I've been called a pathfinder, but I was just a girl with a basketball, a driveway and a dream.
I’ve been called a pathfinder, but I was just a girl with a basketball, a driveway and a dream.
A 4-foot piece of plywood with a hoop was nailed to the front of the garage. This was where I learned the game. In time, I could make left- and right-handed hook shots, knew about pick-and-rolls and was pretty accurate with a jump shot. I didn’t have the benefits of Title IX, but I had a good imagination.
I was Elgin Baylor, wore his number 22, and played against imaginary opponents. Bob Petit, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy … all tasted defeat on that driveway.
When high school arrived, there was no girls basketball, but there was still the driveway, and imaginary opponents were replaced by boys from the Olympia High JV and varsity squads. The two-on-two games were competitive, seemed to last all day, and I held my own.
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In 1964 it was time for college. Finally, I got to play on an actual team at Central Washington. It was only 90 minutes, three days a week, for a 10-week season, but we shot at glass boards and played on a real gym floor. We were in heaven. It didn’t matter that we were limited to two dribbles or that there was no women’s Sweet Sixteen at the end of the rainbow. We wrapped up the year in a two-day, four-game frenzy, wearing our PE whites with snap-on, numbered pinnies tossed over our shoulders.
Still, I kept dreaming. There was talk of women’s basketball in the ’68 Olympics. The United States needed a national team. Like players everywhere, though mostly boys, I got the keys to the gym and spent my evenings shooting, spinning and jumping. The NBA was on TV now and I emulated the moves of the pros. A few months later, I made that team, but the Olympics were delayed until 1976. Folks were still afraid that such intense competition was bad for women and might compromise our ability to reproduce. It seemed like someone else was dreaming for me.
After graduation, coaching became my focus. We had to practice before school if we wanted use of the main floor. We were reluctantly given unlimited dribbles and local leagues, but the uniforms were still PE whites, so we kept dreaming.
With the enactment of Title IX came progress. League champions went to state tournaments, summer camps blossomed, girls participation skyrocketed and PE whites finally disappeared.
Today, girls earn scholarships, train year-round and play in great facilities. We have our own pro league, though it’s relegated to the summer and the crowds are limited. Resources are dwindling. Most of society still prefers watching men. Life changes but some things remain the same.
This evening, as I drive home from the grocery, I pass a driveway. There’s a basketball hoop, and boys and girls are playing. I hope the girls are pathfinders, because I still have dreams.