Center studies female athletes

by Bryan Keogh

As a girl, Mary Jo Kane loved to play football, basketball and baseball.
Kane considered herself a tomboy, but when she entered Holy Trinity High School in Bloomington, Ill., girls didn’t participate in sports. Instead, female students cheered the boys’ teams from the sidelines.
“The notion that there would be a varsity women’s team in high school was unthinkable,” Kane said. “I was devastated that I had to give up what I loved.”
Seven years later, in 1972, Congress passed Title IX, legislation mandating equal spending for men’s and women’s sports at public institutions.
Kane, now an associate professor and director of the University’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport, said the center’s research and initiatives have proven to be very successful.
The five-year-old center is named in honor of Dorothy Tucker, a 1945 University graduate who donated $1 million for University research on women in sports. The endowed chair funded by this money is the only one of its kind in the nation.
“We have succeeded beyond my wildest expectations,” Kane said. “Someone’s guardian angel was working overtime.”
The center’s primary mission is tied to public service and community outreach, she said.
“If we do not do research or work and train students in a way that can make a difference in the lives of girls and women, in my view, we have failed,” Kane said.
The center’s community-service projects include a joint effort with KARE-11 television in the documentary, “Throw Like a Girl: A Revolution in Women’s Sports.”
The video and school-curriculum guide will be distributed in early 2000, according to the Tucker Center Web site.
In the video, Minnesota women of different generations tell their version of women’s sports history.
“The next generation always benefits from the courage and the vision of the previous generation,” Kane said. “You’ll have a grandmother who lettered in field hockey at the University of Minnesota in 1923 who is 98 years old, talking to her granddaughter who came to the University of Minnesota to play basketball and tennis.”
A second project expanded this fall, called “Image is Everything: Equitable Treatment for Females,” is a workshop series for high-school students aimed to combat negative images of women athletes.
For instance, Kane noted certain portrayals of women in sports do not always send the best messages to younger girls just gaining their footing in sports.
“Rather than having a picture of Brandi Chastain naked with two soccer balls in front of her breasts, let’s have images of Brandi Chastain on the court or on the soccer field as a world-class athlete,” she suggested.
The Otto Bremer Foundation, Nike Corporation and the Minnesota Women’s Foundation are sponsoring the second initiative. With added funding, the center will reach girls in 12 additional high schools during the next two years.
Besides these two projects, the center worked with the Boys and Girls Club of Minneapolis and the Joy of Sports Foundation to develop a tennis program for teenage girls last summer.

Bryan Keogh welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3232.