When I was growing up, the mandatory school dress code for girls was dresses. It was hard to play sports in a dress and patent leather shoes on the playground blacktop. But where there was a will, there was a way.
My friends, Marisa and Tami, and I would spend our recess watching the boys play basketball from the sidelines, itching for the chance to catch a stray ball and pass it back. Sure, foursquare and tetherball were fun, but basketball looked amazing!
Our classmate, Tito, offered to teach us some pointers on shooting and defense at recess. As we showed ability, the boys started letting us play with them.
Since girls were sporting jammed fingers and skinned knees, one of the teachers ruled that “Girls could not play basketball at recess anymore.” Back to the sidelines. My mother, a feminist for the time, called the school, put her foot down, and we were back on the court!
The next year, there was a meeting after school for girls interested in playing basketball for Culver City Parks and Recreation—the first year it would be offered to girls! A courageous gal named Marilyn, with no experience whatsoever, volunteered to coach us.
In 1972, maybe in response to Title IX, they added flag football. Marisa, Tami, and I played for La Ballona. We lost our first game to Vets, so Marilyn enlisted the help of Marisa’s older brother. He taught us three plays. He would secretly call plays out from the sidelines in Japanese. “Ichi!” “Ni!” “San!” And we would execute them perfectly. We won every game after that with those three organized plays and a lot of determination. Apparently, girls playing football was big news because our picture was in the Los Angeles Times!
Basketball was offered in Phys Ed at Culver Junior High; however, some teachers made the girls play using the “3 Bounce Rule.” You could dribble the ball three times and then you had to shoot or pass, even if you had a clear path to the basket. This was frustrating! While we never expected to play on a boys team, we felt that we could play with the same rules (and if Ms. Huerta was your PE teacher, you did). I have always maintained that the “3 Bounce Rule” partially contributed to modern-day feminism!
When we entered high school, CCHS was forming their first Girls Basketball team! Excerpts from a 1976 Centaurian newspaper article stated that girls basketball has proven to be a ground breaker in women’s athletics. We made it to CIF but not into the Olympian. We would have to wait for our senior year in 1978 to get a picture in the yearbook.
Since then, girls basketball at Culver City High School and all over the world has soared in popularity, coaching, and ability. As an adult, I coached girls’ athletics through Parks and Rec. We’ve come a long way! Thank goodness for all the Titos and boys on the schoolyard, big brothers, dads, all pioneer coaches, and our moms for sticking up for us all those years ago.