Women Athletes and the NCAA

As noted at the association’s official website, the organization began after President Theodore Roosevelt called a group of sports leaders to the White House to meet and find a resolution to the violence and deaths that resulted from injuries sustained during the course of football games.

By December 1905, the sixty-two sports leaders formed the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS). In 1910 the group changed its name to the present-day National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The association has three competitive divisions that are based on the size of a college or university’s student body and the scope of the school’s athletic programs and scholarships.

Including Women in the NCAA

It wasn’t until 1980, 75 years after the association was formed, that women’s collegiate sports were added to the association’s membership. Today the association has oversight for a myriad of women’s sports at the collegiate level including women’s cross-country, track and field, soccer, volleyball, basketball, bowling, gymnastics, ice hockey, swimming and diving, golf, lacrosse, rowing, tennis and water polo.

Soon after the association opened its doors to women, Pat Head Summit took the Lady Vols to the big dance. Twenty years later, Pat Head Summit, head coach of the University of Tennessee’s women’s basketball team,

became the coach with more wins than any other coach in college basketball, regardless of gender. After coaching for 35 seasons, Pat Head Summit has lost less than 200 games and won a whooping 1,000 games.

The Women’s NCAA Final Four in St. Louis

April 2009 Oklahoma, the University of Connecticut, Louisville and Stanford will meet in St. Louis at the Scottsdale Center to compete in NCAA women’s basketball’s big dance.

 UConn’s Charde Houston, Stanford’s Jayne Appel, Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris and Louisville’s Angel McCoughtry and their teammates will pour their deepest passions and physical abilities into the games that they play and compete like winners until one team is crowned the national champion.

Commendable Accomplishments in Other Collegiate Sports

The University of California at Los Angeles’ (UCLA) Gail Devers and Florence Griffith are two pioneers in the women’s NCAA outdoor track and field category. Both women won championships in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints. Additionally, both women went on to enjoy stellar professional track and field careers.

When it comes to women’s track and field teams, Louisiana State University (LSU) is a leader. Between the years 1982 through 2000, LSU won twelve of the national team championships, more than any other college or university in the United States.

 LSU’s Dawn Sowell ran her way to championship records in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints. During that period Dawn owned the championship records in both races with times of 10.78 and 22.04 respectively.

Stanford’s women swimmers earned a remarkable 102 titles. The College of New Jersey’s mighty Lions field hockey and lacrosse teams won back-to-back championships from 1999 through 2000, the team’s tenth national championship. The Lions midfielder, Jamie Holtz, helped lead the team to several of those victories.

When it comes to fencing, Princeton University’s Eva Petschnigg took on Stanford’s Monique de Bruin and took Princeton University to one of their team titles. However, it is Penn State’s Nittany Lions and their team leader Jessica Burke, who have historically won the most team championships in fencing.

Where Women Athletes Are Headed

With the advent of women’s professional teams like the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, the Detroit Shock and the Connecticut Sun and professional women’s tennis players like Serena and Venus Williams and the LPGA’s Lorena Ochoa and Karie Webb, women athletes will continue to make great strides forward.

Women have performed under pressure in each of their respective sports. Women have competed with injuries, after suffering great personal losses and coached while facing long-term physical illnesses.

 Backing down and cowering are not on the agenda of young girls and women around the world. Think about it. Who would have thought that women would be earning a living playing professional sports just a mere 25 years ago?

Despite the challenges, including social beliefs around gender roles and responsibilities, women will continue to become stronger competitors and athletes.

 The young girl who dreams of making it to the top of her favorite sport, the game she loves and thinks about nearly all day long, will not be denied. She will not be stopped because, after all, she’s a champion.

Donald S. Cochran

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