Holli Stetson makes sure her players take this particular walk each and every year.
It is a familiar route for the students at Longmont High School, and yet one so rich in history the significance of the generations passing by one face at a time often becomes lost in redundancy.
Stetson, a standout athlete at Lyons High School not long after Title IX legislation led to an entirely new world of opportunities for female athletes, has never forgotten her roots. When Stetson begins her ninth season as the head volleyball coach at Longmont this fall, she will continue a tradition that has been as important as any drill or scouting report she has imparted upon her Trojans.
Not long after the Trojans reconvene for the 2012 campaign, Stetson will lead her club on a walk along the school’s athletic Hall of Fame, represented with a gallery of pictures in the hallway outside Longmont’s gymnasium. Stetson will point out to her charges the handful of female tennis players honored for their contributions dating all the way back to the 1920’s. With more than a twinge of regret, she then will note the glaring dearth of female representatives in the Hall of Fame from the 1930’s through the middle of the 70’s.
This month, the groundbreaking legislation of Title IX, a benchmark of the Educational Amendments that were passed into law on June 23, 1972, will celebrate its 40th anniversary. For educators and coaches such as Stetson, long time Monarch girls basketball coach Gail Hook, and literally hundreds of thousands of others, the landmark ruling opened previously nonexistent doors of opportunity that modern female athletes continue to stream through to this day.
“I was in elementary school when Title IX happened, and I am tremendously lucky to be an athlete who played under legendary coach Fran Sixkiller,” said Stetson, referring to the former Lyons and Longmont coach who was inducted into the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 2004.
“She was a huge proponent of Title IX. Before that, girls who wanted to play sports had two choices — cheerleading or poms. When I got to high school I was a three-sport athlete. I thrived on it.”
For that reason, Stetson routinely gives her players a history lesson before each season with the informative stroll along Longmont’s Hall of Fame. Far from being a droning lecture, Stetson believes it remains imperative for each new generation of female athletes to understand that the opportunities they currently are seizing essentially were nonexistent not terribly long ago.
“There are some girls in the 19-teens and 20’s (in the Longmont Hall of Fame), then they just dropped off because nothing was even offered,” Stetson said. “All of the sudden, in the 70’s, it starts to catch up. What opportunities did women have? They could cheer. I think it’s important to show them the history of Longmont athletics and how they need to embrace the opportunities available now.”
Hook, who has led the Monarch girls basketball team to the final four in three of the past four seasons, shares a similar background. After graduating high school in 1977, Hook competed in the basketball national championship game for Maryland when women’s collegiate athletics remained under the umbrella of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.
Hook transferred to the University of Colorado after two seasons, eventually becoming a fixture on the local high school scene. Whenever Hook leads the Coyotes onto the floor at the Coors Events Center for those marquee games, she is reminded of just how far her sport in particular, and women’s athletics in general, have evolved over the past 40 years.
It is a message Hook makes certain her teams never forget.
“The things I tell my players is that when I was in high school, we had the girls game at 4 and the boys at 7,” Hook said. “At 4 in those days, you could count how many people were in the gym. It wasn’t like now, when parents could get off work to see their daughters’ games. Usually the parents weren’t there. It was scattered teachers, maybe the custodial staff and a few friends.
“We’ve come awfully far, but we still have a ways to go. I’m the only female head coach of a girls team at Monarch. In our league, I’m one of only two women coaches out of 12. I’d definitely like to see more women in coaching. It’s not about just having the opportunity to play, but having the opportunity to coach or be a broadcaster or any number of other things.”
Follow Pat Rooney on Twitter: @prooney07