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NEW GIRL IN TOWN.

ALL KINDS OF INCREDIBLE things have been happening in girls/women sports since Title IX reared its pretty head in 1972. You look at the growth of women's basketball, soccer, softball, volleyball, and lacrosse and you have to shake your head in disbelief.

Just think: How long ago was it that girls were playing two-court basketball with six on a side, that women's teams in soccer and lacrosse were unheard of, volleyball was a pit-pat game, and track -- forget it!

The longest distance event in track was 800 yards. Nobody ran miles, marathoning was a dirty word, and there were no such things as shot-putting, triple-jumping, and the pole vault.

Pole vaulting? Perish the thought. Women just didn't have the upper-body strength, speed, and gymnastic ability to catapult over anything.

But it all happened! Women started running miles and even 26+ mile marathons, triple-jumping, shot-putting, and one day -- only a few years ago -- pole vaulting!

Who knows how it all happens. But that's what a Title IX does for you. It provides the opportunity, and opportunity goes hand in hand with challenge, and slowly and inevitably they will come (the competitors).

One day you have no women pole vaulters, then suddenly you have two women's pole-vaulting camps at Slippery Rock U. (PA) and a 29-year-old woman named Stacy Dragila clearing 15 feet and change to win the Olympics and set both indoor and outdoor world records!

And lest we forget, Scholastic Coach publishes its first article on women's pole vaulting in March 2001! Direct from the guru of women's pole vaulting at Slippery Rock and the whole Northeast Region, William Hannay.

REQUIEM FOR A CHARMER...

ON TUESDAY, JANUARY 26, noon, our website surfer dropped a piece of breaking news from the New York Times on our desk: "Al McGuire Dead at 72."

It was a stab in the heart. How could so relentless a free spirit as Al McGuire take leave of the world so unexpectedly?

As a basketball coach, McGuire had been one of those flamboyant headhunters who would comb the ghettos for good players, put them in the right positions, make them work hard, and always wind up with a 20+ game winning season.

In the prime of his life, McGuire won the NCAA championship and celebrated in his typically romantic fashion -- he quit basketball. The money wasn't big enough and he felt that it was time to attend to his safe-deposit boxes.

He joined a major sporting goods house, put in a little time, quit when he discovered he wasn't going to inherit the business, and turned to broadcasting.

It was V-Day. In just one year, he, Dick Enberg, and Billy Packer became the most exhilarating broadcasting team in college basketball. The big bucks began pouring in and McGuire was soon working on his third safe-deposit box -- buying properties and making top dollar as a motivational speaker and business consultant.

When the network sharks broke up the dream broadcasting team, McGuire disappeared from the headlines and then, suddenly, he was gone.

We had three wonderful adventures with the Wild Bill Hickock of the Golden Mid-West and we learned a lot about him -- his intuitive brightness, business acumen, and inventive speech.

Our classic McGuire adventure occurred in the '70s. McGuire had discovered a couple of basketball playbooks he had written in his Marquette years and had decided to put them on sale. He phoned our advertising manager, placed an advertisement, and then sat back and waited for the gold rush.

When it didn't happen, he had to let our ad manager know about it. He sent him a note: "I advertised my books with you last month and I'd like to inform you what happened. It was Dunkirk."

Our embarrassed ad manager asked us to handle our unhappy customer. We sent McGuire a memo: "Dear Al, you are a great coach, but no business man. As a friend of mine, you should have consulted me when you decided to advertise. But you had to do a Pearl Harbor. Send me a copy of your two books. I will review them and run the copy alongside your ad (free of charge)."

Just a week later we received a package from McGuire. It contained two foreign magazines and a note: "You are right. I'm no business man. Thanks for your help."

(We later learned that McGuire always sent crazy things like wild magazines and tin soldiers to people who did him a good turn.)

Al McGuire was right when he told people he was born 20 years ahead of his time. If he were coaching today, he'd be making $5 million a year, plus 10% of the home gate.

TALENT IS A FUNNY THING.

WAITING ON TALENT

You look at a Michael Jordan or a Joe Montana or a Marion Jones and it staggers you. You look at a lot of young prospects and you can see the talent beginning to take shape. You look at everyone else and all you see are journeymen.

That's how it goes... about 95% of the time. What about the other 5%? That's where the coaching comes in. You never know when lightning is going to strike and you have to have the patience to keep nurturing your athletes -- waiting upon them and providing opportunities to flourish.

You see a tall, skinny freshman trying to play basketball, and he's hopeless. So you give him a jump rope and tell him to work at it every day.

By the next year, he can play a little. Three years later, he is All-American. Four years later he is all-pro. Ten years later, he is in the Hall of Fame. Fifty years later, George Mikan is named one of the top 50 players of all time.

All because of a college coach named Ray Meyer, who once spotted "something" in him and patiently nursed it into a monster talent.

It doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen. In fact, we saw it happen right under our eyes -- without having any awareness of it at all.

It occurred at a professional football camp five decades ago. Since the star quarterback was reporting late, the general manager had picked up a sandlot QB to throw to the receivers in practice. He was embarrassing. He kept throwing to the birds and worms and had all the receivers grumbling.

When practice ended, we found ourselves in the group of reporters surrounding the GM and head coach. The GM was apologizing for the sorrowful showing of the sandlotter: "We needed an extra arm in practice and the kid was recommended to us by his college coach. Our starter is coming in tomorrow and we'll look a lot better."

He was right. The star did come in the next day and the team did look a lot better. By the time the pro season opened in September, we had totally forgotten the incident. And it remained forgotten until the fourth game of the season, when the star QB went out with a broken leg and was replaced by the sandlotter we had seen in practice. We hadn't even known that he had made the team.

Anyway, he still looked terrible. He didn't throw well and his team was bombed. Then he started Game 5 and did nothing at all. That probably would have ended his career, if the team had had a decent No. 3 QB. It did not and so the sandlotter got another chance.

He did not produce any miracles, but he did handle himself well... and kept looking even better as the season progressed. When he returned next season, he won the starting position from the rehabilitated star QB... and the miracle happened.

All of a sudden he was Johnny Unitas, "the greatest QB of all time!" Which proves our point. Miracles don't just happen on 34th Street; they can happen right under your nose.

And it never hurts to have a coach with the patience and intelligence to know what to do with potential talent.

SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL US:

What possesses our professional football coaches in the handling of their quarterbacks?

Go to practice and you'll see the No. 1 QB taking all the meaningful snaps and throws to the top receivers.

Go to a game and you'll see the No. 1 QB going all the way in every game, no matter what the score -- 45-0 or 0-45.

Only in the case of fire, famine, and plague will a coach replace his starting QB.

And so what happens? Let us switch to an NFL playoff game last January. A No. 1 QB is severely injured and his backup comes dashing in. The announcer informs us that the QB had taken only two snaps the whole season!

It killed us: two snaps in 17 games? This was how the coaches prepared their back-up people for emergencies? Never found a spot for them in a game; never gave them the experience they'd need as emergency players?

The back-up QB's response in the championship game was no surprise. He fumbled once and made two terrible throws over the next few minutes, practically putting the game out of reach.

It made us wonder. Why are so many otherwise smart coaches so fearful of playing their No. 2 QBs? Sure, they feel safer with their No. 1 guy, but they have to know that somewhere along the line they are going to have to live and die with the No. 2 guy - and he had better be ready.

Compare the matter-of-fact way that throwing arms are treated in football with the way they are so tenderly nursed in baseball -- warming up on the sidelines, pitching in the bullpen, throwing batting practice, given warm-up throws at the start of every inning...

Still going

Whom would we personally choose to exemplify the glory of Title IX? It would have to be the little girl in the white cap, Joan Benoit. In the summer of 1984 in Los Angeles, running in the first women's Olympic Marathon, she ground the elite field into dust with a phenomenal 2:24.52. Watching that white cap bobbing up and down mile after mile after mile, it was impossible to believe that she had had to make the team in the Olympic Trials only 17 days after arthroscopic surgery on her right knee!

Uniting us

People laughed when this fellow showed up in the Daltimore Colts' summer camp in 1956. They stopped laughing when he hecame the starter in 1957, and they cried when he retired in 1972 hailed as "the greatest quarterhack in the history of football." Look at that buzz haircut. Ukay, you can make this a U-turn.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Scholastic, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Joan Benoit
Author:Masin, Herman L.
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2001
Words:1781
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