Thoughts about women’s athletics

women's swimming meet poster
My daughter featured on a women’s swimming meet poster for her University.

You’ve all heard about the controversy swirling around transgender Lia Thomas winning events at the Ivy League and NCAA championships.

First, as Kaitlyn Jenner said, Thomas isn’t breaking any rules — she followed NCAA stated rules. Jenner also said it’s not fair for someone who went through male puberty to compete against women. They are taller and stronger. They have bigger hearts, lungs, feet and hands. Those things don’t change with hormone suppression.

The swimmer who got bumped out of finals by one place (she was 17th and there are only 16 spots) wrote a letter to the NCAA. She’s supportive of Thomas but thinks the NCAA rules are not fair. I read she was banned from Twitter for expressing her opinion.

I know several women swimmers who competed against Thomas at the Ivy League champs and NCAAs. I watched them when they were young race against my daughter. The woman who got second place at the Ivy Leagues Champs to Lia Thomas in the 1,650 (the mile) used to race my daughter in So Cal. She was younger and would be in the lane next to my daughter, drafting at her hip. My daughter couldn’t shake her but would touch her out in the end and say “Who is that?!”

I feel for this young woman who lost the title of Ivy League Champion. I wonder how her parents feel?

Prior to 1972 and Title IX, there were few opportunities for women in college sports. Since then, we’ve taken women’s athletics for granted. Yet 50 years ago, most colleges didn’t have women’s sports.

I’ve interviewed swimming stars and coaches for my website socalswimhistory. One story is about Bonnie Adair, the Loyola Marymount head swim coach who as a swimmer held 35 National Age Group records. She talked about when she was college age and there weren’t many teams for women swimmers.

Her freshman year of college was pre-Title IX, and there were limited opportunities and college programs for women. She was training with Jim Montrella for the ’72 Olympic Trials and didn’t want to change up her training regime, so her freshman year she was a commuter at UC Irvine and lived at home with her parents. She said during those days she swam 11 practices a week and lifted weights. 

Looking back, she said it was unfair that the women stayed at home and didn’t get to experience college life.

“All of a sudden when school began, there would be all girls in our training group. The fast guys went off to swim at UCLA and USC. We were freshmen and sophomores in college, and we stayed with our club team to train. We lost that experience of being a freshman away at college.”

Prior to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, women weren’t allowed to compete in the marathon.

When I was in high school, one of my friends and I joined the Boys Golf Team because there wasn’t a girls team. We went to practice every day, but we never once got to compete in a match. We were not the worst players, either.

My daughter and her friends who swam, put in years of hard work and sacrifice beginning at age five. They benefitted so much from swimming and being part of a team. I’m glad my daughter had that experience. I hope that other women get the same experience, too.

What are your thoughts on women’s sports? Did you know how limited the opportunities were 50 years ago? What are your experiences with women’s sports as a mom or competitor?

First book club

Arctic Fury bookcover
Cover from my first book I had to read for book club.

Yesterday I attended the first book club of my life. We had one month to read “The Arctic Fury” by Greer MacAllister.

Before I rant about the book, I’ll tell you about the book club. One of our neighbors hosted it in her courtyard. Eight women showed up, three I knew. We are mostly about the same age, all married, and transplants to Arizona — except for one beautiful woman from Moscow who was at least 10 to 15 years younger. One woman grew up in Guyana of Jim Jones fame. She moved to Arizona after living for years in New Jersey. Others were from Oregon, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Boston.

One woman, who took on the role of group leader, asked us for our opinion of the book. Then she asked us more detailed questions like if we felt the protagonist was a failure, what we thought of her leadership, etc. It was an interesting conversation and nice to get out and meet people.

Now about the book itself.

I didn’t like it in the beginning. It was slow and there were 13 women. I found it hard to keep track of characters. Also, they weren’t that well developed. The book jumped between the Arctic rescue and the protagonist’s murder trial in 1850s in Boston for the death of one of the women. Going back and forth wouldn’t have been a problem except it went from the trial to a narrative by a different woman each chapter. It was confusing and I couldn’t remember who was who.

The last third of the book, I was finally into it. It was a quicker pace. I don’t think I would have read the entire book without bookclub.

This was supposed to be historical fiction from the 1850s — based on a true story. It was startling to read about transgenders, lesbians, race and all the buzz words from today. The author even threw in something about chlamydia. That stopped me and I googled it and read it was first discovered in the 1960s. Not quite the right time frame for the 1850s. It was meant to be an empowering woman’s story, but I found all the issues the author mixed in didn’t add to the story, but detracted from it.

What books have you read for book club? Do you have any suggestions for me when it’s my turn to select the book?