t emphasize the values in sport and the values in learning then I think you, as a coach, sell out to the big entertainment business. I still think if you’re going to be coaching at a collegiate institution you have an obligation to educate your student athletes.”
She had just as great impact off the court as on it due to her leadership on the rules committee. She was the co-founder and first Women’s Basketball Coaches Association President, an honor she held 4 times.
“I have been extremely fortunate in my career,” said Hutchinson. “I never had to go to work. I got to go to the gym.”
Yet work she did. As a graduate student at ISU, her research shattered the myth that full court 5on 5 basketball would be fatal for women. She hooked electrodes to basketball players with no ill effects proving a woman’s heart wouldn’t explode by running a fastbreak. This led to a change in rules instead of six-player game to the full court five-player game.
As first generation Title IX athletes, competitive sports for girls was so new that we came into university with raw talent, true grit and a love of the game. We were in awe of Coach Hutchinson. For the first time, we had a female role model. Everyone who played for her wanted to do right by her. Most of us remained in contact with her long after graduation.
When my former Olympian teammate, Charlotte Lewis, died of a heart attack in her early 50s, Jill spoke at her funeral.
Another, incident shows the depth of Jill’s caring. I left the States in 1980 to play basketball in Europe. Three decades later, my Franco-American daughter raised abroad returned to the States to combine sport and academics as part of the DIII program that Hutchinson recommended. My daughter, Nathalie, played for Shirley Egner, another highly acclaimed coach at UW-Stevens Point. Hutchinson attended their match-up at Illinois Wesleyan and stayed afterward to meet Nathalie. Then Jill passed on to my daughter the poem that I had written her, during my senior year at ISU, about a coach’s role shaping athletes into adults.
Coach Hutchinson, coach Egner & Nat
Hutchinson was ahead of her time. Long before sports psychology existed, she invited a psychiatrist to teach us progressive, relaxation technique before a big game.
In the day before assistants, Hutchinson was a one-woman show. She thought nothing of driving her team cross country in campus station wagons. She tracked down gyms without GPS, and followed weather reports and speed trap warnings from truckers on CB radios. She fielded winning teams on shoe-string budgets, fighting for practice space, athletic equipment and opportunities to compete. She planned practices, organized travel, scouted opponents, and fought on national committees for women’s rights. She mimeographed handwritten scouting reports detailing game strategy and opponent players’ strengths and weaknesses. Every game she scrawled individual notes to each player. Hutch had an uncanny ability to motivate players and that motivation never left us.
Her legacy lives on in the hundreds of players whose lives she influenced and in their daughters, who never doubted their right to succeed in any arena!