Blame it on the Boss in Roma

Bully pulpit takes on a new meaning

Surprising fact: Smart women do not finish last – a parable

I attended a Catholic college in Washington DC.

Freshman year, girls in my dorm were invited to play on a Powder Puff football team for Homecoming activities.

Our coaches were a cadre of upper-classmen and a boyfriend.

Some of us had never watched, much less, played football. In the beginning, our practices resembled the Keystone Kops-controlled chaos – even a Hail Mary pass wouldn’t save us. A couple of girls were natural jocks and caught on quickly. We practiced once a week.

Friday nights, after practice we had kegger to celebrate. Our coaches were well intentioned and energetic but were clueless when it came to women – our brains, our strengths, problem solving, and team building.

On the big day, we played and lost – big time. After the game, beer flowed- there was lots of fist pumping and cheers for a fun -yet mediocre – experience.

The next morning, a handful of us gathered for glazed donuts, pancakes, and hot chocolate. We reviewed our loss. We discussed the game and our coaches. One of the girls pointed out the svelte, swim-team divas at the next table with protein loaded plates, tall glasses of orange juice. No donuts, no waffles, no chocolate. Hmmm.

Our Slow to Boil Epiphany

Cherie, our team captain, had a party in her room. She wanted to thank the coaches and strategize for the following year. The carefree coaches hugged us and said, “See you next year.”

Our team knew our so-called training was sorely lacking.  None of us had studied the game, the rules – or the strategies. There were strategies? We had run down the field looking official with our chocolate-brown T-shirts and pink ribbons in our ponytails – obeying every instruction by the coaches – robotic, obedient, and clueless.

We vowed to get a playbook and study it and train before the next game. A handful of us started a causal jogging club: three miles, three times a week.

The gym at the university was a classic 1978 debacle: a few barbells, some wrestling mats- six running machines – pretty dismal.  We heard the school’s football team had a state-of-the-art shiny gym replete with real equipment

After Hours Athletes

Lynne’s dad was a big-shot school football star in the 40’s. Somehow he got the 12 of us a gym-pass at 8 PM- twice a week – when the football team had study hall. We worked out, devised rotations and invented our own strength training.

As expected, the Foxy Ladies dropped the Freshman 15; most of us jogged regularly and used the after-hours gym secretly. Over the summer, we kept in touch. Lynne found her dad’s old playbook and mimeographed copies for each of us.

That fall, we met and complimented ourselves on coming “A long way, baby.” We talked strategy, selected two girls to be our coaches.  We created a team based on knowledge not whim.

We thought long and hard about our kindhearted coaches.  They were really good guys, but ill-equipped to coach women. We gently let our coaches go – asked them to join our “supporters” and cheer us on. Some did.

We developed plays, solutions and strategies including training, diet, and practice.

You Go, Girls

Rumors spread like wildfire that we had fired our coaches! We possibly ‘cheated’ by practicing for frequently.

We were radical.  We were feminists. We practiced, listened to good advice, trained and attended classes.

Dozens of girls asked if they could join our team – we asked them each to submit a proposal. Many called, a few were chosen. A number of Jesuits lauded us for our determination and our  “Social” Justice.

At game time, the Foxy Ladies ruled.   We played very well – and tied for first place among 15 teams.  We were elated at our success – in our accomplishments.

As Women, as a team – we learned a lot those years. 

The big lesson we learned: sometimes women can accomplish a great deal   – left to their own devices.


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