The backyard revelry was at a height as I watched my young granddaughters Scarlett and Daisy run, throw, kick and bat the ball. I ruminated upon their future. Would I someday be watching them represent their country in the Olympics? Amazingly, it seems that anything is possible for this twosome as a result of this Year of the Woman Athlete, as embodied by the London Olympics.
Parenthetically, 2012 is also the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which “opened the door” for female athletes. Great-grandma Dot, who left us suddenly this past year, would be nodding affirmatively from above saying, “You go, Scarlett and Daisy, score that goal!” Dot never had the benefit of Title IX, but she has left a legacy of strength, dignity and determination that paves the way for her great-granddaughters.
Calmly at the helm in a sometimes chaotic home while Dad worked three jobs to provide for me and three siblings, she maintained a stable and loving environment , remarkable in the sense that she had become totally deaf before the birth of her second child. Today, I see those characteristics in all of the women of this family, and wonder if it will lead them to successes on the athletic fields or, more significantly, to achievements in science, medicine, education or public service?
I thought of other trailblazers I have known who also possessed these qualities and have likewise paved a path for Scarlett and Daisy.
In my baseball-crazy preteen years on the sandlots of Hamburg, Peggy Boda was hands-down the best hardball player that any of us had ever seen. This female sprite could wing the ball in with laser-like accuracy and possessed such skill with the bat, that it was a given that she was the first pick in any choose-up game. All of the gang speculated on which Lakeshore Little League team would be lucky enough to land her on its roster. Each of us hoped it would be our team. When it was announced that no girls were allowed in the boy’s league, she accepted the decision with dignity and strength. We denounced the stupidity of the rules and the way it had to be. Our best player would have to watch from the sidelines! Injustice became a new word in our vocabulary.
Years later, as the newly appointed boys cross country coach at Bishop Neumann High School, I was quite surprised when a petite sophomore, Loretta Loughran, appeared at opening tryouts. There were puzzled looks from the boys, including comments about being at the wrong practice. Girls did not “run” boys cross country! However, this young lady was determined. She exhibited a toughness and determination that was an inspiration to the team, and carried herself with dignity as many of our opponents looked twice and shook their heads when she lined up to compete. When she was awarded her varsity letter by the late Joe Piscopo, athletic director and an enthusiastic supporter, a major local paper’s sports department reported that Loretta was the first female to achieve this goal in the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association.
As I wondered what had become of these two pioneers and thought about how far we have come and how things have changed for my granddaughters, I was roused out of my trance by Scarlett’s errant throw. I surveyed the scene with a smile. In my mind, I could hear great-grandma’s words: “Yes indeed, ladies, this is a new world dawning!”