Archives for posts with tag: Sports

Girls today probably don’t really appreciate the women in the Olympics just as I didn’t really appreciate the fact that women in America only got the vote the year before my mother was born, 1920, 25 years before I was born. I keep going back to my own school years, the years when these Olympic athletes are starting their training.

As a child, I attended a private school that included Junior Kindergarten (like pre-K now) through 12th grade. Boys were enrolled in the Lower School (through 6th grade) and then it was an all girl school. I remember our gym teacher as a former military woman, drilling us as we played playground sports. In this exclusive school, the girls in the upper school had physical education activities. In the 1955 yearbook, there is this explanation,

Each year the students begin their classes, all being rather stiff after a summer’s rest. After the first few gym classes with Mrs. K’s giving us exercises to do, we become stiffer than ever. We have learned that the exercises are good for warming up before games and they also help in good posture.

The students in the school were divided into two teams, who competed against each other during the year in baseball (softball), hockey (field hockey), soccer, and basketball. The rewards were the coveted Athletic and Play Day cups. On Play Day, they could participate in tennis, softball, volleyball, deck tennis, shuffleboard, badminton, table tennis, one hundred yard dash relay race, and the fifty yard relay race. They held swimming competition at the nearby Y.W.C.A. and competed in diving and swimming with speed and form the main factors. Here are the girls in their school uniforms displaying all the equipment of sports.IMG_9147a

At this time, when I was in fourth grade, I was participating in swimming and golf in the summer and games in gym class. That’s about all there was out there for us, although the school had a football team for the very few boys who attended the school. There were usually about six boys per class, so I guess there were enough to have two teams to play each other in 4th-6th grade.

I didn’t think about it because we weren’t getting extensive coverage of the Olympics or other sports, mainly because we didn’t get much television coverage of anything. When I was little, the television stations came on, yes, they actually came on the air, about 4:00 in the afternoon and signed off with the national anthem followed by a test pattern about 10:00 at night. Not much room for sports programming there. We listened to baseball on the radio or read the newspapers for scores. Not much to obsess about as far as sports were concerned.

By the time I left the private school to enter 7th grade at a large junior-senior high public school, not much had changed. In gym class, we swam in a hot pool wearing ugly tank suits and bathing caps, learning the strokes but not racing. There was a synchronized swimming group, but I can’t remember if they competed with other schools or swam for fun. In gym class, from 7th grade through high school, I remember folk dancing, exercise sessions (think jumping jacks and sit ups), interpretive dance, basketball, volleyball, and games. I’m sure there were more, but I can’t remember. And we wore these charming gym suits, purchased at Sears where they would also embroider your name.271

This was a big public school in a city with many big high schools and there were no sports for girls. I actually won a letter in basketball my senior year for intramural basketball, which makes me laugh to this day. That was about it. There was cheerleading, but who thought that was a sport or even athletic? I checked my high school yearbook, Class of 1963, and found 27 pages of boys’ sports and one page for the girls.IMG_9146

You will note there are three photos and one of them is of boys. I think this makes my point.

After high school, I attended Oklahoma State University, where I was required to take four semesters of gym. I took Golf (which I had played since I was 9, although not taking it seriously and only competing in small tournaments), Badminton (which I had played in the back yard forever), Archery & Riflery (which was fun except we used the ROTC rifles and they were very heavy) and a class called Body Mechanics (back to jumping jacks and sit ups). Easy As or Bs on my college transcript. Other options were Bowling, Tennis, and probably some others. Bowling was the most popular and the hardest to get into.

After I finished my four semesters, I didn’t participate in any sports and don’t remember even intramurals or anything else for girls. We walked across campus in our skirts (another subject, since we were required to wear skirts regardless of the weather) and walked up a lot of stairs, so I guess that kept us in shape. I’ve tried to remember if there was anything going on I didn’t know about and couldn’t think of anything, so I once again pulled out my 1967 yearbook. OSU was a large university and had nationally recognized teams in football, basketball, golf, wrestling, and other sports – for the guys. Once again, I found 25 pages of various men’s sports, 2 pages of men’s intramurals and one page for the women.IMG_9145

At least all three photos are of women or coeds (is that term even used today? I hope not).

In 1968, I became a mother to the oldest of my three daughters (a son followed, but this is about the girls). My second daughter was born in 1970 and the third in 1973. In 1972, Title IX became part of the Education laws and I was so busy having kids that I didn’t really pay attention to the changes that were about to happen.

In 1976, when my two oldest girls were in Kindergarten and Second Grade, soccer was in its second year in Tulsa. It was a new thing to have a sport that girls could play, so I put both girls on a team. And so it began. All three played soccer for many years and the trophies were awarded when they were on winning teams (not like the participation trophies today) and I made sure they had tennis, golf and swimming lessons every summer. At one point, all four of my children were on a competitive swim team, winning many ribbons and medals. They were exposed to many sports in school and each girl played on at least one team in high school (track, tennis, softball, and soccer). My middle daughter received a partial soccer scholarship in college, when those scholarships were just beginning to be awarded to girls, and played well past college.

During those years, there was more and more coverage of sports on television and the Olympics, both winter and summer, were anticipated, with more and more women’s sports being included. Our national interest and obsession became greater and more opportunities were out there for girls to participate. They didn’t just participate, but competed at higher and higher levels.

For women my age, it’s been a long time coming. I don’t take it for granted that my almost fifteen year old granddaughter has been competing since she was little and is currently on the high school volleyball and soccer teams. My six year old granddaughter is just beginning to explore the sports out there. It isn’t important whether she likes them or wants to be on a team. It’s important that she has the opportunities she wants.

Women have been competing in the Olympics for over 100 years, but it’s only been in the past 50 years that there have been so many choices for them to excel. As I watch the Olympics this year, I get an extra thrill when I watch girls of all races participate together, because there were also times when the races couldn’t compete against each other. Some sports were only for the privileged and now those are open to all.

In my life, there have been so many changes. I loved my childhood, but I don’t think of those as the good old days, or times I want to return to. Women are running companies, running races and running for President. This is in addition to being homemakers, although the men are becoming bigger partners in this, as they should. Opening all these doors to women has actually opened more doors for men, also.

During these current Olympics, as I read griping on social media about the slights to female athletes or complaining about the use of terms that are now becoming obsolete in describing women, I am thinking back to the times when these conversations weren’t even possible because we weren’t watching any women reach these spectacular heights.

My perspective is from my lofty 70 years, but my perspective is also for all the girls I grew up with and for my girls and my granddaughters. My perspective is also for my mother and grandmothers and all the way back to when they couldn’t vote, much less be active in sports. I’m all for celebrating that we’re here today, men and women cheering the achievements of some absolutely stellar female athletes.

The women also participated…

Last week, I watched my youngest grandchild play in her first soccer game. They had two practices and were ready to take on the game as only a bunch of kindergarteners can, not knowing what they didn’t know. The parents and grandparents had little expectation and it was all fun. When I later asked mine what her favorite part was, she said scoring the points. They didn’t score any, so that’s that. Here she is getting close to the action. She also played goalie for a quarter, which I think was maybe 5 minutes. DSC_0019As I was turning out of the park, I had a sudden memory flash. Wow! This was my, counting in my head, 12th child to watch play soccer, including my four children and my eight grandchildren. Wow. This was the first organized sport for all of them and the only organized sport they all played. Wow. I spent time processing this as I remembered so much.

My oldest daughters started playing way back in the last century, back in 1976. Ancient times compared to the students I work with who were born in the late 199os. Soccer had been introduced to Tulsa the year before so none of us remembered or knew too much. Soccer was a game we played in gym class back in the 1950’s, or mid-century as it now referred to.

Anyway, my two oldest daughters were in 2nd grade and kindergarten that first year and played on the same team, the Crickets. There were no places to buy uniforms so our clever coach either made little weskits for them to wear over a shirt with shorts or found them somewhere. I’m not even sure they had soccer shoes, but I remember shin guards. I guess someone lined the fields. We didn’t have fancy game chairs and the kids played on full size fields, so there was a whole lot of running involved. And clover picking. Not much yelling since nobody understood the rules yet. That was later…My oldest daughter went on to play soccer and tennis and swim competitively. She liked it, but sports weren’t her all-consuming love. She had fun teams, mostly with girly names.

IMG_7483My second daughter took to soccer with a passion. Although she swam competitively and learned other sports, she played soccer  as a goalie all the way through college, getting a partial scholarship at a time when schools were just starting to offer them. She played after college and played with injuries until she had to stop. Then she had kids and became their coach and coached others and became a soccer mom. She was definitely our soccer kid!Scan 37Our third daughter started playing in 1978, when she was 5. Her first team was the Lollipops. She was later a Tiger and on other teams, and also swam competitively, but eventually took up softball and track in high school. She’s now a runner and has been in a couple of marathons. IMG_7485Our son started playing about 1980 when he was five. I don’t remember if this was his first team, but I love that my skinny boy was once an Incredible Hulk. He swam, although I wouldn’t say he was competitive, and played t-ball, basketball, football, and ran cross country. To be honest, he was better at art and comedy. When he died at the age of 35, one of his friends remembered him as the worst player on the soccer team, but the most fun. That was pretty much his story all along. He did win class elections, so there was a bit of competition in him!IMG_5021By the time we had grandkids, soccer was so established and was definitely still the place most kids started team sports. Now they could sometimes find teams when they were 3 or 4 years old playing on little fields. I think all of ours were at least 5 or in kindergarten, but they all started young. Our oldest, who is now a freshman in college, was a big kid and ready for sports. He played soccer for several years as well as baseball, basketball and football. Baseball was his favorite and he played through high school.86777-PH-8Sept2002-020Our first three grandsons were all born within 8 months of each other. The next two are graduating from high school next month. The second one is the son of my soccer playing second daughter, so he was on the field with Coach Mom. Guess what?! He’s almost 19 and still playing, although I think his years on the field are drawing to an end. Now 6’5″ he played basketball too, although he ended up in soccer, playing on a competitive team and the school varsity team. Note Coach Mom on the sideline here.86777-PH-8Sept2002-016The third grandson started with soccer and t-ball and played soccer and baseball for many years. He found his calling in football by high school, ending his career last fall as the Center on the high school team. He’s into filmmaking and off to other things now. He’s about to kick the ball in this picture.86838-PH-Box 01-066You can’t imagine what a rush of blurred soccer memories this has brought back to me. Putting all these sports into the perspective of my life has been a trip of sorts. Now we’re to my fourth grandson, another son of my Soccer Mom, who played soccer, baseball and basketball until he settled on soccer, playing on competitive teams and the high school team with his brother. He’s grown almost as tall as his brother in the last year and will still be kicking for as long as he can! I’ll throw in this picture of him with Coach Mom, although I have to show one of him running. He still flies through the air at times.

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My fifth grandson is about 9 months younger than the fourth and they are in the same class. This guy is our biggest kid since birth, still growing at 16 and 6″5 1/2″. He started in soccer and played soccer, basketball and baseball for many years. He only wants to play baseball now as a sophomore in high school. In fact, that’s all he wants to do and plays on a competitive team and on the school team. Anyone need a tall pitcher/first baseman to play for them when he finishes school? He started like the rest of them…with soccer.

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Whew! Are you keeping up with all of this? How many patches have I sewn on uniforms? How many soccer fields have I driven to? How many half-time bottles of water, orange slices, and after game snacks have I provided? When my kids were little, I had three or four playing at once and my husband had to work on Saturdays, so I drove a lot. Games on every side of town at the same time. The only time I wanted to scream was when I heard one of my daughters say I didn’t go to her games (she said this as an adult). Dang! I didn’t miss many! Really now.

The next two grandkids are now in 8th grade, in the same class, at the same school as the rest. It’s a combo middle/high school where three of my children and three of my kids’ spouses graduated. The girl, the third child of my soccer mom daughter, is now playing soccer, basketball, volleyball, and, are you ready?, shot put on the track team. She’s the envy of her youngest cousin who now has trophies and medals in her eyes after seeing a picture of her idol with a medal around her neck and the team trophy awarded to her for her work as goal keeper. She was into it from the start.

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She’s only about 3 weeks older than her cousin, who is in the same class. He started with soccer and has played baseball, basketball and football. He’s now playing baseball most of the time on a competitive team. I guess he’ll go out for varsity baseball and play with his cousin next year. When these youngest two (not counting the kindergartner) began, they were on the same team with Coach Mom coaching. She became Coach Aunt Robin at that time. Here they both are, jumping for joy at the same age my youngest is now.

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All these memories rushing in. So many trophies and medals. So many games and tournaments.

The meaning I get from this is that I am the luckiest person in the world. I am still alive and healthy and have seen all of them play their games and enjoy all their activities from sports to singing to art and dance. Does it get any better than this? I don’t make it to every game because that would be impossible with all the sports in all the places with all these kids, but I see enough to bask in their enthusiasm and take pride in their abilities.

I’ve watched my children and grandchildren lose, pout, stomp their feet, cry, laugh and enjoy the wins. I’ve watched the kids do the “good game” hand slap walk across the fields with the other team and walk back to their parents with either the joy of victory or the sting of defeat. The best is the beginners who haven’t figured it out yet and run off the field happy either way the game ended.

It’s been fun to be on the sidelines all these years. You know, it’s not too long until there may be another generation for me to follow to the kicking fields. I hope I can make it because won’t that be the best ever?