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Thirteen Women Strong

Thirteen Women Strong: The Making of a Team

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 352
  • Book Info
    Thirteen Women Strong
    Book Description:

    In 1974, Nancy Winstel joined the women's college basketball team at Northern Kentucky University as a walk-on. She had little basketball experience, never having played on a high school team -- her high school didn't even have girl's basketball. Despite her inexperience, Winstel served NKU as a talented student athlete, but her legacy didn't end there. Appointed head coach at NKU in 1983, she gained a reputation as one of the most successful coaches in women's college basketball history with more than 500 wins. Winstel garnered these victories in an athletic landscape vastly different from the one she knew as an NKU undergraduate. Many of the student-athletes on her twenty-first-century squads have been playing organized basketball for most of their lives. In a post--title IX America, more women than ever are involved in team sports and their teams attract a large following of enthusiasts.

    NKU professor Robert K. Wallace, one of many passionate fans of the Norse, has brought his appreciation for the team's players and their accomplishments toThirteen Women Strong: The Making of a Team. Chronicling the 2006--07 season of twelve remarkable student-athletes and their legendary coach, Wallace was granted unprecedented access to the team. Sitting in on closed meetings and practice sessions, he follows the players through grueling training drills, intensely close games, exhilarating wins, and anguished losses.

    During the 2005--06 season, a squad of NKU women with no seniors achieved unanticipated success, earning a 27--5 record that led to a Great Lakes Valley Conference championship. The entire team returned the following season to expectations of even greater success, but their 2006--07 season was plagued by injuries and other major obstacles. After a string of tough losses, the women mounted a comeback to earn a 21--8 record and reach the NCAA Division II Tournament once again. The team's story is one of loss, triumph, and personal growth.

    Thirteen Women Strongprofiles each member of the team, including the coach. Wallace provides keen insight into the emotional and physical demands of high-level competition. Exploring the impact of Title IX legislation on women's collegiate sports with the critical eye of a scholar and the love of a fan, Wallace documents the story of how thirteen women faced high expectations and difficult trials to come together as a team, their growth culminating in the 2007--08 national championship.Thirteen Women Strongis a fascinating study of this dynamic group of female student-athletes and their renowned leader.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5981-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [viii]-[ix])
  3. INTRODUCTION: The Challenge
    (pp. 1-12)

    She thinks she is playing good defense this time. But the girl gets around her. She knows why the coach is putting her on the bench. That look in the coach’s eye is enough.

    Next time the coach puts her on a different player. This one gets around her too. This time she gets more than the silent stare. “You’re already on the worst player out there. You don’t guard her because she’s outhustling you. I move you to somebody else, they put in another player, she beats you to the basket, and she’s not as good as the person...

    (pp. 13-29)

    The pleasure with which they played was the defining quality of Winstel’s teams in 2005–06 and 2006–07. Not only did they enjoy the game; they enjoyed one another. A small group of faculty fans saw this at the conference tournament in Evansville, Indiana, in March 2006. We had been invited to watch the team work out for its semifinal game with Quincy University. After the workout, sitting on the floor outside the locker room as they waited for the bus, all 12 players broke into spontaneous song, serenading one another until the bus arrived. One player later chose...

    (pp. 30-48)

    Having played in the national championship game in March 2003 raised the bar even higher for the 2003–04 season. It had been exciting enough to upset Indianapolis and Quincy to win the NCAA Great Lakes Regional and make the Elite Eight. Then to go on to beat Washburn University (Kansas) and California University (Pennsylvania) before losing to South Dakota State in the final was even more of a thrill. That team had not been considered one of Winstel’s strongest. They had been unranked during much of the regular season, and few had given them any chance to beat Indianapolis,...

    (pp. 49-87)

    Winstel’s team remade itself during the 2005–06 season. It did indeed pass the solstice that “maketh all things new.” In the record book that change is measured in one of the most remarkable turnarounds any Winstel team had ever made from one season to the next—from a 16–12 record to 27–5. As the season unfolded, the change occurred incrementally, one game after another, until something extraordinary happened—the team had suddenly transcended itself more fully than anyone could have expected. When that happened, the solstice was passed not for any single soul but for all 12...

    (pp. 88-116)

    Psychologically, the offseason began soon after Grand Valley defeated us on Drury’s court. At the team dinner after the game, Coach Winstel announced that Grand Valley would be one of the teams coming to Regents Hall for our Christmas tournament in December. This announcement raised the bar not only for the upcoming season but also for the summer.

    That December date became all the more challenging—and exciting—when Grand Valley went on to roll over Drury in the regional final and win three in a row for the national championship. Playing them in December would be a great way...

    (pp. 117-144)

    Labor Day was yesterday. We are beginning the third week of the fall semester and four players are on the court for “individual” drills of the kind that are allowed before October 15. The time clock is set at 50:00. The players have been stretching and then jogging lightly up and down the court before the work begins.

    Winstel stands out beyond the free-throw line, four players under the basket. Three cones are placed along the three-point line—one to the left of the players, one straight ahead, and one to the right. These are known as 1, 2, 3....

    (pp. 145-160)

    Kentucky is a blue state in basketball. Walking into Memorial Coliseum you see the blue banners celebrating the dynasty Adolph Rupp built in the men’s game, the kind that Coach Mickie DeMoss would like to build in the women’s game. Last year’s UK women were 20–9. Their 9–5 record in the SEC included a win over Tennessee. This year they are number 16 in the national preseason Division I poll, compared with NKU’s number 15 in Division II. This matchup will provide an interesting comparison between the two divisions.

    Memorial Coliseum holds about 8,000 fans and about 2,500...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 161-195)

    The regular season begins with a home game against Midway, the small college near Lexington, Kentucky, at which Nancy Winstel began her coaching career in 1978. After the three-month offseason and the three-month preseason, it is finally time to play. The first good news upon entering Regents Hall on November 21 is that Karmen Graham is going to be okay. The MRI revealed no serious damage to the knee, so she should be playing again soon, hopefully in time for our GLVC opener against Quincy on November 30.

    The next good news is that NKU wins against Midway, 98–42,...

    (pp. 196-247)

    Fourteen games remain in the regular season. Eight of the fourteen teams in the GLVC will qualify for the conference tournament. If the selection were made after the loss to Lewis, we would not be among them. Yet if we are able to play at our best for the next two months, we will again be in Roberts Stadium in Evansville for the first weekend in March. And if we are there when the tournament begins, those old dreams might well be rekindled.

    Soon after returning home from the Lewis game, Angela Healy poured her hopes for the rest of...

    (pp. 248-264)

    Just like last year, Rudy, John, Bill, and I drove straight to Evansville for the GLVC Tournament after our Thursday afternoon classes. This time Jon and Cheryl followed in their van. We saw every variety of wind and rain during the first three hours, feeling on the windshield the brutal bursts that had appeared only as the colored edges of storm fronts on the TV weather forecast. With half an hour to go, our first blue pocket of light opened high in the sky. As the higher sky slowly broke, an orange band of light became brighter and brighter under...

    (pp. 265-277)

    Two of our seniors had found their parents in the lobby of the Neil Carey Arena before the building was cleared for the evening session. Betsey and Katie were both sobbing convulsively. The tears at the farewell banquet a month later were of a different kind. Like those of Isabel Archer after the loss of her cousin Ralph at the end of Henry James’sThe Portrait of a Lady, “they were not the tears that blind.” Ralph had given Isabel two kinds of legacies—the fortune that had made her the victim of a fortune-hunting husband, and the generous love...

  15. CONCLUSION: March 2008
    (pp. 278-294)

    In 2008 March Madness lasted the whole month. The shock of last year’s last-second loss to Ferris State receded deeper and deeper into the past as this year’s team won one game after another all the way to the national championship game in Kearney, Nebraska, on March 29. In that game unranked NKU upset the highly favored University of South Dakota, duplicating the feat of Winstel’s team in upsetting North Dakota State for the national title eight years earlier. Led by senior cocaptains Angela Healy and Nicole Chiodi, the 2007–08 team achieved all that had been hoped for the...

    (pp. 295-297)
    Nancy Winstel

    I have been asked to contribute my coaching philosophy to this book. I can’t say that I have ever sat down and written out my philosophy on coaching. I have, however, given much thought to the coaching process over the years and have formulated some strong feelings and opinions on the subject. In these next few pages, I will attempt to give the reader some insight into the areas I feel are important.

    I believe that a very important role for the coach is to assist student-athletes in making their dreams come true. My job is to help them achieve....

    (pp. 298-300)
    (pp. 301-303)
    (pp. 304-310)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 311-320)