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Who said girls can’t play basketball?

January 20, 2014
By Ellayne Conyers , Marshall Independent


The following column was first published in the Lyon Tale, the Lyon County Historical Society's newsletter, in January of 1996.

"Ever since basketball was invented in 1891, women have been playing one form of the sport in America. Basketball was one of the first organized sports for women, and the game was actively sought by young women everywhere. In 1920, an increasing number of high schools made basketball available to girls and gave them the opportunity to play interscholastic games. However, the game was modified so that it would be 'safer' for women to play.

One of the main differences between men's and women's basketball was that the women's court was divided into two parts (known as half court ball) and players were confined to their particular section. This hindered the teams from any fast moving plays and produced a non-flowing game, unlike what we're used to watching today. Women's teams consisted of six players. There were two players for each section of the court: two guards, two forwards, one jumping center and one running center.

According to Lois Gifford Wickman, who played forward for Balaton High School from 1928 to 1932, and her teammate Leona Schrupp Schultz, who played guard from 1929 to 1933, girl's basketball was very well accepted throughout Minnesota. Scheduled girls' games were played prior to the boys' A team contest. There were no boys' B teams, so the girls played the exhibition game, or curtain raisers. According to Laura Fifield Doty, who played guard for Russell in 1930, "there was no charge to watch the girls play, but they still had good attendance at the games because their teams were very good. Competition ran between the towns back then as they do today, and that made the games more exciting and pushed the players to do their best."

Uniforms also restricted play for the team members. Bloomers were the standard attire for the girls, and they weren't made to be cooperative with the active sport. The bloomers bloused around the knee with elastic. The white middy blouse and sleeves and a collar - nothing was left showing according to Wickman.

During one of the games, one of the players lost her bloomers on the playing floor when the elastic around the waist broke - and down they came. Time out was called so repairs could be made and the game continued. The uniforms belonged to the school; although no school sweaters were provided for the girls to sew their 'letters' onto. However, Lois received a 'letter B' which was cut out of black felt, while Leona, a year younger, received a regular letter when she graduated.

The scores of the games were usually low, hardly ever reaching into the 20s, but that was due partly to the conservative game they were allowed to play. Low scores didn't mean poor teams. Most of the teams practiced two nights a week, after school - the boys practiced the other two nights - with both teams playing the big game on Friday night. Six games were scheduled per year and included both in town and out of town contests. According to Fran Harris Runholt, who played guard for Lynd High School from 1931 to1933, the girls always played for all they were worth."

(Continued next week)



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