Prior to 1974, girls did not have the opportunity to participate in organized sports at the high school level. In 1974, Title IX was passed by the United States Congress which gave girls the right and the opportunity to participate in organized sports.
Three female students from Glendale, two tremendous debaters and one athlete, took it upon themselves to address the Springfield Public Schools Board of Education and demand that girls in the five high schools be given the opportunity to participate in competitive and organized sports. The School Board listened and because I was a physical education teacher at Glendale I was given the responsibility to coach both the girls’ basketball and volleyball teams. Given my height as only five foot you might say that these were not two sports that I had ever participated in and only knew enough about them to teach them in physical education class. But, I was excited for the girls and more than willing to take on this responsibility.
The athletic director at that time called the five high school girl’s coaches to a meeting to discuss the organization of the basketball program. The meeting was hilarious as it was obvious that the male athletic directors had no idea of what girls had the capabilities of doing. He first started off talking about whether or not we needed to equip the girls with a special type of bra, something similar to a baseball chest protector, but the coaches quickly told him that would not be necessary. Not having to purchase special bras was probably one of the only rules that we were able to leave the meeting and feel good about getting for the girls. We ended up with all five high school teams having the exact uniform only in school colors. Creativity was not part of the discussion. We also had warm ups that were made out of fleece material and looked like snow suits and were much too hot to wear indoors.
The boy’s teams used leather basketballs but we were given only rubber basketballs that would bounce to the half-court line on a rebound. I had to make sure the girls knew that many of the rebounds would come to half court so don’t go to the basket every time somebody shot. Our high schools did not have two full size basketball courts so at the beginning the girls were given the primetime practice times, like early in the morning before school started or late at night after the boys finished or Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day. The one rule that the coaches thought was totally unnecessary but we had no choice in the matter was that the girls were not allowed to practice the day after a game because we were told that they were not built to withstand physical activity the day after a game. If two teams from Springfield were playing at a tournament outside of Springfield, we had to ride together to the game. That was always somewhat tense especially when we had to play each other. Because the girl’s coaches were all good friends and we all wanted the programs to succeed we could also deal with this ridiculous request.
I was so excited to begin the coaching so I went along with all of the new rules and we began to build a program. Since I had never coached basketball I spent a great deal of time reading books, going to basketball clinics put on by some of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time and I asked a lot of questions. As the seasons went on the girls became much more competitive and we were able to dispense with the no practice after a game rule and we were finally given leather basketballs and as coaches we were given the responsibility to design our own uniforms. Oh, and by the way, the snowsuit warmups went away first.
The 19 years that I coached basketball at Glendale were some of the best years of my life. I was able to work with so many young athletes that I still keep in touch with today. We played to win and fortunately we were very successful but we also wanted to have fun along the way. Helping the girls develop into successful athletes but more importantly successful women was an honor for me. We went from snowsuit warm ups and rubber basketballs to championship teams. I was fortunate to take two of my teams to the Final Four which is a feat that many teams never have the opportunity to have. Today my very successful point guard on one of the Final Four teams is now the girls’ basketball coach at Glendale. Another one is a top administrator in a school system in the St. Louis area. She left Glendale to go on to play at Missouri State and her number was retired and hanging from the rafters at JQH. She will soon be inducted into the Missouri Hall of Fame. Yes, I am a very proud coach but more importantly I was honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to be involved in the inception of the girls’ sports programs in the Springfield Public Schools.