Celebrating Girls & Women’s Rights to Play Sports

February 6, 2019 marks the 33rd annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day, an event that never occurred when I was a girl because females were not allowed to compete until Title IX passed in 1972.

But I loved basketball even before they let me play. As we celebrate extraordinary achievements of women and girls in sports, give a nod to the icons who have done so much to promote the women’s game.

Fittingly, last Saturday, Illinois State University named their women’s basketball locker room in Jill Hutchison’s honor. I felt privileged to play for Jill in the 70’s during the early infancy of Title IX, back in the day before we even had a girls’ locker room. We used to change in a bathroom or borrow the men’s locker room before our games in Horton Field House.

If I had my way, ISU would also put her name on the floor of Redbird Arena. After all, Hutchison led the way making changes in legislation at the national level mandating a woman’s right to be on that court.

That same Saturday, a legend in Wisconsin, UW-Stevens Point coach Shirley Egner notched her 300th win in the tough Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference as her team defeated UW-Eau Claire. It was Egner’s 800th game as UWSP coach where she holds an amazing 546-253 record.

Unbeknownst to both us, I would have played against Egner when ISU played at UW-La Crosse. Three decades later Egner coached our daughter, born and raised in Europe, to a DIII Final Four in 2004.

Meanwhile at my old high school, Sterling – home of the first ever state championship girls’ team – Coach Taylor (Carbaugh) Jackson, a former standout player guides her team to a 19-4 record and 10th place 3A state ranking. Five sisters from the Borum and Gould families – the same girls who also starred on Sterling’s first state volleyball championship 2018 – help lead the way again.

And on that same day far, far away, we won our tournament at the International School of Geneva competing against teams from Austria, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland.

Around the globe, girls are playing ball driving the baseline, shooting the jumper, taking the charge and learning through sports to be tougher, stronger, and braver.

And yes, the granny of the game is still coaching.

At our tournament, the Basel coach heard other coaches talking about my history, and the younger woman approached me.

“I loved playing high school and college ball in New Jersey,” she said. “I just want to thank you for paving the way.”

As we shook hands, I felt a surreal connection to generations across time.

It was a humbling moment.

This February, as we applaud the accomplishments of female leaders in all sports – not only basketball – be sure to remember the real victory is the right to play.

An opportunity that may be taken for granted, but should never be forgotten.

The plaque on Jill Hutchison’s Women’s Basketball locker room reminds us,

“To play the game is great, to win the game is greater, to love the game is greatest.”

And capping off the celebration, never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that one day a Super Bowl advertisement would feature girls playing football to encourage girls to get in the game. Check it out!


Comments

  1. Gérald

    What Pat won’t say is that other American coaches, who know their turf, call her The Legend.

    She won’t say that beating her is the ultimate goal for any coach in the International Schools system.

    She also won’t say that teenage BOYS (16 to 18) have asked their coach if they could come to her practice once a week; of course they help the girls but they also say that they learn a lot about the game.

    She does not say either that every year, the boy’s coach, a former American professional player himself, starts his first practice by explaining to new players that “That lady knows the game better than anybody; much better than I do. You’ve got to listen when she talks”.

    I know all of that because she is my girl.

    1. Rachael Jefferson-Buchanan

      Good to get the inside information Gérald 😂👊🏼 I love the way you two support each other. You’re such a great team 😘

    2. Pat McKinzie

      You may be a biased, but I appreciate your kind words. What people don’t know is that when my playing career ended in an accident 4,000 miles away from my country, you became my home. Being an athlete too, you knew how hard it was for me to sit on the bench (and coach instead of play), so you sat with me. You corrected the score table, kept stats, taped jammed fingers, gave encouraging words and helped coach. Side by side, we sat through our daughter and son’s basketball career and guided many other high school boys and girls into adulthood through our shared love of sports.

  2. Gérald

    What Pat won’t say is that other American coaches, who know their turf, call her The Legend.

    She won’t say that beating her is the ultimate goal for any coach in the International Schools system.

    She also won’t say that teenage BOYS (16 to 18) have asked their coach if they could come to her practice once a week; of course they help the girls but they also say that they learn a lot about the game.

    She does not say either that every year, the boy’s coach, a former American professional player himself, starts his first practice by explaining to new players that “That lady knows the game better than anybody; much better than I do. You’ve got to listen when she talks”.

    I know all of that because she is my girl.

  3. Rachael Jefferson-Buchanan

    Congrats to you dear basketball superstar. You fly the flag high for basketball, but also for girls and young women. This kind of equality push is what you have been doing since I have had the pleasure of knowing you. I love Gérald’s postscript, that’s a pretty fine name to bear ‘The Legend’ 😍👏🏼 I think you’d be interested in my latest research looking at how the UK Government is using competitive sports and games as a discipline technology for young people. More of that later 😉 Hugs and ‘respect’ to you my awesome friend xx

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Rach. I know you too are blazing a trail for women through your work in research and academia. I would love to see your latest works.

  4. Debbie

    Great post, Pat! I’m afraid we’ve become so accustomed to women playing sports of all kinds that some tend to forget that’s not always been so. Blessings to you and other “legends” for paving the way so so many upcoming generations can enjoy and benefit from sports. Perhaps we need a Women’s Heroes Month?!!

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Debbie. We have come so far in understanding the value of sports for girls. Even I have a hard to time believing (and I lived it) that once upon a time society insisted it was dangerous, unhealthy and unladylike for girls to play ball games. Great idea you suggested. Shall we start a Women’s Heroes Month?

  5. Bette

    Pat, thank you so much for your post and much more for your motivation, your compentence, your endurance! Excellent job!
    @Gérald thank you so much for your words – they help all readers to get a full picture!
    best wishes Bette

  6. Lynne M. Spreen

    Love this. And glad you got recognition, too. Were it not for your book, I would never have known the history, and to learn it “firsthand,” that was priceless.

  7. Tina Quick

    Love the post, Pat and Gerald’s comments just made my heart melt. Even though I played the game, I learned more from coaching with you than I did in my all my playing years. It was such an honor to have shared that court time with you … and all those long rides on buses and trains! And so glad your story finally got told. Wonderful that that young coach took the time to thank you for being one of the pioneers of what so many gals take for granted today.

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Tina. I still miss having you by my side for all those games and road trips. When my strength waned, your energy and enthusiasm carried us all on each of our 5 different teams that we worked with one very, busy season. So grateful we met the day you were tearing up the court leading the moms team on Family Day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.