Coaches and Administration
Advancements of women’s sports came not only from the athletes that participated, but the coaches who recruited and fought for them, as well as the administrators who brought change from the top-down. The age and life experiences of these coaches had exposed them to the harmful effects of misogyny. The women who made it past the barriers of sexism into coaching or administration had the privilege of some power in meetings and organization and used their priviledge to fight for the young athletes they coached.
Jim Potter was named full-time intramural director for Trinity in 1967. At a time when Trinity women were bridging the gap between intramural, extramural, and intercollegiate, Potter organized games between Southwestern State, the University of Texas, and other universities. He worked closely with Libby Johnson, the director of women’s athletics, and often considered her his “right hand person.” In 1973, both Potter and Johnson expanded the co-ed program at Trinity.
Intramural sports did not allow recruiting, so the coaches had to get creative to involve students in sports. According to Glada Munt, Jim Potter recruited her into intramurals by observing her while she officiated games for spending money. Though originally a tennis player, Munt was convinced to play volleyball and softball through Potter’s encouragement. Since many high schools across the country offered few sports for women, college intramurals presented new opportunities in athletics.
Shirley Rushing Poteet is from Mississippi and graduated from Mississippi Southern University. She taught for 3 years at Baylor University before coming to Trinity in 1960. At the time, Rushing was the only female member of the physical education department at Trinity. She sponsored women’s intramural and extramural sports and supervised Trinity cheerleaders and majorettes and was viewed as a positive and helpful role model. Rushing Poteet was also an organizer and mentor, and she secured financial support for the women’s tennis teams. When women came to the Sams Center to look for a women’s tennis team, they were directed to Rushing Poteet. With no monetary support from Trinity, she found tournaments, navigated registration paperwork and entry fees, and brought other Trinity women together at the USLTA championships in 1969 to form the first unofficial team. Not only did she advocate for women’s athletics, but she was also department chair from 1985-1995, council representative, and president and social chair of Faculty Club.
Sarah Scott Mayo, class of 1973, expresses her gratitude for Rushing Poteet, who sponsored and supported the team before the arrival of Coach Marylin Montgomery in 1974. Coach John Newman worked with the team part-time at practices from 1972-1974, but Rushing Poteet still did all of her same roles including scheduling, attending, and coaching all out-of-town games and tournaments. Click here for Scott Mayo's oral history quote. Scott Mayo and several other freshman women came to Trinity, not only for the rigorous academics, but to play tennis, only to find that there was nothing organized. In addition, the national standouts, Emilie Burrer Foster and Becky Vest, had graduated in the spring. With the help of Rushing Poteet, the women went to the athletic council to be recognized and receive funding. Rushing Poteet did a lot of work behind the scenes and without recognition or supplementary income from Trinity. This exploitation was a common occurrence for many women who coached or taught, because if someone wanted to foster women’s teams, they did so largely on their own time and money.
Trinity’s first director of women’s athletics, Elizabeth Ann “Libby” Johnson hails from Big Springs, Texas. Coach Johnson attended McMurry College, where she played varsity tennis and helped organize women’s intramural sports. She then worked at St. Mary’s University, where she earned a reputation for her leadership skills and strong work ethic. Johnson received an offer to work at the University of Texas, San Antonio, but she said that she would rather coach girls who volunteered to play. That being said, Johnson joined Trinity University as an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Physical Education in 1972. Her work promoting women’s intercollegiate athletics, mentoring student athletes, and developing women’s extramural sports kept the momentum of Title IX alive for women’s athletics at the University.
Between 1972 and 1976, Johnson devoted her time to getting women to try out, coaching, and organizing games for intramural and extramural athletic programs. She enjoyed tremendous success at Trinity. In addition to her promotion to director of women’s athletics in 1975, coaching six basketball, four volleyball, and four softball city collegiate championships, she also led the 1976 volleyball team to a TIAA (Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association) championship—the women’s equivalent of a men’s state tournament. Students remembered Johnson for her optimism, sense of humor, and great care for her students. They knew that whatever she expected from her players, she applied to herself. Johnson played little softball before she became the coach, but she researched and took suggestions from her athletes, even though the two hour practice was directly after basketball practice. The character she expected from her athletes, she modeled herself.
Mary Walters, class of 1979, recounts her experience as a basketball, softball, and volleyball player from 1977-1979. In the interview, she notes that Libby Johnson fought hard for the women’s teams to receive equal treatment, and as such, Walters felt equal to the men’s teams in many respects. For example, Walters remembers that the basketball and volleyball teams often had prime practice times and were rarely relegated to the auxiliary gym. This was a significant change from the experiences that Lynn Luna and Sue Henderson recounted from the 1973-1977 period.
Ron Calgaard, who joined Trinity after serving as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Kansas, had big hopes for Trinity University. His official commencement was June of 1979, but in the beginning of November 1978 he started to visit the campus 3 days a month to get to know the people and place, showing his dedication to the institution. As soon as he started his work, he focused on transforming Trinity into a top-tier undergraduate liberal arts university. To increase the selectivity of admissions standards, he increased tuition and began recruiting highly regarded faculty. He also demonstrated a strong commitment to Title IX and to non-scholarship athletics. In 1982, Calgaard supported dropping NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) membership and joining the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). By joining the NCAA, Trinity joined an association with hundreds more member institutions and had more rigorous academic standards for student athletes, while maintaining non-scholarship status. Not content to work solely behind-the-scenes, he made his commitment to Trinity’s students manifest by attending 90% of campus events.