40 years ago today, Title IX went into effect – basically saying that no one can be excluded or denied benefits or discriminated against on the basis of sex. I always just thought Title IX meant girls can play sports. I realize now that it has meant much more to my life than just that.
As a Smithie, I think my senses are naturally heightened about discrimination. I am humbly indebted to the amazing women before me who were such pioneers in paving the way to the life I have been able to lead. For one, it opened up doors in technology.
I was a young CIO – Chief Information Officer – which meant I was responsible for all the technology for our 7 offices across the country, during the dawning of the Internet. Everything was changing and I was in the middle of some incredible projects.
I was the only woman officer of the company. I also was the first pregnant officer – which did not go smoothly – to put it mildly. I actually was shocked at how I was treated, especially since I was somewhat of a golden child there for 7 years. I saw first-hand what other women had talked about – but I never thought it would happen to me.
I ended up leaving the company but my eyes were opened. There is still work to be done.
You may have read some of my recent posts about my introduction to the world of coaching. I coached my daughter’s softball team. It reminded me when I was twelve – shortly after Title IX had passed – that they started a girls softball league for us – for ages 10-12. I got to play for one year. There was no league for 13-year-olds.
There were SO many girls who still wanted to play – now that we all had gotten a taste of being on a team.
We had a big meeting in the church basement. I remember a turning point in the meeting where they said that we couldn’t go forward with a league unless someone would step up and be the President.
I looked up at my mother with a hopeful (begging) look.
She stepped up. We started a league.
I still run into people today who say, “The reason we have a girls league is because of Erin Moran’s big blue eyes!”
That year we went to the State Finals! We didn’t even have uniforms – we had to borrow the boys’ uniforms (who had been kicked out of the playoffs early on!) It was an amazing experience.
I was disappointed that there were only 2 women coaches in all 5 of the town softball leagues this year. One of my youngest players gives me hope though. One night when I was short-handed, her mother had said to me,”My husband was thinking of coaching but can’t get to the games by 6 o’clock.”
To which her daughter looked up to her with big blue eyes and replied, “Well, mom, why don’t YOU coach?”
Go girls go!
Check out the cool ESPN mural of women athletes. I added my girls team – the Disco Pandas – along with my Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk Team and teaching my kids to ski at Park City, Utah. What about you?
Thanks for being here and here’s to YOUR Year of Action,
Pandas win! What a great night.
Although the game didn’t start out that way.
There is something special when you arrive and the field is beautifully manicured and specially prepared for playoffs. One girl said to me, “It’s too bad we have to mess up the field!”
We were up first and our first batter up had a great hit and beat out the throw to cheers – only to be called out. The ump said she threw the bat. I looked and the bat was about a foot from home plate. We asked him about the call. No ump had made a call like that all season. He made a big announcement out on the field, “It’s dangerous behind home plate and if you throw your bat, you’ll be called out.”
We were all a bit stunned. Our next two batters struck out. The top of the order was shut down 1-2-3. This can’t be good.
We took the field and we struck out the side as well. Okay the game is on.
The ump continued to be tough the entire game – calling out more players for “throwing” their bats, not being entirely in the batter box, etc. It was tough especially for the kids who hadn’t had many hits this season, and to get a hit in the playoffs only to be called out on questionable calls.
I tried to set a good example for the girls and not focus on the ump and saying to the girls that these are the playoffs and we’re in the big league – but the other coach and I both couldn’t quite believe his calls.
We found our rhythm though and started to really play well. Getting lots of hits, amazing base running and even making a double play. We ended up winning 9-3.
Our next game is Wednesday and we are playing a team that only lost one game all season (to us!) – so it should be a good game.
I realized that we are the only two women coaches in the entire league! Go Girl Power!
We don’t play with Barbie dolls… we just play with bats and balls.
We don’t wear no mini skirts…we just wear our softball shirts.
We don’t paint our nails bright red…we just play softball instead.
–Disco Panda cheer
Tonight, my softball team, The Disco Pandas, is in the playoffs. I am a first-time coach for my daughter’s 3 & 4th grade softball team. It has been an amazing season.
I was floored the first time I heard the above cheer coming from the dugout. It gave me hope that little girls do indeed want to do more than play with dolls. These girls are awesome. They are kind. They cheer each other on. They are brave. They are tough. They want to win.
My philosophy is that everyone gets to play the infield. I didn’t relegate the 3rd graders to Right Field. Anyone who wanted to try pitching, got to pitch. Star infielders who wanted to be catcher (which basically would take them out of the plays) got to catch.
This sometimes raised some eyebrows among the parents – but it’s about the girls. It’s about building confidence.
My personal highlight was when my daughter asked if she could pitch in the middle of the season, just before the start of a game.
She had never pitched. Had never practiced pitching. I wasn’t sure if she could even reach the plate from the pitcher’s mound. But more than any of that, it was so out of character for her. She’s a worrier. She gets nervous trying anything new. Anytime we asked her if she wanted to try something (basketball, piano, softball) she said, “No.” But we just wanted to help her try new things and see what she liked. We signed her up anyway – and she ended up loving them – after some tearful, resistant beginnings.
So seeing her bright eyes and big smile, asking to pitch, made me well-up. I was so proud of her to be finding her confidence.
I had her throw me a few balls from the sidelines and it looked like she would be able to reach and I said, “Wow – you’re doing great. Sure. You can pitch.”
She walked out to the mound, with her head high, full of optimism. I was petrified for her.
She threw a couple balls (way out of the strike zone) and then her first strike. Very cool. Then she struck out the batter. Then another. The third batter got a hit and her team backed her up and made the play. 1-2-3 inning for Miss Lily.
One of life’s great moments.
There are certain moments in your life that stay with you – turning points. I think this was one of those moments for her. Finding the courage to try something new and going for it. I honestly don’t remember if we won that game or not – but I will never forget her running off the mound with a big smile – and a new sense of confidence. Who knows where this moment will help take her in life? I have noticed a new spring in her step.
When these girls started the season, many didn’t know where Left Field was and had to be reminded not to toss their glove up in the air during the game. They have come a long way. We won 4, tied 4, and lost 2 games. (And we have never lost the After Game Relay Race – which we are quite proud of!) More than anything else, these girls have all improved – both as softball players and more importantly, as people.
It’s single elimination for the playoffs – so tonight could be our last game. But it has been a real joy working with these young girls. I am so proud of my Pandas. Wish us luck!
Video – Disco Pandas Go Jump in a Lake (One EXTREMELY hot afternoon, we were playing an away game and after the game we discovered a lake behind the ball field. We let the girls jump in – in their uniforms! Go Disco Pandas!)
I haven’t had a baseball mitt in 35 years – so I’m borrowing my son’s. I am a new coach for my daughter’s softball team.
I was nervous to try my hand at coaching. Not about the coaching but about the parents. People take this all VERY seriously. It’s a little intimidating. Plus, there are very few women coaches – 2 to be exact – even though it is an all girls league. But, I thought I’d give it a try.
I’m loving it.
My team, “The Disco Pandas”, is off to a great start. (If you can’t tell, we let the girls choose the name.) We’re (surprisingly) undefeated – with 4 games under our belt.
I get questions like, “Which one is left field?” and “Where do I stand?” (at home plate.)
One girl, trying out playing 2nd base for the first time, asked me if she was supposed to have tagged the runner. The ball had been hit to the pitcher and was nowhere near her. I said, “You have to have the ball to tag someone.”
She said, “Oh…now I get it!”
It reminds me of the first time I played golf. I hit a great drive my first time up and was feeling proud of myself. Only to be deflated moments later when I took out a tee for my second shot on the fairway and was informed that you can only use a tee on your first shot.
It is very humbling to try something for the first time.
Back to the “Pandas.”
Last week, we were playing a very intense team from another town. (Again these are 9 and 10 year olds – so I am still somewhat baffled about what is fueling the intensity of these games.) I don’t believe in the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality or not keeping score – but it shouldn’t have to be cutthroat either.
Success for me is having the girls support each other and cheer each other on, and to get everyone playing. I want them to try all the positions, to improve and gain confidence, and hopefully to learn which one is left field and which side of the plate to stand on.
Speaking of home plate, at last week’s game one of my youngest and smallest players, who had never come close to hitting the ball during practice, was up to bat with bases loaded and two outs.
Her first swing was in the dirt (and looked a lot like my golf swing). The next swing was way over her head. The crowd was cheering and shouting and it would have made the most seasoned of players, nervous. I can’t even imagine what was going through her head.
She stood in there. Unflappable.
It reminds me of the many young people who are graduating and going off and trying things for the first time. Being nervous. Being afraid. Having no idea what to do.
My advice would be that we could all learn a few things from my young Panda at the plate. She stood in there and kept swinging. She didn’t know what she was doing but tried anyway.
You need to keep swinging even though you may miss and may look foolish. Because sometimes – out of the blue – when you keep trying, you may get a hit and drive in the winning run – like my young player did.
We gave her the game ball and she looked up at me with big eyes and said, “What do I do with this?”
“You’ve already done it! You’re the star of the game.”
So to all those who are about to graduate or try something for the first time, think of my “Disco Pandas” and be brave. Get in the game. Keep swinging.
For the last 10 Saturdays, we’ve started our mornings on the soccer sidelines with my husband cheering, “Go #7 Power”. He would embarrass/make our daughter Lily smile by yelling out her number and team name very loudly.
The real triumph was actually just getting to the field. That process would start at about 7 with Lily saying she didn’t want to go, why did we sign her up, her cleats didn’t fit….yet when we got to the field, she seemed to be enjoying herself.
On the mornings when she would look at me teary-eyed saying she didn’t want to go, I would say, “You can quit if you want. We can call the coach tomorrow – but you can’t quit today. Your team is counting on you and you can’t just not show up.” This was our routine for about 4 or 5 weeks.
Then one Saturday, as we were all asleep, we heard a frightened scream from Lily’s room. One of those awful screams that bolts you out of bed. She was having a dizzy spell and couldn’t get out of bed and didn’t know what to do, so she just yelled for us. (These random spells have been happening for the past few years without pattern or diagnosis. They come. Scare us all. And they go.)
We were sure there would be no soccer this day. Yet when my husband asked her if she felt up to going to the game, she said she did and … her team needed her.
My husband and I sat on the player/coaches side of the field – typically off limits to parents – but we wanted to be nearby in case there was any kind of relapse. We can’t explain what happened. She had her best game ever. She was amazing. Something clicked. She believed in herself. She believed that her team needed her. She was transformed right before our eyes.
These last few weeks she has been getting ready on her own. There’s a spring in her step. No complaints about itchy socks or loose laces. No tears. No talks of quitting. Other parents who had seen her over the past few years and other coaches have come up to us saying, “Wow Lily is really doing great! There are loud cheers for Lily from the sidelines – and not just the embarrassing ones from her father! In fact at yesterday’s game she started on offense and when they made subs, instead of calling Lily off the field, the coaches moved her to defense to continue playing.
This is not about soccer. This is about the power of transformation. About the power of believing in yourself. About the power of not letting others down. About the power of teamwork and having others who believe in you. About the power of sticking with something even when it’s tough and your shoes hurt. About the power of not giving up. (She’s already asked us to sign her up for the spring team!). Go #7 Power!