‘You got game, white girl’ – Home Sweet Hardwood

Mo’ne Davis pitches like a girl. A thirteen-year-old girl who throws a 70 mph fastball. The star of The Little League World Series may not even realize sports wasn’t always an option for girls like her.

Preston High School didn’t offer girls basketball in the 1960s. Or baseball. Or softball. The rumored reason was that a girl had died during a basketball game. That death proved to those who decided such things that girls weren’t constitutionally suited to strenuous physical activity. As a result, basketball for girls in anything more competitive than gym class was banned at my high school.

I wanted to play basketball. I practiced dribbling, doing layups, running no more than the two steps allowed in the six-on-six-girl, half-court version of the game played at Iowa schools. Actually playing a game competitively would remain a dream for me.

What I didn’t know in the 1960s, as I dutifully took my place on the sidelines as a cheerleader, was that the nation was on the verge of changing the game for all women with Title IX legislation, requiring that schools offer equal playing opportunities to women and men. Other women were not going quietly to the sidelines. Other women were fighting for the right to play. And winning.

Home Sweet HardwoodOne of those women, Pat McKinzie, had basketball in her blood. Her grandfather was nationally recognized college coach Ralph McKinzie “Coach Mac”; her father Jim Mckinzie was a championship team-leading high school coach. As soon as Pat could walk – probably even before – they were teaching her the game that became her passion.

McKinzie’s memoir Home Sweet Hardwood details her relentless pursuit to fulfill that passion. In high school when she had to give up hardwood time to boys who couldn’t beat her when she challenged them one-on-one. In college where she was the first woman to play in Illinois with a scholarship under Title IX. After college when she continued to push to play on professional teams in the U.S. and Europe.

“Before recruiters and TV highlights, women played ball, not to impress college scouts or become media darlings, but for our own entertainment. The only glory we needed was the game itself,” McKinzie says. When she played in the zone, men who played the game could not help but appreciate her skill and passion. She recalls a night when a player slapped her hand in front of his “brothers,” and said, “Give me five, white girl! Can’t jump, but you got game.”

Home Sweet Hardwood covers McKinzie’s entire sports career as she broke ground and broke barriers for herself and the girls who came after her. Girls like Mo’ne.

The story of how McKinzie continued to push to play, in the face of discrimination, broken bones, and a nearly life-ending auto accident is a story of heart and inspiration. Raised by people who believed and practiced gender and racial equity, McKinzie lived those qualities throughout her career and no matter where in the world she lived.

McKinzie’s writing style is as fast-paced, precise and fluid as she herself was when she took the ball down court and pulled up for a jump shot. The result is perfection: nothing but net.

If you played sports or wanted to, this book is worth reading. If you have a daughter or granddaughter who is playing sports, this book would make a great gift. It’s important for all of us to remember when we’re standing on the shoulders of women like McKinzie who had the passion to clear the path for the rest of us.

Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this blog about my memoir, Home Sweet Hardwood. Although Iowa was one of the last states to give up the old six a side game where girls had to stop at half court, they did produce some phenomenal shooters. Reading this was like receiving a warm hug from the back home. Thanks so much, Carol.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      I’m delighted we two Midwesterners found each other, Pat. I was inspired by Home Sweet Hardwood and have been having interesting discussions since about how I and others did or didn’t (mainly didn’t) challenge the status quo. Girls today are indebted to you for paving the way for them.

      • Thanks, Carol, but I know from reading your memoir Growing Up Country that you were bucking the status quo everyday by working on the farm as hard any boy ever did (including driving the tractor.)

  2. Home Sweet Hardwood is a great read- moving, inspirational and enlightening. We all are indebted to women like Pat who courageously fought so that all of us could enjoy being IN the game.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      So true, Sue. Pat’s memoir is important for young women today to read so they know it wasn’t always expected. Thanks for dropping by.

    • Thanks, Sue. Although Home Sweet Hardwood is my personal story, I wrote it to give a voice to that silent generation of women who fought so hard in the past so that no girl grows up today ever questioning her right to play ball.

  3. Carol, thank you for this fantastic review of Pat’s inspirational memoir. I agree with every word and will add my own cheers to Pat’s courage and skill in blazing the trail for all of us and for sharing her story through her engaging memoir. I too wanted to play basketball in high school during a time when girls weren’t considered fit to play full court. But I was able to see my daughter Leigh Ann tear up the courts in high school and college. And that,for me, was a thrill. Thanks Pat for paving the way for women to find their rightful places on the court!

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      It must have been so exciting to see your daughter play in high school and college, Kathy. Was Leigh aware you couldn’t do what she did so naturally? I’m glad you introduced me to Pat. Her story is a treasure, and I’m glad I can share it with more people.

    • Kathy, I would have loved to see you play point guard and direct the team like a quarterback. I can imagine how thrilling it was to follow Leigh’s exploits on the hardwood. Did she play point? I imagine that you passed on your leadership skills to your daughter.

  4. Elfrieda Schroeder says:

    This is an excellent review, Carol. It reminded me of my basketball playing days in our small Canadian town. I’m a short person and didn’t score much, but I was good at running, dribbling and passing. I just loved the fast paced game and was out there after school and during the noon hour practising. I landed on my knees a lot, and now they complain! But the memories are great!

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      Thanks, Elfrieda. I know many athletes who feel the after effects of playing sports many years later, but I never hear any of them regret having played. Thanks for commenting.

    • Elfrieda, let me know if you would like to read HSH. I spent a lot of time on my knees too. In fact, I wore big, red bulky knee pads, which I don’t think exist anymore. I had jumpers knee (bursitis) even back then, but even though my knees ache everyday, it was worth every “jump” shot.

  5. Sounds like a great read about a great woman. Thanks for this.

  6. What a.great story Carol. I think my very talented basketball and softball playing granddaughtes would lovebto read this story.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      I bet your granddaughters would enjoy reading about someone who loves sports as much as they do. They’d relate. Thanks for dropping by, Doreen.

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