Women's athletics at Brockport, as at other colleges, have had quite a different history than that of men's athletics. For much of the 19th century, athletics were largely ignored by the school, other than allowing students to play games on their own initiative on campus. As the major sports became increasingly popular in the years after the Civil War, they were mainly played by men, with exceptions like lawn tennis. Very early in the 1900s though reports appear in the Stylus and other sources describing women playing interscholastic sports, specifically basketball and baseball.
Freshman Girls Baseball Team, Spring 1916 Saga.
By the 1920's, there was growing concern over excesses in collegiate athletics. Many of them are concerns one might hear voiced today, about the detrimental effects of undue emphasis on competition, abuse of scholarships, and injuries to athletes. These factors appeared most prominently in men's sports. Many women physical educators developed an agreement based on the problems apparent in men's sports. There were also concerns that today would seem sexist or simply not of importance. A minor example was the concern voiced at the time that if women were to play interscholastic sports, there would be the danger that if a player was reported out of the lineup for unspecified reasons, it might be thought that it was because she was having her period.
The end result of all this was that women physical educators came to agreement that interscholastic sports for women were undesireable. The alternative proposed and followed was the establishment of women's athletic associations at individual schools which, under the guidance of a faculty member, would sponsor a system of intramural sports. Typical was the way it was done at Brockport, with divisions between the classes, and the classes themselves were divided into "Green" and "Gold" teams (for the school colors). There was a point system for the athletes and letters were awarded.
The first reference to such an association at Brockport is in the February 1925 issue of the Stylus, which related the first meeting of the "Girls Athletic Club" which had taken place on December 3, 1924. Their motto was "Pep Personified!" In the 1930-1931 school year the group was renamed the "Girl's Athletic Association." For many years their faculty advisor was Leonora Schroeder (at left in 1932 Saga photo), leading women's physical educator at Brockport from 1928 to 1956. Very active in the 1920s and 1930s, the association, and sports in general, were much reduced in scale during the years of WWII. After the war the group was revived and, renamed as the "Women's Athletic Association," it brought back the sports played in the past like field hockey, and encouraged new sports like swimming and water ballet. The group also started an "Officials Club" for those women interested in learning to officiate the various sports played. Some advisors in those years were Mildred Crabtree, Irene Weirich and Ann Uhlir.
Sports organized by the association varied over the years, with field hockey and basketball as two mainstays. Some other sports like tennis, badminton and archery were also played. The association also sponsored an "Outing Club" for many years which featured hiking and camping activities. In the late 1940s one begins to see reports of "Sportsdays," which were occasional meets between schools. In the 1950s the Dolphins swim club seems to have been the major athletic activity for women outside of the regular intramural programs.
The 1960s which brought so much change to society touched college women's athletics as well. It appears to have been a process of gradual evolution, rather than an overnight revolution. The "sportsdays" mentioned above became increasingly frequent in the early 1960s, and the women's intramural program grew in numbers of sports offered. In the September 22, 1967 Stylus it was reported that,
"With the largest budget in its history, double that of last year, the Women's Recreation Association has planned an unsurpassed slate of activities... Honor teams and intramurals will also be covered in a wider scale than ever before. Soccer, golf, tennis and billiards are expected to expand along with the usual list of 12 other intramural sports... Sports days are set with a large number of area colleges and universities. Varsity competition has spread to a much wider scale with many games set outside of New York including games with Vassar and Slippery Rock."So in the mid to late 1960s women's sports returned to the interscholastic play abandoned some forty years before. The history of this return to interscholastic play, of women's sports in general or of some particular sport like basketball all would be topics well worth researching and related to many very contemporary issues. If interested in doing such research, contact the archivist.
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