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!