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Winter 1998
In a League of Their Own
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Twenty-five years ago the woman athlete was born at UCLA -- and sports, not to mention the school -- have never been the same since

By Michele Kort '71, M.B.A. '75

Remember The Trailer? Green. About the size of an RV. Parked on the lawn outside the Women's Gym.

In 1974, it was the UCLA Women's Athletic Department. Any understanding of the evolution of women's sports at UCLA over the last 25 years has to start at that green trailer, where coaches and a skeleton staff were crammed into their respective cubbyholes for the next eight years. Yet, it was inside that makeshift metal dwelling that the seeds were sown for what would become a nationally renowned program that has transformed female athletes -- once overlooked, underappreciated and sometimes even ridiculed -- into household names, inspirational role models and international heroines like Jackie Joyner-Kersee '84, Florence Griffith Joyner (FloJo) and Dot Richardson.

I played intercollegiate basketball at UCLA in the prehistoric days of 1968-'70, just a year after women's hoops and volleyball were formed in 1967. My squad was dubbed the "Bruin Belles," and we wore snug, blue polyester uniforms. Road games? That was a four-hour drive to Fresno in clunky university station wagons, followed by an immediate return trip. Forget any overnights at a hotel. Scholarships? Our biggest perk was a free dinner after every game -- at the local coffeeshop.

Bruin golfers who just returned from a recent tournament in Hawaii, for example, would probably laugh to hear that their coach's (22-year UCLA veteran Jackie Tobian-Steinmann '52) original team wore reversible wraparound skirts that blew up when they swung, or that they only played on local courses that she could drive them to in her Ford sedan. The softball team probably can't imagine that in their coach Sue Enquist's '80 first year of competition, the players wore UCLA's men's track practice shirts and blue shorts or sweatpants as their game uniforms.


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