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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Sandra Kay Yow, June 22, 2005. Interview G-0244. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Insufficient funding as primary obstacle in women's sports

Yow enumerates some of the major obstacles she faced as a pioneering coach in women's basketball, first at Elon University (1971-1975) and later at North Carolina State University (1975 to present). In particular, Yow notes that a available funding was insufficient to cover the needs of both teams. While she concedes that conditions had improved over the course of several decades, she argues that Title IX was still necessary in guaranteeing that women's supports were properly funded.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Sandra Kay Yow, June 22, 2005. Interview G-0244. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Let's go back for a minute to—because this is all very interesting, and I think the confrontation may be tied back into some earlier experience. Obviously once you became a high school coach then you became a college coach, and you're really pioneering in that field. I'm interested in what some of the obstacles you encountered as one of these early women's coaches, and how you went about trying to deal with them.
Well, at first there were many obstacles, so I don't even know where to begin. When I went to Elon it was my first college coaching job, and there was no money in the budget. So we had to pay our own gas, and buy our own food, buy our own shorts, tee shirts, whatever. I remember we didn't have money. But see, the whole thing then was not to look at all that we didn't have but to look at what we did have. I mean, we did have an opportunity to play. Just a few years earlier, people didn't have that opportunity. So we have to focus a little on what we do have. At least we have this opportunity so we have to be grateful for that. Not that we stop working for having more. We could have a case; we should have much more because we've been all these years without anything, so we know that. But at the same time we've got to operate day to day, and you can't get everything over night. So it's a matter of understanding that. Don't forget what you do have, and then just work in the right way to get what you don't have. I remember my players at Elon. They wanted warm ups so badly. I went to the track and field coach, and I talked to him about—I can't remember if they were getting new warm ups or if their season was over, but they had these warm ups, and I asked him, they weren't using them at the time. I asked him if we could use the warm ups for our team. His name was Jerry Tolley, and he agreed, and gave us those warm ups to use. Those warm ups were for track and field. They're for being worn outside. They were heavy, and they were men's, and they were huge, and my players put them on, and they didn't ever want to take them off. They loved them. They just thought they were so special because they had warm-ups no matter what they weighed or what they looked like. They wore them all the time. So you look to people. You always were searching for people who were really the kind of people who like to help other people, and that you could approach, and that might in some small way do something. It might not sound that big to some people, but it was huge because when they did something not only did they give you something, but you knew they supported you. Having that feeling of support and encouragement was very important. When I came to NC State, the thing that I hated most of all was we added women's varsity teams and we didn't add sports information people. We didn't add people in the equipment room. We didn't add in the cafeteria. We didn't add anywhere, in the strength training, I mean we didn't add personnel, but we added people that all of those people had to service and take care of and still get paid the same amount of money but additional load. Well, I saw that right away, and I knew that is a tough situation. I didn't make that decision. That's just the decision that had to be made at that time. NC State was wanting to give women an opportunity to play at the varsity level, and this is the only way they could do it at that time. So I knew from the beginning that some people would have some hard feelings, and understandably so. I always was just as cordial as I could be to everybody because I was understanding of that, and I tried not to ask for things that we really didn't need, only for things that we needed at that time. I knew that we would have to prove ourselves. I felt that many people, once they saw that we could put a quality product out there and they could see our sincerity and our genuine love and gratefulness for the opportunity that a lot of people would be willing to do extra if they needed to because of the people they were. So this is always the way that we had to operate, and we concentrated on putting as great a team on the floor as we could so that we could make the people here proud of the program and see how sincere we were. We started having camps for girls at that very same time, and just to see how excited young girls were to have this kind of opportunity. So I think that it paid off for us in the long run just by being considerate of other people and understanding, sort of putting yourselves in their shoes and yet trying to always move forward and always get more of the things that we needed to be the best that we could be.
Were there ever points where you ever just got fed up with that part in terms of trying to get what you could by asking people rather than having all the extra resources added that you really did need?
Well, you know, we're still striving today in some areas. It's not something that can be solved over night. We've come a long ways, and yet we still have a good ways to go. Money is always a problem. You can legislate a lot of things but you can't legislate attitude. I find that to be the most important thing because if you have people who have the attitude, great attitude toward women in sports, often these people will find a way to get things done. Even if they can't do it at the first class level, they find a way to make it happen and help you no matter what, just because they feel it's the right thing to do and it's the best thing to do. I think that is a key more than anything else. We still have to have Title IX in force. We could never do without that I don't think at this point in time in history. Maybe there will come a day when we no longer need Title IX so to speak, but we still need it now in many situations. The more that we can cultivate this positive attitude toward women in sports and people just believing in that, these are the people who, even when resources aren't there, will find other ways to help you. It's going to be an ongoing battle in certain areas and for a long time.