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Winter 1998
In a League of Their Own
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The early 1990s was a time of tough decisions for the athletic department, as a universitywide financial crisis -- combined with a renewed national push for gender equity in collegiate sports -- forced the painful elimination of two successful men's Olympic sports on campus, gymnastics and swimming. On the plus side, however, women's water polo and soccer were added to UCLA's sports roster, and a tradition of excellence has quickly been established in the pool and on the field. Women have also been given the chance to compete in three traditionally male track and field events -- triple jump, pole vault and hammer throw -- that would have been unimaginable 25 years ago. And Bruin fans thrilled to the play of basketball/volleyball All-American Natalie Williams '94, the best two-sport athlete at the school since Joyner-Kersee.

The '90s also brought the excitement of the Olympics back to the U.S.A., and more glory for Bruin women. The three U.S.A. women's teams that won gold medals included such former Bruin stalwarts as softball's Sheila Cornell '85, Dot Richardson and Lisa Fernandez '95 and former UCLA soccer coach Joy Fawcett, and once again the track and field medalists included familiar Bruin names like Devers and Joyner-Kersee. The "Women's Games," as Atlanta's Olympics were dubbed, the subsequent birth of two women's pro basketball leagues and a pro softball league and the upcoming Women's World Cup of Soccer (which will hold its gold-medal game next summer at the Rose Bowl) have placed women athletes on an even higher pedestal -- and UCLA's players reap that whirlwind.

Bruin athletes-turned-coaches such as track and field's Jeanette Bolden '85 also help, forging new, proud views of women in sports. She appreciates the glamour that a woman like her Bruin teammate FloJo brought to track and field, but tells her athletes, "Don't put nails on unless you're willing for them to get broken!"

"I don't treat my athletes like females," says Bolden. "They're athletes. Their responsibility to the team is the same as it is for males." Like Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own, she tells them, "We don't do tears. You're only allowed to cry three times during the year, and no crying on the track."

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