Not everyone was a fan of girls’ hoops in early years

After the girls of Florence traveled to the state tournament in 1911, the tournament continued without representation from Marion County. In each successive year, more and more teams attended the tournament. In fact by 1916, the tournament had grown to 19 teams.

With so many teams present, games were not played full court but rather cross court. By playing cross court, two games could be played simultaneously, thus allowing more games to be played in a limited time.

In those days, the girls’ game was far different than the one played today. In those early years it featured six players on each side. Three players (a guard and two forwards) played defense. These girls could not cross center court and only played on the defensive end.

On the other end of the court were three offensive teammates (again, a guard and two forwards). These players also could not cross center court either. The forwards on offense were the only players allowed to shoot the ball, and all of the players were limited on how many times they could dribble.

Over the years, the participation of the girls did require some special attention as was reported in 1916.

“Dr. Alice Goertz, the Director of Physical Education for women at the University of Kansas, has spared no effort in the matter of properly regulating the girls’ game,” reported the Lawrence Daily Journal. “These games will be played in the women’s gymnasium and secure from the men’s games.

“Special officials have been imported for the games and Dr. Goertz has announced that strict health rules will be enforced with every girl examined. Girls that are not in physical condition to play will not be allowed to participate in the tournament.”

It was interesting to note that the women’s games shall be “secure from the men’s games.” With the exception of male relatives, these women’s games were definitely off-limits to any males who wished to attend in order to “gawk at the ladies playing basketball in their special uniforms or shorts.”

Tough luck guys: You were not welcome at these games!

In 1921, a whopping 36 teams attended the state tournament in Kansas. It was the most that had ever attended a state tournament, but it would be the last stage appearance for the girls. Across the country, a tidal wave of opposition to the girls’ game was growing.

The opposition was well-stated in a report prepared by the Illinois High School Athletic Association: “The most flagrant problems with girls’ interscholastic basketball involve poorly trained coaches (usually men), lack of proper chaperones, the use of many male rules and a vulgar display of partisanship.

“In addition, the usual strained muscles, bumps and accompanying bruises have many times led to faintness, hysteria and melancholy. The game is altogether too masculine and has met with much opposition on the part of parents.

“The committee finds that roughness is not foreign to the game and that this exercise in public is immodest and not altogether ladylike. Participation in such games is destructive to the highest ideals of the girls themselves and encourages crudities of speech and thought on the part of spectators. This behavior should be discouraged.”

Officials in Kansas, well aware of the growing sentiment against girls’ interscholastic basketball, took action. Officially, there would be no more involvement with the girls’ game. With the state championship game of 1921 (won by Gardner High School), the Kansas girls’ state tournament was dead.

Although high school girls’ basketball continued to be played around the state, it was unsanctioned by the High School Athletic Association. Some communities (Whitewater was a prime example) scheduled tournaments that gathered many teams from around the region to play for “unofficial region and state championships.”

Over the years, many fine athletes were not allowed to demonstrate their considerable basketball skills on a statewide stage. Finally, with the passage of Title IX legislation in 1972, girls were granted equal opportunities, not only on the basketball court, but in other areas of life as well.

With the legislation passed into law, the Kansas High School Activities Association once again organized state tournament games for girls. The first would be 1973 and teams from Centre High School would take the big stage. They would give an almost perfect performance!


Ideas, comments or questions: Contact Steven at © 2012 by Steven Michael Farney. All rights reserved. (Some information for this installment came from “Not Altogether Ladylike: The Premature Demise of Girls’ Interscholastic Basketball in Illinois,” by Scott Johnson).




















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