Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Pioneer of Collegiate Women's Sports

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A Pioneer of Collegiate Women's Sports

Article excerpt

North Carolina State University's Kay Yow has amassed an impressive win-loss record, but to her players she's more than a coach.

Kay Yow sounds humble and matter-of-fact when reflecting on her 2002 induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame alongside luminaries like the Harlem Globetrotters and Los Angeles Lakers superstar Magic Johnson:

"It's truly an honor," says Yow, who's in her 34th year as North Carolina State University's head coach of women's basketball. "But as grateful as I was, and still am, life is about what you have done lately."

Such modesty is typical of Yow, a pioneer of collegiate women's sports who never had college teams to join herself. An Olympic gold medal champion whose entire coaching career has been spent in her home state of North Carolina, Yow has amassed a remarkable lifetime win-loss record of 729-337. She is one of only six coaches to have won at least 700 career games in the history of Division I women's basketball.

"Among African-Americans, so many of us have appreciated the opportunity to play for a legend," says Trena Trice-Hill, an assistant coach under Yow and former N.C. State player.

Yow's teams have won five Atlantic Coast Conference championships and appeared in 20 NCAA tournaments, including a 1998 trip to the Final Four. But she emphasizes that her relationships with players and ex-players are what she is most proud of. "If you evaluate yourself as a coach just on wins and losses, it makes everything superficial. There's a much deeper side to life."

Trice-Hill, who has known Yow since signing a letter of intent in the early 1980s to play for the Wolfpack, laughs when describing the connection many players and former players have with Yow. "She makes you feel like you're her favorite. The way she talks, she will have you thinking you can walk on the moon. Yet she never makes people feel like any one is better than the other."

The affection former players have for Yow is illustrated by a constant stream of phone calls and greeting cards exchanged between them and her. Some former players have named their daughters after Yow. Many faithfully attend N.C. State's annual Hoops for Hope game, which raises money and awareness for breast cancer research, an effort coinciding with Yow's personal fight against the disease. Hoops for Hope has drawn former players from as far away as Europe who come to support Yow and play in alumni games.

Yow is one of three sisters who parlayed youthful passions for basketball into long careers in college sports. Deborah Yow is director of athletics at the University of Maryland. Susan Yow is head coach of women's basketball at Belmont Abbey College.

Kay Yow grew up in Gibsonville, N.C, in the 1940s and '50s playing basketball behind her family's frame house. Whenever her sisters and other neighborhood girls tired of shooting hoops, she played against boys. In high school, she became known for her scoring prowess at a time when girls' games regularly featured six against six because self-proclaimed experts believed the sport too grueling for girls to copy boys' games of five on five.

An East Carolina University graduate, Yow planned to become a teacher or librarian, one of the few careers open to women. …

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