It's Sunday morning, February 5, and my Twitter feed is bursting with sports news and opinions. Most are about the Super Bowl, of course, and then, somewhat less mainstream, there's the one from Talib Kweli which links to an Atlantic article by Max Fisher on "Why Thousands of Iranian Women Are Training to Be Ninjas."
Filed Under: Middle School, women in sports, Grades 7-12 and PG, gender, Connecticut Sun, athletics, On Education, Boarding and Day, Ninjutsu, Boston Celtics, On Athletics, All Girls Education, Women's Professional Soccer, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education
I will never forget the look on Ramses Lonlack’s face when we first walked into the Mullins Center at UMass. Her jaw dropped, her eyes widened, her head tilted back, and as she gazed slowly around the arena, she said softly yet firmly, “Some day, I’m going to play in a place like this.” Along with several other fans from Stoneleigh-Burnham, we sat down near the small but enthusiastic cohort that seemed to be made up mostly of friends, roommates, and family members to cheer on the UMass women’s basketball team, Ramses’s voice rising with many others as she got caught up in her enthusiasm.
Women’s basketball fans are indeed enthusiastic about their sport, and many of us share a bond that goes far deeper than whatever team(s) we happen to support. Liz Feeley is a former women’s basketball coach in Divisions I and III, but although she undoubtedly sees more in five seconds than I see in five games, she loves to discuss the chances of UConn (a team I’ve followed since Rebecca Lobo went there out of Western Massachusetts) vs. Notre Dame (one of her former teams) with me, and a Diet Coke now rides on each match-up. Similarly, when I took Ramses and another girl from Africa to a professional Connecticut Sun game, they discovered the visiting Los Angeles Sparks had a player from Africa and began to root loudly for the opponents. Other fans turned around to gaze at them, but rather than incredulity or irritation, their faces showed a kind of bemused delight.
The following year, I learned a friend of mine (Melissa Sterry, a Sun fan and former WNBA blogger whom I had gotten to know simply by starting an email conversation in reaction to one of her blogs) kept six season tickets for the express purpose of bringing people to Sun games and getting them interested in women’s ball. She invited me to bring a cohort of students whom we took out to dinner after the game so she could talk to them a bit about basketball and about their lives. Ramses was originally supposed to go to that game too, but at the last minute had to cancel because a Division I school had offered her a tryout. She expressed profound disappointment at missing the Sun game, but knew this was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
Women’s basketball began in 1892 when Sendra Berenson of Smith College adapted the rules of the year-old sport for women. Players could only bounce the ball once before passing, and the court was divided into three zones to minimize running. Three players per team were assigned to each zone – guard, center, or forward. The first known women’s basketball game opposed the classes of 1895 and 1896, with the freshmen winning 5-4.
In 1914, just two years after the college opened, West Tennessee State Normal School played their own first women’s basketball game, winning 24-0 over a local high school. The college would undergo a number of name changes through the years, settling on the University of Memphis in 1994. Despite their early advocacy of women’s sports, the college demoted all women’s athletics from varsity status in 1936. They would remain so until the passage of Title IX, and the women’s basketball team was reinstated for the 1972-1973 season.
Ramses did end up at the University of Memphis, the school she missed the Sun game for, and made her mark quickly. She won the “Rookie of the Week” award her first week in the league, and has won numerous defensive awards. More recently, she approached a major milestone, her 1000th point. She has also grabbed more than 500 rebounds and had over 250 steals, and is only the 6th player in U. Memphis history to achieve at this level. As Ramses approached the milestone, an excited buzz rose up on the Internet in the spirit both of women’s basketball and of Stoneleigh-Burnham, and when she finally made it, friends and fans from all over joined in congratulations. We could not be happier for her or prouder of her, and wish her all the best as she continues through her senior season.
Photo credit: Joe Murphy
-Bill Ivey, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School Dean
Filed Under: Women's Basketball, Alumnae, Ramses Lonlack '08, University of Memphis, athletics, Boarding and Day, On Athletics, College Prep, All Girls Education, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education, Admissions
It was not easy to tear ourselves away from the games. The varsity soccer team was playing for the league championship in a closely-contested tie game (we would eventually lose in a shootout), and the sun was shining warmly down on the spectators cheering them on. Meanwhile, the varsity volleyball team’s last match of the season was also close (it would end in a 2-3 loss). But once we got to my car, after having been forced to take last week off from service at the animal shelter due to power outages, it felt good to be on the road again.
At the shelter, Lisa smiled at us from behind the front desk and said it was really good that we came today because some of the morning volunteers had not been able to make it. Two adult volunteers had already started in on some of the work, and so it fell to us to clean four cat cages and ready them for their next residents, plus set up two additional cages that had already been scrubbed clean and disinfected. One of the students, in her second year of volunteering, had her cage scrubbed and newspaper already laid on the floor of one of the clean cages before I even had the chance to see how she was doing. The two other students, both first-years, needed little guidance themselves and also worked at a quick pace. As I wandered back and forth to touch base with them all, I was startled to walk in the front room and see one of the girls smiling out at me from within a cage - I imagine in order to gain easier access to the back wall and ceiling.
Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, School Happenings, All-Girls, athletics, On Education, Boarding and Day, All Girls Education, Community Service, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education
I hate stereotypes. I know I’m not alone by any stretch of the imagination, but I do. I really hate them. The ideas, not the people who hold them. So when I was a teenager reading Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini and loving it more and more as I turned the pages, I wanted to scream when I got to the locker room scenes involving the boys basketball team. It seemed like every stereotype of boys’ attitudes toward girls was there. “Come on,” I thought. “I don’t know any boys at all who are like that, and even if I did, I’ve never heard talk remotely like that in the locker room. No wonder so many people hold these stereotypes. Why do authors do this?!” In the back of my mind, I was aware that the locker room in Amherst High got relatively little use in gym class so it wasn’t really a fair test, and I was also aware that I was no varsity athlete and never would be. Still, it all seemed terribly unfair to me.
Fast forward to when my son was 9 and playing town baseball. His team had a party to celebrate the end of the season, and while the kids ran around and played, we parents sat around drinking Diet Cokes and talking about our kids and how they were growing up, their schools and teachers, and so on. Only after a while, I realized it wasn’t “we parents.” All the fathers except me were hanging out by the pick-up truck which held the beer coolers, talking at that point in time about rebuilding tractor engines. I was in fact talking with all the mothers. I shook my head to myself, briefly contemplated getting up and joining them as I could anticipate some joking, some of it friendly, about my hanging out with “the girls,” and then decided “Whatever.” and stayed in the conversation which I was enjoying. Kids were my world. Tractor engines weren’t.
September 28, 2011:
"But two years ago, a year and a half ago, my oldest daughter, who was 4 ½, and my husband were watching UConn men, playing on the television in the living room, and my daughter walked in the room and looked at the TV and said to Steve, 'Are those boys playing?' And I said, 'Yes.' And my daughter said, 'I didn’t know boys played basketball.'" - Rebecca Lobo
The UConn women's basketball team has a long, strong tradition of excellence and is inarguably one of the driving forces in popularizing women's basketball over the past two decades. Rebecca Lobo is a major part of that tradition. After graduating, she was one of the founding members of the WNBA, the longest-running professional women's league in U.S. sports history. She now works for ESPN as an analyst focusing on the WNBA and women's college basketball and was inducted this year into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Born in 1973, she is one of the first generation of girls to grow up in the Title IX era. In many ways, she epitomizes the progress that has been made for women athletes over the past four decades.