Archive for the ‘women’s basketball’ Tag

Nothin’ But Net and Grit   Leave a comment


Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder focuses on a group of young women from various parts of rural Oklahoma in the early 1930s. It’s been call the counterpart to Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat in that it highlights overcoming adversity. Whereas the boys rowed their way to fame in the 1936 Olympics, the young women are basketball players. Their glory was limited to a championship season. As Reeder recounts, however, what a season it was!

In addition to profiles of the players and coach, the author provides vivid descriptions of the hardscrabble era, a history of women’s basketball, and attitudes toward women sports in general. For instance, the sport was considered unladylike. This was reflected in the rules governing uniforms and rules. Although it’s interesting, these aspects are frequently repeated, with little variation. Consequently, it appears as padding more than insightful content.

What may be most striking is that the women, most in their late teens, played for the Oklahoma Presbyterian College Cardinals on full scholarships. Many were farm girls, whose families would not otherwise have been able to afford to send them to college. Their basketball skills were often gleaned on dirt patches; these were strong, talented players.

During the Depression era, it was common for businesses to sponsor women’s teams as promotional enterprises. The Cardinals faced opponents from other small schools and non-academic teams. Olympic medalist, and later women’s golf pro, Babe Didrikson was a member of the latter. Hers was the team to beat.

Dust Bowl Girls
Three and three-quarter Bookmarks
Algonquin Books, 2017
286 pages, including epilogue and notes


Summitting a Career   3 comments

(The University of Tennessee College of Communications and Information, where I attended graduate school, was in the shadow of the football stadium. At the time, the Volunteers were the nearest thing in the state to a pro team. Close as I was to the gridiron, I never attended a game. Instead, my attention was drawn to the Lady Vols basketball team because the coach, then in her fifth year, and I shared a name. I’ve followed Tennessee women’s basketball ever since.)


Nearly two years ago, Pat Summitt who coached the Lady Vols for 38 years, announced that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia. She continued to coach for a year, but last season handed over the reins to an assistant. Although still involved in the program, Summitt spent a large portion of the past year writing her memoir, Sum It Up with Sally Jenkins. It’s subtitled “1,098 Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective.”

Her records aside, what is particularly noteworthy is that when she began coaching, Tennessee high school girls were still relegated to playing half-court ball. Summitt recounts growing up on a farm in rural Tennessee, and after graduating from college initially being offered an assistance coaching job at UT. That never happened. Instead, she became head coach where,  in the beginning, she did everything except sell tickets. Ultimately, she was instrumental in drawing national attention to women’s basketball.

Summitt’s accolades include Olympic medals, as a player and coach, national college championships, and the fact that 100 percent of all of her athletes graduated from college – many of whom went into teaching or coaching.

The latter and her love for her son are what fuel her passion for life. Anyone who’s seen Summitt pace the sidelines during games knows her as a no-nonsense, disciplined and demanding coach. What many don’t know is the depth of her compassion for her players, colleagues, and women’s sports. In an honest, unsentimental voice, this is what comes through in her book.

Sum It Up
Four Bookmarks
Crown Archtype, 2013
385 pages, including appendices