Basketball is on my mind this week, due to a confluence of three things:
- March Madness starts tomorrow and my house is abuzz. We are a basketball-crazy family and we can’t wait for the first tipoff. Note to self: fill out the bracket today.
- My daughter was home for a visit and took advantage of the above-freezing weather to shoot some hoops. I watched her, overcome with nostalgia for the days when I cheered her on from the bleachers. I still miss those days.
- I read Pat McKinzie’s autobiography, “Home Sweet Hardwood: A Title IX Trailblazer Breaks Barriers Through Basketball,” a moving, sometimes heartbreaking but always inspirational story of a woman whose passion and sheer determination forged her journey into the world of women’s basketball … and changed the face of it forever.
A Story of Courage
Enacted in 1972, Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools that receive federal funding — including in their athletics programs. By the time this law became mandated, Pat had endured years of frustration and isolation as a girl who just wanted to compete on the same level as boys, and was told she couldn’t.
But with the passage of Title IX, Pat was the first female to be awarded an athletic scholarship in Illinois, and went on to become the first female player to score 1,000 points at Illinois State University. She is one of the first Women’s Professional Basketball League draftees and female inductees in the Hall of Fame at Illinois State.
Although Pat and I have not yet met face-to-face, I have come to know her well through her blog and the blogging group we both belong to. The story of her career has captivated me from the very start, but I have also admired Pat for her character, her devotion to family and friends, and her kindness.
As the granddaughter of Eureka College’s legendary Coach Mac, Ralph McKinzie, Pat grew up with basketball in her DNA. But it was through sheer will and advances in women’s rights that her dreams of competing were realized.
Her success on the collegiate level led to a spot in the fledgling Professional Women’s Basketball League where her desire to play was thwarted by both injury and injustice.
After a car accident ended her playing career in Europe at the age of 25, Pat turned to coaching and teaching and has inspired countless young women and men to never give up pursuing their dreams.
Pat’s story is one of persistence and courage, a story that transcends athletics and can be applied to any life challenge. Who should read this book? To quote her, “Anyone coaching an athlete. Anyone playing ball. Anyone loving a game. Anyone raising a daughter. Anyone chasing a dream.”
My daughter likes to to shoot hoops now and then. But had she aspired to more, and had she possessed the talent, gender inequity in the sport would not have held her back.
Thank you, Pat, and your trailblazing team mates, for helping to set the course for generations of female athletes.