Today the University of Connecticut Women advanced to the second round in the women’s NCAA tournament! Now that I live in Stanford country, my affinity for these women is not always greeted with the same enthusiasm that we experience in Connecticut, but hey – Stanford broke UConn’s record-setting winning streak in a fabulous contest this season! The thing is — to see women’s sports advancing to this level is a wonderful thing, and regardless of the team it is more than gratifying to witness this evolution. I will never forget the first season when I actually lived in Connecticut and had an opportunity to attend some of the games in person. Every women’s basketball game was sold out (the men’s games were not!), so it was not easy to get tickets. The games are exciting, but the real “show” to me is seeing the diverse crowd enthusiastically supporting young women athletes … girls, boys, women and men all cheering and knowledgeable about the game, the team, the coaches, the stats! I was just learning the sport, and had never witnessed crowds anywhere so completely dedicated to something that featured women in a starring role.
But there is another aspect to this that generates controversy, sometimes even on the hallowed ground in Connecticut! And that is the coach – Geno Auriema. Some object to Geno simply because he is a man coaching women; many folks feel that women should be filling the major coaching spots in women’s sports. They have a point, but overlook the important role of “allies” in any struggle toward greater opportunity for women. Personally, I love seeing the women coaches in action (and there are many very wonderful and colorful women coaches who I admire greatly!). But notice that Geno’s coaching staff has consistently been women — excellent women who have played an equally important role in developing the UConn program. It is worth noticing them, each and every one!
Another thing that some folks do not like is Geno – his style, his manner of coaching, his relationship with the media. Fair enough … not everyone’s style fits everyone’s particular taste. I have to say I like Geno a lot! Karen and I watch the “Geno show” that is streamed on CPTV in Connecticut, where we not only get a sense of Geno as a person, but also learn heaps about the game, about the players, the coaches, the various controversies that crop up from time to time. No other women’s basketball program has this kind of “service” the community, and it plays a huge part in the success of the team.
Women’s basketball is not just a trivial sporting event … it is a major “event” shaping the future for all women! All of you fans out there — whoever your team … here’s to a great tournament! I am watching it all!!