Women’s Sports Pioneer

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A woman who fueled the birth of women’s sports at a local college is in our spotlight tonight as we honor influential women in our region.
Jim Olson introduces us to Kathy McCann, who helped crack the men’s-only athletics club at Minot State University.

It’s an impressive wall at Minot State University – acknowledging those who’ve excelled in athletics at the institution.
Including one person who spent her career knocking down walls holding back women.

(Kathy McCann) “I thought, ‘this is ridiculous’.”

Kathy McCann couldn’t see why the female students in her PE classes couldn’t compete on a college team.

(Kathy McCann) “We started with softball.” 

She was ambitious. Taking her team to Omaha for the College World Series – in two personal cars.

(Kathy McCann) “I drove my car – had a boyfriend then and took his car and my car and drove to Omaha – I got all the kids and myself in. I paid entry fees and the kids bought their own meals when they ate. That was just amazing.”

Before long, she was expanding women’s sports at the college.

(Kathy McCann) “The next one we started was basketball.”
(Lori Willert, Former MSU Athlete) “She was a tough coach and she expected us to do well but it was a great four years playing here.”

McCann also fired up the school’s volleyball program – and coached in all the sports including track and tennis. But it was tough sledding much of the time. She was fighting a cultural bias that was centuries in the making – that women shouldn’t do sports.

(Kathy McCann) “There were a lot of us younger ones trying to get it going. At the same time, there were older ones who thought there’s no reason for women to do that so we kind of had a struggle within our own ranks but there were enough onery ones to get it going.”

It was all happening just as Congress was working on Title IX, the law that mandated equal opportunity for women in sports.

(Kathy McCann) “I was one of those who made a lot of calls to Washington D.C.”

She credits administrators at the college for supporting her efforts – people like former athletic director Herb Parker.

(Kathy McCann) “Herb Parker was great. I feel I was fortunate because once they got over the shock of it they were all very good about it. I think it was good all around.”

But one thing bothers her to this day, and it involves this wall. In fact, she got so choked up at the topic, she couldn’t even say it on camera. But she believes the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame is missing some of the first female athletes who played on those inaugural teams – she mentioned Betsy Iverson, and Penny Andrist, and Mary Gangl as deserving of spots in the hall of fame. What she sees as some unfinished business in her career opening doors for women. Jim Olson, KX News.

You can find all of our tributes to women in the region at our special section on KXNet.com.
Just look for the “Celebrating Women” banner at the top of our home page.
 

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