With all the inauguration festivities and publicity, a major event on our campus was overlooked by many. The University of Akron women’s basketball team beat the Kent State team for the first team in ten years.
It was also important to Coach Jodi Kest because it was her 250th win as a coach.
But the news that you really might have missed was that I, Pat Millhoff, director of Women’s Studies and associate professor of public service technology at UA, was the guest coach for the night. So, while Jodi has 250 wins under her belt, I am undefeated.
When one of my students asked me if I would like to be a guest coach I didn’t quite know what to expect. When I played basketball it was girl’s basketball. We wore our little bloomer gymsuits and identified our teams by little bibs in two different colors tied on either side of our bodies. I think they were called pinnies.
We divided up into teams of six, not five. Girls weren’t allowed to sweat, so only four of the twelve girls on the court at any given time were allowed to move over half court. They were the roving guard and roving forward for each team.
I always prayed I would get to be the rover. To actually be able to move up and down the court was a major feat.
The other important rule that is thankfully gone is that each girl could only dribble the ball three times. Dribble, dribble, dribble, pass. Dribble, dribble, dribble, pass.
If a team scored 10 points they were really going strong. How many points can you score when more than half the team has its feet stuck in the mud and the star can only dribble three times then has to throw to the girl who wishes she was anywhere other than on the basketball court?
I have gone to our women’s games before. But there is something special about sitting on the bench that is not for the faint of heart. The coaches are screaming out plays, stomping their feet and waving wildly. The team, even those on the bench, are intense, watching each move as though their lives depend on it. As guest coach I decided my best approach would be just to stay out of everyone’s way. Sometimes I succeeded.
In the locker room I also discovered basketball is a game of strategy and intellect. Not the old throw the ball to the girl who might make a basket but major play calling utilizing scouting information and the skill of each team member.
These women are strong; they are athletes, not girls pretending to play a game, but talented team members demonstrating their skills. They have worked hard to be good enough to play for a MAC school, and the muscles in their arms and legs show it.
At the end of the game they were as exhausted as if they had run a long distance race. And when you think about it, each had.
I am lucky enough to have had several women athletes in my classes since I have taught here. They are smart, dedicated, fun and talented.
I respect them and want to thank them for what they have taught me. They have taught me that Title IX isn’t just something we talk about in Women’s Studies; its real. Women really do get in the game.
And for a very short while, I got to be part of it. I respect and admire all of them. So team, thanks for letting me get a glimpse into your world, if only for a very short while.