Sjoquist, Diamond honored

The two were given awards during Nat’l Girls and Women in Sports Day.

by Betsy Helfand

Two women with connections to MinnesotaâÄôs womenâÄôs basketball team received some hardware Wednesday.

Lynnette Sjoquist and Deborah Diamond werehonored as part of the 26th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Sjoquist was honored with the Media Award and Diamond was one of 13 given the Breaking Barriers award.

Sjoquist has been the radio color analyst for the womenâÄôs basketball team since 2001. Her interest in sports, however, extends much further back than that.

âÄúI grew up on a farm, and I had three brothers, and we shot baskets in between doing chores,âÄù Sjoquist said.

Sjoquist grew up in a period before Title IX âÄî she didnâÄôt play organized basketball until college.

While playing sports âÄî softball, volleyball, and basketball âÄî at Golden Valley Lutheran College for two years, Sjoquist said that the All-American Red Heads caught her and her twin sisterâÄôs eye.

The All-American Red Heads were a touring team of women playing against men who had come to SjoquistâÄôs hometown as part of a fundraiser.

After watching the Red Heads, Sjoquist, then 20, and her sister decided to join the team.

Sjoquist recalled playing about 200 games per year in a different town each night for the four years she was on the team.

âÄúIt was exciting,âÄù she said. âÄúI couldnâÄôt be happier. I got to see the country, and I got to play basketball every night.âÄù

After her time with the Red Heads, Sjoquist joined the Minnesota Fillies, a teamin the WomenâÄôs Professional BasketballLeague.

She played for the Fillies for a year until she was cut. The team offered her a job in public relations in the front office, and she was asked to become part of the broadcast team.

After her time with the Fillies, Sjoquist spent time as an assistant coach with Macalester College and in sales management.

While working in sales management, she received a call from Chris Voelz, the womenâÄôs athletics director at the University of Minnesota at the time.

Voelz asked her to do color commentary on a TV broadcast. She hadnâÄôt called a game in 20 years.

âÄúI said âÄòChris, are you kidding me? Of course IâÄôd be interested. Which game?âÄô And she said âÄòWell itâÄôs in two days,âÄôâÄùSjoquist said.

The next season, she was asked to join the webcast and then the radio cast where she has remained.

SjoquistâÄôs enthusiasm for her current job is evident.

âÄúIs there a better job? You get to go watch basketball, you get to talk about it, you get to give insight as far as what youâÄôre seeing, what youâÄôve learned, what the audience might not be able to imagine,âÄù Sjoquist said.

Her love for her job is tied directly with her passion for womenâÄôs sports.

âÄúI think it helps develop the young women. Girls that can compete in athletics learn so many life lessons,âÄù she said.

Sjoquist emceed this yearâÄôs celebration of women in sports, which she said gave her a âÄúnatural high.âÄù

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the passing of the Education Amendments of 1972, which included Title IX âÄî a fact not lost on Sjoquist.

ItâÄôs important for women to âÄúrecognize and be mindful of the fact that it was a hard fought battle, and we must remain vigilant in order for these opportunities [for women in sports] to continue to be,âÄù she said.

Diamond, who got her start in sports working as an athletics director in high school, currently serves as the Minnesota womenâÄôs basketball team office director.

She went to college at the University of Iowa working in sports marketing.

From Iowa, she went to Florida and worked for the Florida Citrus Bowl.

Diamond began working at Minnesota 11 years ago in sports marketing. She originally worked with marketing for menâÄôs basketball and baseball but eventually got involved in womenâÄôs sports, too.

âÄúI started to get frustrated because it seemed like nobody cared [about womenâÄôs sports] so that made me want to work harder,âÄù Diamond said.

Diamond worked in marketing for nine sports and was in charge of 70 interns and special events before taking her job as office director.

She said she made the switch because she wanted to focus all of her energy on one sport.

 âÄúEspecially [with] it being the 40th anniversary of Title IX, a lot of young people donâÄôt realize that there never used to be opportunities in sports [for women],âÄù Diamond said. âÄúIt was an honor to receive an award that showcased that.âÄù

Tracy Buford, the mother of Gophers star Kiara Buford, was also honored with a Breaking Barriers award. The elder Buford is the coach of a sixth grade traveling girlsâÄô basketball team at Laura Jeffrey Academy.