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From the Ground Up

Women’s sports at Washburn celebrate 50 years

women's physical education department from 1967

(Members of the Washburn women's physical education department in 1967 - from left to right - Helen Hocker, Jan Nuzman, Ruth Worley, Phylis Dorman, Shelley Ford, Peg Marmet, Elaine Brady. Photo from The Kaw, 1968)


From The Ichabod - Winter 2019

Patty Dick has been building women’s sports since elementary school. When she found out boys were able to play basketball during lunch, she asked the principal if the girls could also put together a team.

“That ruined me for life, because he said yes, and I just assumed from there on out that everything was going to be that easy,” Dick, b ed ’71, joked.

She was no stranger to organizing girls’ sports early on, but it was her determination along with many other women that set the pathway for women’s sports today. She, along with female sports legends – Helen Hocker, Peg Marmet, and Jan Nuzman – were early advocates and coaches for women’s sports at Washburn University.

Dick played for Nuzman and was under the leadership of Hocker and Marmet while a faculty member in the women’s physical education department. Along with female coaches around the nation, they faced obstacles to growing and sustaining women’s athletic programs.

“I really liked to play, and I wanted to give others the opportunities I didn’t have,” Dick said. “We found people to play on the teams who were already going to Washburn to get an education. I had to recruit on good luck and charm, because we didn’t have scholarship money.”

She and the other coaches were educators first and coaches second, but still worked around the clock to schedule their own games or matches, find people to work them, and get the athletes to and from the games. In 1983, Dick was able to offer her first full-ride scholarship to a female basketball player.

Carl Nuzman, husband of Jan Nuzman, who passed away in 2014, recalled the work the women did just so women could play. He said before they were associated with conferences, area physical education instructors would arrange to play each other on Saturdays. Bake sales were held for the team’s out-of-pocket expenses and personal cars were used for transportation.

“Jan had a volleyball team that won over KU, K-State, Mount St. Scholastica, Emporia State and one or two other small colleges that was the equivalent of a women's state volleyball championship, but there was no audience or media coverage in those days to help them celebrate,” he said.

Patty DickDick specifically remembers the year she had three full-ride scholarships to award. Her team also won its first conference championship that year, and she was able to prove to the administration that the more scholarship money she provided the more the team could accomplish.

Paul Marmet, husband to Peg Marmet who passed away in 2012, said it was the women’s determination to do a good job and their competitive spirit that kept women’s athletics going. Peg was the first coach to win a conference championship when Washburn joined the MIAA, and she coached men’s and women’s tennis for more than two decades.

“She enjoyed her teaching and coaching at Washburn very much, and I think the biggest thing I would say is that she was able to do it because she had discipline,” he said. “The coaching part came natural to her and very few people have that ability.”

Joy Skeens, bs ’85, who played softball and basketball, is excited to join former players and boosters to celebrate women’s athletics. She remarked that the level of competition has increased dramatically and there are a lot of new opportunities for female athletes, all because of coaches who have continued to push players to be their best over the years.

“Dick was such a great coach, she set high expectations and she was tough,” Skeens said. “She knew your potential, and she made sure you played up to it.”

Dick wants current athletes to reflect on how far collegiate women’s sports has progressed since beginning more than 50 years ago.

“I’m so proud of the women they have become,” Dick said. “It was worth all of the battles to see them go on and coach other teams, and many have even gone on to own their own businesses or are now coaching.”

Spring 2020 Alumni Mag

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2019-20 spring edition online and look for it in mailboxes in May.

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