Four years after Title IX passed, I played on my grade school’s first girls’ basketball team.
Coached by Sr. Corrine and my mom, neither of whom had ever played the game, we enjoyed a two-game season, one home and one away, both against the same team.
So, when I landed in Xavier High School’s hallowed gym a few years later, I didn’t know a pivot from a post and could barely lace my super cool, all white low tops. I could not have asked for a better environment to learn the game. Due to fire codes, Brother Ed used to have to lock the doors of the gym during Xavier home boys basketball games, which always played to a capacity crowd. The Lady Hawks won the state title the year before I arrived and finished second eight times after I graduated. A few weeks ago, I enjoyed the opportunity to experience all of that excitement, apprehension and camaraderie again during the alumni game. My friend Kelly and I represented our squad, which lacked a little in the conference title department but rocked the post-game fun.
During a half-time presentation, we lined up chronologically across the gym, allowing us oldies to see how many, many girls played the game after we did.
In some ways girls basketball has progressed dramatically since Kelly and I played. The ball is smaller, the pace faster, and the play calling more sophisticated. Still, standing there in our street clothes during half-time of an excellent basketball game, we felt like we still had game, like we could kick off our matching black fashion boots, and break a full court press.
Not true. We actually worried mightily that we would trip on our short walk out to the court. What our evening did inspire in us were warm memories of dramatic time in our lives, and lasting pride in a sports program that taught its athletes, both male and female, to play hard, win with grace, lose with dignity and honor God above all else.