Passion to Play: How Pre-Title IX Women Paved the Way

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER


This story was originally written in 2012 to celebrate 40 years of Title IX. We are re-publishing the story as it appeared in 2012 as part of our celebration of Women's History Month.

Before Title IX was passed in 1972, a passion to play linked collegiate female athletes on the East Coast in an era of limited opportunity. Small schools like Ursinus and West Chester dominated the Philadelphia area along with Temple.

“I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew where I had to go to fulfill that dream,” said 1965 Ursinus graduate Judy Wolstenholme. “West Chester and Ursinus were the crème de la crème for women’s sports.”

“We would beat Maryland,” said 1975 Ursinus graduate Feffie Barnhill. “The quality athletes chose to go there.”

Dedicated college coaches drew players to these schools.

“There was strong female leadership, which was very influential,” said 1966 West Chester grad Tina Sloan Green. “These women had been all around the world playing lacrosse. They were bright and passionate about what they did. They were contemporary in their thoughts, and they’d encourage you to be advocates for women’s sports.”

In New England, Sargent College, a school of Boston University, and Bouve were top choices. In the Mid-Atlantic area, Towson and Maryland were most active in women’s sports.

“Bare bones, that’s what we were used to,” said Pat Dillon, who played on the first Towson women’s lacrosse team and graduated in 1972. “You’re lucky you got a stick. We shared uniforms. Field hockey gave them to basketball, and then they gave them to lacrosse. We had to drive ourselves. Our big away game was to West Chester, or out to Frostburg.”

Softball and lacrosse teams regularly arranged practices around each other so women could play both in the spring. Multi-sport athletes were the norm.

“A lesser athlete might not have had the opportunity I had,” said 1966 Ursinus graduate Sue Stahl. “I was fortunate to go and be on the starting team of all four sports all four years.”

At Sargent during Angela Tammaro’s time, few sports were contested during the school year. Most competed during a month-long camp in the summer.

“It was part of the P.E. program,” said Tammaro, a 1962 Sargent graduate. “If you liked to play, it was perfect. They would bring in specialists, who many times were top players, to teach us in their different sports.”

To play lacrosse during the school year, Tammaro left work on the weekends to compete in the stacked Boston Lacrosse Association.

“It was as amateur as they could get,” Tammaro said. “And we paid for everything. Most of us, when went to tournaments, played a game, then officiated a game.”







Athletic departments for men’s and women’s programs operated separately — and often unequally. “We weren’t allowed to be in the training room,” Dillon said. “They would hand us ice through the door. They occasionally gave us a roll of tape and we’d have to tape ourselves. We got no shoes, no equipment. We got the uniform, no extra gear.”

Said Tammaro: “We didn’t think it was fair. We weren’t quite daring enough to cause a scene.”

Despite what they didn’t have, pre-Title IX era players relished their opportunities. “We were there for the love of the game,” said 1972 West Chester graduate Merle “Mike” Werley: “I think some of that is lost.”

Sloan Green never played lacrosse until her sophomore year at West Chester, but she picked it up quickly and became a member of the U.S. women’s national team. Sandy Hoody was a softball player before becoming a standout lacrosse goalie at Towson in the 1970s.

“I was around at the right time and right place,” Hoody said.

Many pre-Title IX players became coaches of the Title IX generation. Gender equity came at a gradual pace.

“When we won the AIAW, they wouldn’t give us anything,” said Sue Tyler, the former Bouve College player and Maryland head coach who eventually became the first female athletic director at the University of Maine. “I had to use my own money. I bought all the girls charms. We had no locker room. It was a joke. Every day I drove a bread truck to the field to bring our equipment to the field.”

Many pre-Title IX lacrosse players have done great things as pioneers in women’s sports.

Josie Harper (West Chester ’65) became the first female athletic director at an Ivy League school, Dartmouth. Nathalie “Muffy” Smith (Bouve ’62) started the Hofstra women’s program in 1976. Tammaro is a scholastic coaching legend in her 47th year at all-girls Greenwich (Conn.) Academy. Stahl was the head coach for 21 years at Old Dominion and won four gold medals atop the U.S. World Cup team.

Former Virginia head coach Jane Miller (Bouve ’73) remains a top administrator there. Dillon is a decorated official who chaired the US Lacrosse women’s rules committee for 19 years. Cindy Timchal (West Chester ’76) is the winningest coach in women’s lacrosse history. Sloan Green coached Temple from 1974-92 and now runs the Black Women in Sports Foundation Wolstenholme was a top official for decades. Barnhill coached 16 years at William & Mary and was the first president of the unified Federation of International Lacrosse.

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