For more than a century, students at this university have bounced balls on the hardwood or volleyed them over a net. The Class of 1900 did it in skirts that grazed their ankles; today's athletes play in high-tech moisture wicking fabrics. But through the decades, the university has stayed true to a motto from its earliest years: A game for every girl and a girl in every game.
Imagine campus at the turn of the 20th century. A young woman tucks a ball under her arm and, skirt swishing, walks to the flat, grassy area where the Petty Building now sits. She's meeting classmates for a friendly game of basketball.
Even before this university had an alumnae association, it had an athletics association. From the daily walks required of students in the early 1900s usually through Peabody Park to the intramural class squads of the mid-20th century to our current Division I status, this school and its students have a legacy of athletic activity.
That legacy, combined with current research on women's health and wellness, has drawn the attention of the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (see sidebar). This year, the 112-year-old organization selected UNCG from a group of five finalists to be its academic partner in supporting equal and quality sports opportunities for women. But where we are today stems from the vision of those who came before.
In the institution's earliest years, the sports of choice were tennis and basketball; field hockey and baseball were soon added to the offerings. Over time, a variety of sports have been offered to students, from gymnastics to volleyball to bowling.
Perhaps fitting for the school now known as UNCG founded as an institution to train teachers the university's athletic history travels through the classroom.
Coaching is teaching, but it's more public, says Dr.. Rosemary McGee, professor emerita of physical education. McGee, who joined the physical education department in 1954 and stayed until her retirement in 1988, was the first faculty member with a doctorate in the field.
Many attribute the Physical Education department's arc of excellence to Mary Channing Coleman, who was appointed head of the physical education department in 1920, and her successor, Ethel Martus Lawther, who led the school from 1947 until her retirement in 1974. During their tenures, the emphasis wasn't on competition; It was on making sports accessible to all students.