Women in Sport was created by the WIAA to support women as leaders, change agents, connectors and collaborators in the world of athletics. Through this initiative, the WIAA is proud to provide women in athletic leadership with a series of conferences, workshops, and networking opportunities to inspire growth and engagement.
WIAA ASSISTANT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
In the early 1970s, when girls basketball leagues in southeastern Montana changed from a 6-on-6 format to 5-on-5, the girls in the area protested: They wanted to remain unique from the boys. Unfortunately, against the agenda of much heavier-handed league officials, the athletes’ resistance eventually subsided. But for one of the young women – Hardin, Montana’s Cindy Adsit – that pushback knocked over the first domino in a career-long line of advocacy for women’s rights in youth sports.
Before she’d become the longest-tenured Assistant Executive Director in WIAA history – before she’d overseen practically every sport and activity under the association’s jurisdiction, or helped cultivate the rapid growth of girls wrestling in high school sports, or represented Washington on national softball, volleyball, and sportsmanship committees – Cindy was making waves on the court.
Following collegiate volleyball and basketball tenures at Montana State University, she movedto Seattle, completing a Masters of Science in Kinesiology at the University of Washington. Not long after she’d moved west, Cindy signed on with the Seattle SeaBaskets, an affiliate of the AAU basketball association – the only post-collegiate league for women hoopers during that era.
Although they won the AAU championship in 1981, Cindy’s SeaBaskets became much more than an exhibition of athletic excellence. The core of the Northwest Women’s Sports Foundation, the Seabaskets became the conduits for anything women’s-sports-related on the west coast in the 1980s.
The team distributed its own monthly news publication, “The Northwest Player,” across all high schools in Washington, postsecondary institutions on the west coast, and even Alaska Airlines flights. The tabloid promoted clinics, summer leagues, and international women’s basketball tournaments hosted by the Northwest Women’s Sports Foundation – all under the orchestration of Cindy Adsit, who served as the Foundation’s executive director.
So, thirty-six years ago, when Cindy applied for and obtained a position as Assistant Executive Director at the WIAA, she was well aware of what it took to advocate for youth at the organizational level. In an industry largely overwhelmed by men, Cindy established herself as a gritty leader in the toughest of situations.
In the words of current WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman, “There is no greater example of leadership that can be provided when given an opportunity.”
Cindy’s five decades of work in youth sports serve as an unflinching reminder of the length and perseverance it takes to truly enact change for equity in athletics. From excellence on the court to advocacy across committees, Cindy Adsit continues to lead by example for young women in the athletic community.
Today, exactly 50 years after Title IX legislation first cracked open the gate for gender equity in sports, the WIAA proudly recognizes its own Cindy Adsit, who has gone above and beyond the line of duty for women and girls since before the days of 6-on-6 basketball in southeastern Montana.
WIAA ASSISTANT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Before she became an assistant executive director at the WIAA, BJ Kuntz was already quite familiar with the ins and outs of the association.
First, she was one of the athletes. In the mid-80s, she dominated the Washington sports scene, collecting all-conference certificates in four sports at Wenatchee High School. By the time she graduated in 1987, BJ held more than a dozen Panther basketball school records. In the spring, she slugged her way to two “All-Big’9” conference nods as a sophomore and junior softballer.
Then, in the spring of her senior year, she departed the diamond, trying her hand at track and field instead. Her unmatched athletic versatility on full display, BJ promptly set a school record in the shot put and earned Wenatchee’s “Outstanding Female Athlete” honors after winning the district meet in the javelin throw. That same season, BJ earned two All-State selections, cementing her case for Central Washington’s 1987 High School Female Athlete of the Year Award. She took home one of those All-State awards after another stellar basketball season. The other one, though – BJ’s main claim to fame – came on the volleyball courts. After high school graduation, she signed up to play volleyball on full scholarship at Gonzaga University.
In four years with the Zags, BJ earned All-West Coast Conference honors twice and NCAA Scholar-Athlete recognition four times – all while earning a Bachelors of Arts in Health and Physical Education with teacher certification. Following her illustrious collegiate career, BJ completed her Masters of Education from City University, putting herself in prime position to continue her lifelong quest to better the lives of young athletes across the country.
BJ has since spent over 29 years in education: 10 as a teacher and coach, 12 as the Wenatchee School District Athletic Director, and five more as the Wenatchee High School Dean of Students. Before she took over as an executive at the WIAA, the Wenatchee High School Hall of Famer had spent five years as the association’s District 6 director, during which time she was the lone woman representative among district directors.
Before she'd even pulled into the lot at the WIAA office in 2019, BJ was already fast at work making sports more accessible and equitable for all student-athletes. One of her larger projects has been Women of Washington, a support network consisting of any and all women administrators and athletic directors in the WIAA membership. She also works alongside fellow Title IX Trailblazers as an orchestrator of the Game Changer’s Initiative, a cohort of early-career women coaches intent on strengthening female coaching communities.
The global pandemic could do little to stop BJ from fighting for girls’ futures. While the rest of the world came to a halt, she dug into an assortment of WIAA data and numbers to figure out how to close gaps in gender equity. She presented her findings to the WIAA membership, making it clear to administrators across the state that equity and inclusion are high priorities for Washington’s youth sport community.
Now, three years into her tenure at the WIAA office, BJ has continued to assert herself as a champion of women’s rights in youth sports. She’s led conferences and delivered presentations at Women in Sport summits at the state and national levels. Sam Brown, WIAA director of Education and Appeals and fellow Title IX Champion, has felt firsthand the statewide shift towards advocacy for women’s rights under BJ's influence.
“BJ is an idea-person, and she’s also a doer,” Sam said. “The ideas always boil down to impacting access and opportunity for female student-athletes -- for all student-athletes. I think [girl athletes] should be happy and grateful to know that they have somebody working for them, thinking of them.”
EISENHOWER HIGH SCHOOL
Carol Finney graduated from Edmonds High School in 1959, received her associates degree from Everett Community College two years later, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Pacific Lutheran another two years after that. But her path towards educational mastery didn’t end there. In 1969, Carol completed her Master’s in Education from Central Washington University.
Even before she’d completed her masters, however, Carol had already begun her illustrious career in education. She began teaching at Eisenhower High School in Yakima in 1963, the start of a 33-year tenure that temporarily ended in 1996 before picking back up again for the 2002-03 school year. During her time in education, Carol was the department chair for 30 years – but her influence extended beyond the classroom.
In 1971, one year prior to the conception of Title IX legislation, Carol pioneered the girls’ basketball and track and field programs at Eisenhower, both of which she coached for 10 years. The Eisenhower girls’ track and field team finished second at the State Championships in Goldendale in 1975. Carol also coached Eisenhower softball for two full decades (1983-2004), qualifying for the WIAA State Tournament twice.
Outside of coaching, Carol found her calling in the world of refereeing. She officiated volleyball for the Washington Officials Association (WOA) for a jaw-dropping 39 years, including matches at the middle and high school levels -- as well as several State Volleyball Tournament contests. She also officiated basketball for 12 years and was one of the founders of the Basketball and Volleyball Officiating Boards (Central Washington Board of Officials). She was appointed to the original Fee Review Committee, serving as Region 5 Board Representative for 10 years.
Carol worked District Volleyball tournaments for over 25 years. She worked State Volleyball Tournaments in Renton, Wenatchee, Riverview (Finley), and Spokane for another 13 years, managing the 1B, 2B, 1A State Volleyball Tournament at the Yakima Valley SunDome, as well as the 1B, 2B State Softball Tournament at Yakima Kiwanis Park along the way.
For over a quarter-century, Carol worked as Assigning Secretary for Central Washington Volleyball, participating as a member of the evaluation team every year. She received the WOA Meritorious Award (1992), the Yakima Valley Interscholastic Activities Association (YVIAA) Distinguished Service Award in appreciation of dedicated service to the Youth of the YVIAA, and was inducted into the WOA Hall of Fame (2012). In 2013, the WIAA officially inducted Carol into its own Hall of Fame.
Without a doubt, Carol dedicated her life to helping student-athletes, from the Yakima Valley to the Puget Sound. In March of 2022, Carol Finney – esteemed educator, coach, and lover of Yakima Valley sports – passed away, leaving behind a legacy of inspiration for women and girls in athletics across the state of Washington and beyond.
FIFE HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
For 24 years, Coach Jan Kirk and the Fife High School volleyball team dominated postseason tournament brackets in Washington state. By the end of her legendary tenure, Kirk had accumulated 637 wins – to just 15 losses.
During her tenure, the Trojans won 18 league titles, 14 district titles, made 20 State appearances, and won four State Titles. Her teams have placed second, third, and fourth at State four times, with one sixth place and one seventh place finish. The Fife girls volleyball team did not lose a league match from 2005-2010, and, remarkably, did not lose a set in Coach Kirk’s final three years.
Alongside leading her own team to unprecedented success, Coach Kirk served as an ambassador for girls and the sport of volleyball across the state. For 20 years, she coordinated the State All-Star Volleyball Tournament held at Fife High School every June, co-founding the Puget Sound Volleyball Academy – originally referred to as the Puget Sound Volleyball “Club” – in the process.
She has been inducted into the Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame (2010), the Fife High School Hall of Fame (2012), the Federal Way Athletic Hall of Fame (2008), and received the NFHS Sectional Coach of the Year award (2008). She received the Pemco Girls Coach of the Year Award (1995-96), the Wayne Gardner Award (2010), and was honored with the Bill Neville Excellence in Volleyball Award (2011). In June of 2016, Coach Kirk was inducted into the Tacoma Pierce County Hall of Fame.
The development and increasing popularity of volleyball in the state of Washington is part of Jan’s legacy. While her records are indicative of her expertise in volleyball, Jan’s most remarkable contribution is one of building strong women. Her influence was obvious in players who were disciplined, fundamentally sound, and always cohesive. She inherited a volleyball program of minimal successes, flipping it into a division and league powerhouse and a perennial State contender.
In the winter of 2021, the state of Washington lost a legend with the passing of Jan Kirk. To this day, she remains a figurehead for youth volleyball and strong female leaders, representing coaches across the state and nation.
HAZEN HIGH SCHOOL TRACK & FIELD, BASKETBALL
Selina Burton-Bennett certainly had -- as the saying goes -- some ‘serious hops.’ In the early 1990s, the future WIAA Hall-of-Famer propelled herself off the long and triple jump takeoff planks at Renton Memorial Stadium like they were tightly packed springboards. By the end of her four years at Hazen High School, she’d soared to four individual 2A State Titles -- two in the triple jump, and two in the long jump.
Claiming the top spot on the podium in the long jump, triple jump, and 100m dash, Burton-Bennett paved the way for a first-place Hazen High School finish in the 1993 Sea-King District Track meet. But while track was her main claim to fame, she was far from a one-sport standout. In the winter, she replaced her track cleats with sneakers, starring as the point guard on the Hazen basketball team.
By the end of Burton-Bennett’s high school career, she received abundant attention from collegiate scouts. After graduation, she took her talents across the country on a full-ride track and field scholarship with the South Carolina State Bulldogs. From there, she further cemented her legacy, representing her home state in both the indoor and outdoor NCAA Track and Field Championships.
Since her days at Hazen High, former coaches and administrators have referred to Burton-Bennett as one of the finest individuals to come out of the state of Washington. Outside of sports, the triple-jump legend has always been eager to lend a helping hand to youth in her community, starting with her services to the Rainier Beach AAU Track Club during summers in high school.
To this day, she continues to impact youth communities. The former track standout now lives in El Paso, Texas, working as a member of the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC). As Master Parent Educator, Burton-Bennett works to equip the parents of military children with the capacity to effectively advocate for their kids’ educational needs. From the triple jump pit to the classroom, Selina Burton-Bennett has always embodied the core values of sport that the WIAA strives to embrace -- now, she spends her time extending those values to young people throughout the U.S.
LAKESIDE SCHOOL TRACK & FIELD, BASKETBALL
Michelle Perkins was the kind of student-athlete who brought out the best in her coaches and teammates, from her passion and work ethic to her humility and leadership. In the words of her coaches and community, she dominated her craft unpretentiously, a shining example of coachability for younger athletes.
On the court Perkins was equally as impressive. Five times in her four-year high school career, Perkins steered her squads to State Titles – three times in basketball and twice in track and field. As a track athlete, she notched five Lakeside School records, two of which (shot put and high jump) remain intact today.
Meanwhile, Perkins ended her high school basketball career with a 12-0 record in State Tournament games, despite navigating an assortment of knee injuries along the way. In fact, as a junior, when an ACL injury threatened to derail her sports seasons, she went out for the crew team instead – and promptly took over the power seat on the varsity boat. Following her senior year in 1992, Perkins’ all-around dominance earned her the Seattle Times’ Female Athlete of the Year Award.
After high school, Perkins chose to play basketball for the University of Washington. But when more ACL issues forced her to make an early career decision, Perkins never faltered, shifting her focus from her teammates on the court to her teammates in her community. Since 1998, she’s used the same grit and empathy she exemplified as a high school athlete to save lives as a member of the Seattle Fire Department.
From fire inspector to paramedic, Perkins has spent more than 20 years risking her own well-being for the lives of others. At the same time, she’s used her platform and charisma to become a vocal leader for social justice, making appearances as a speaker and advocate for countless communities. In between rescuing Seattlites and spending time with her husband and two sons, Perkins returns to her alma mater as a coach for Lakeside’s basketball and track program, continuously impacting generations of young women.
BURLINGTON-EDISON HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
Coach Tawnya Brewer has been shaping strong, independent, competitive young women at Burlington-Edison High School (BEHS) since 1994. For over 28 years, she has dedicated time and effort to her school and program, cementing herself as a household name in the Washington state high school volleyball and track communities.
Brewer made her first foray into State Championship competition as a standout track and volleyball athlete at Oak Harbor HS in the 1980s. Her influence has continued to blossom in the years since. Equipped with an undergraduate degree from Washington State University and Masters from Western Illinois University, Brewer took a job teaching physical education at BEHS in the ‘90s, where she also began coaching – a brilliant hiring move that would change the landscape of Washington state volleyball for decades to come.
Since her head coaching tenure first began, Brewer’s Tigers have become a staple at the 2A State Volleyball Tournament, qualifying for 17 straight seasons – and returning home with a trophy in 16 of those appearances. A testament to her leadership and coaching prowess, Brewer has become the winningest coach – of any sport – in BEHS history, staking claim to a 79% winning clip and four State Championship victories, alongside 11 District and 12 Conference Titles.
When she’s not courtside, coaching up her own players, Brewer is impacting other female athletes and mentors across the state, serving as a Board Member on the Washington State Coaches Association and chief coordinator for the past 10 iterations of Washington’s All-State Volleyball Program. For her efforts, she was inducted into the Washington State Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2016.
Within her school, community, and state – as an athlete, a coach, and a parent – Tawnya Brewer continues to exemplify leadership excellence, an inspirational icon for young female athletes looking to make an impact on the world of sports.
OTHELLO HIGH SCHOOL DANCE/DRILL
"Anna Martinez has been the head coach for the Othello Dance Team for 29 years. Throughout her time with the program, Anna has continued to show that, through hard work and dedication, anything is possible. When she began coaching for the program, Anna experienced a tragedy with the death of her husband Sergio Martinez. At the time, Anna became a single mother with three young children balancing work and personal life.
"Despite those obstacles, Anna continued giving her all to the dance program and through the years has helped the program succeed. The dance team has won and placed at hundreds of regular season competitions, won and placed at multiple District Championships, and most recently helped the team to a 2022 State Championship title, making it the second State title she has won as head coach.
"Off the dance floor, Anna has been a positive leader for both the girls and boys on the team. Anna leads by example, proving women in leadership roles is not only possible, but that you can truly do anything you want as long as you put your mind and work ethic behind it. For 29 years, Anna Martinez has helped pave the way for many young girls to succeed both on and off the dance floor. She is a prime example of what it means to be a strong, independent, successful leader. I am humbled to work with such an incredible leader and am proud to nominate Anna Martinez for WIAA Women in Sport recognition."
-Antonio Estrada, Othello High School Dance/Drill Coach
EISENHOWER HIGH SCHOOL
Sandy Ringer spent her career elevating the impact of women and girls in youth sports, paving the way for generations of female sportswriters in Washington state and across the country. A native of Yakima, Sandy graduated from Eisenhower High School in 1971, where she took part in pre-Title IX volleyball and basketball programs.
After high school, she attended Washington State University, where she stepped off the court and onto the sidelines, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Communications (1975) along the way. Meanwhile, Sandy’s knack for reporting and writing began to catch public attention. By the time she graduated, she’d become the first female sports editor of the Daily Evergreen – WSU’s student-led newspaper.
Sandy continued her journalism career after college, covering general news and high school sports at a weekly paper in Madras, Ore. After nearly two years, she decided to move closer to home and took a similar position with the Toppenish Review, another weekly paper, covering general news and prep sports.
It was just six months later that Sandy got what she considered her first big break – a chance to cover prep sports full-time as sports editor of the Suburban Times, a twice-weekly newspaper in Lakewood. She focused on the high schools within the coverage area (Lakes, Clover Park and Charles Wright) and also featured some Pacific Lutheran University sports.
In 1981, Sandy joined the Valley Newspapers sports staff and primarily covered football, basketball, and baseball. After six years with Valley Newspapers, Sandy landed her “dream job” with The Seattle Times. She was hired as the South Bureau sports reporter in July of 1987, focusing on high schools throughout South King County.
Sandy was presented the Washington State Football Coaches Association Silver Helmet Award (1991) for outstanding coverage of high school football and related youth activities. She also received The Washington State Wrestling Coaches Association Media Award (2003) for outstanding coverage of high school wrestling, including a memorable feature on the WIAA 50 Years of Wrestling celebration. The Washington State Baseball Coaches Association named Sandy the “Jim Reding Media Commitment Award” (2010) for outstanding coverage of prep baseball.
Sandy was honored with the proclamation made by Seattle City Council to have February 7 known as Sandy Ringer Day (2014) in appreciation of her “dedication and commitment,” in particular to coverage of girls sports. Since her pre-Title IX playing days, Sandy’s contributions have played a critical role in exposing the brilliance and importance of women and girls in Washington state high school sports.
MOUNT RAINIER HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER
Long before she took over as the head coach of Yale’s women’s soccer program – even before she became both the athletic and emotional student leader of her college team – Sarah Martinez had a deep impact on the lives of young women. As the multi-season captain of the Mount Rainier High School girls soccer team, from a young age she began shaping the lives of female student-athletes. And she hasn’t looked back since.
Of course, Martinez backed up her leadership role with exceptional on-field performances. She dominated the Seamount League midfield throughout her junior and senior seasons of high school, snagging First-Team All-State Honors en route to league Co-MVP status. Her talents earned her recognition on the Seattle Times’ All-Area Team, feeding her recruitment and eventual commitment to the University of Washington.
In many ways, her college experience mirrored that of her high school days, just at a higher level. Martinez spent her collegiate junior and senior seasons also as team captain, earning All-Pac-12 Second-Team honors in the process. After both of those seasons, she was named the UW’s Most Inspirational Female Athlete, a reflection and foreshadowing of her influence on women and girls across the sport of soccer.
For five years following her undergraduate experience, Martinez stayed in Seattle, coaching soccer while working towards a Master’s Degree in the Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership program at the UW. In 2016, she moved to New York, where she was a member of her conference’s Coaching Staff of the Year as an assistant at Stony Brook University.
Since taking over as head coach at Yale in December of 2019, the momentum of Martinez's influence on female athletes has continued to build. In an employee spotlight interview at Yale, Martinez described her commitment to the holistic development of student-athletes, a job she believes she was born to do.
“Developing and empowering the young women of my program is my biggest role,” she said. “What gives me all my purpose is watching young women leave as confident women who are ready to change the world.”
Since she roamed the pitch at Mount Rainier High, Martinez’s contributions to female student-athletes have been wide-ranging, both in geographical reach and emotional impact. And, at just 30 years of age, she’s just getting started.
LIBERTY HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL
Dr. Hannah Owings Olson has experienced success in every position traditionally defined by the word ‘leader.’ Collegiate team captain, high school head coach, multi-level mentor – the extent of her roles would put Merriam-Webster’s glossary of athletic terminology to shame. But the full definition of her influence within the world of sports – particularly that of female athletes – requires a much deeper dictionary on athletic leadership.
Of course, it’s impossible to overlook Hannah’s more tangible accomplishments. In the late ‘90s, she gathered 11 letters as the captain of three varsity sports. Specializing in softball, Hannah earned the 1999-2000 Seattle Times’ Prep Athlete of the Year award as a senior in high school. After her valedictorian speech for the Liberty HS Class of 2000, she took her talents to Charlottesville, where she eventually became captain of the University of Virginia Varsity Softball Team.
Within 10 years of her All-Conference tenure at UVa, Hannah had completed a Masters in Intercollegiate Athletic Leadership (June ‘07) and a Ph.D. in Educational leadership & Policy Study (June ‘14), both from the University of Washington. As the head softball coach of Newport High School, meanwhile, she’d led her squad to the WIAA 4A State Tournament in back-to-back seasons, earning 2014 KingCo Coach of the Year honors in the process.
While affecting young female athletes more directly on the diamond in Bellevue, Hannah was also developing leaders more broadly across the entire state. As Program Administrator of the University of Washington’s Center for Leadership in Athletics, she has spearheaded nation-leading projects that reach every rank of those in position to affect young athletes’ lives, from administrators to coaches to the kids themselves. Right now, in partnership with the WIAA, Hannah works to spread foundational education to all coaches, helping young leaders provide student-athletes with the tools they need to build a successful future.
For early-career women, Hannah is the heartbeat of an initiative that offers young female coaches a cohesive community for growth in their pursuit of equitable treatment. On the field and in the classroom, Hannah’s leadership truly impacts every domino that falls in a long train of positive development for young women in Washington and beyond. It pinballs its way through the many elements of educators, coaches, and – ultimately – the student-athletes themselves.
In 1966, a high school-aged Sandy Nelson rolled her first ever bowling ball down the lanes of an alley in her hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Now, in the spring of 2022, she’s gearing up for a return to her home state and a 38th National Women’s Championship appearance. A trailblazer for women in the sport of bowling, Nelson has worked tirelessly for the benefit of young people since before she moved to Seattle in 1980.
Her previous job was as Division and Project Manager for the King County Department of Judicial Administration for over 25 years. Her current occupation is Director of Primm ABC Child Care and Preschool, a non-profit agency that helps children and their families prepare for the K-12 education system.
On top of all her other responsibilities, the former collegiate bowler hasn’t lost sight of the young athletes who compete in the sport she’s known and loved for over half a century. Nelson has spent over 20 years running youth and adult bowling tournaments, both as Secretary-Treasurer of the Greater Seattle Youth Bowling Association, as well as Washington State Secretary for the Youth Bowling Association. A beloved member of the bowling community, Nelson has brought her infectious passion and positivity to the WIAA as its State Bowling tournament manager since the event’s inaugural season in the winter of 2000.
For the women and girls who bowl the lanes in alleys across Washington, Nelson’s legacy is more than that of a local legend. Although she no longer participates on the board for the state’s youth bowling administration, she continues to encourage scholarship opportunities for the young women of the sport, many of whom remain on the outskirts of mainstream advertising.
“I think it’s not promoted enough,” Nelson said. “There’s a lot of good scholarships out there, and the girls don’t know about it.”
At age 72, as she sets her sights on her 38th appearance in Nationals, Nelson shows no signs of slowing down. “I’m hoping to hit 40 (years),” she says with a laugh. For her role as an athlete, educator, and leader, Sandy Nelson remains a pillar of inspiration for young female athletes across the state.
SHADLE PARK HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL/VOLLEYBALL
In 24 total seasons, Linda Sheridan coached her teams to unparalleled success across the Spokane region and beyond, inspiring thousands of young athletes in the process. Among the girls on Sheridan’s basketball and volleyball teams at Shadle Park, success on the court was simply a way of life.
Whether it was over the net or through it, Sheridan’s squads simply overwhelmed their opponents, cruising to 849 wins, 17 Greater Spokane League (GSL) Titles, 32 State Tournament appearances, and seven State Titles – five in volleyball and two in basketball. Her influence, however, transcended GSL titles and postseason dominance. Beyond the court, outside the gym, Sheridan’s student-athletes soaked up the positivity and authenticity radiating from their coach's infectious energy.
For the coach who still owns the record for all-time wins in Spokane prep sports history – the coach they called “Squat” in loving reference to her shorter stature – winning became a byproduct of something much more important. The girls on her teams fought hard for themselves and each other, embodying the culture of collaboration and unselfishness Sheridan worked hard to establish at Shadle Park HS throughout the years.
Now, nine years since her passing in 2013, Linda Sheridan’s statistical accolades remain unmatched. But the true impact Sheridan has had on her student-athletes as individuals and community members is immeasurable. In the words of those whose lives she touched, Coach “Squat” Sheridan provided her girls with “the tools to live fearlessly,” encouraging countless young women to not only dream, but to dream big.
OLYMPIA HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
Laurie Creighton first became a head coach in 1976, four years after the initial passing of Title IX legislation. By the time she retired in 2021, Creighton’s impact on young female athletes and coaches had spanned over 43 of the first 50 years of Title IX’s existence.
As a volleyball coach at Olympia High School, Creighton touted the benefits of young women participating in high school sports in the state’s capital and beyond, affecting the lives of over 750 female athletes. She created a culture that centered around the development of body and mind simultaneously, emphasizing the importance of greatness both academically and athletically.
From students to coaches, Creighton’s sphere of influence extends to young women at every level. Throughout the course of her coaching career, she intentionally hired quality female role models in assistant coaching positions to mentor athletes at every team level – varsity, junior varsity, and freshman – at Olympia High School.
Naturally, her squads’ cultures of collaborative excellence translated into consistent on-court success. In four decades of work, Creighton led 24 teams to WIAA State Tournament appearances, hauling home 16 trophy finishes – including two WIAA State Championships (1998, 2011). For her dedication to student-athletes, she currently resides in the WIAA Volleyball Coaches and Olympia High School Halls of Fame.
And for her strength and inspiration as a role model for female athletes and coaches, Creighton has helped cement the foundation of Title IX trailblazers in Washington state athletics.
NEAH BAY HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
For this week’s International Women’s Day edition of our TitleIXat50 celebration, we’re recognizing legendary volleyball coach Rebekah Monette for her persevering, lifelong devotion to student-athletes across the Neah Bay community.
In-between full-time duties as Athletic Director and tribal historic program manager, Monette has coached the Neah Bay Red Devil volleyball team since the 1990s. She describes her coaching style as “a combination of consistency, mentorship, and high expectations.” Rebekah and her assistant have been a team for over 10 years, each with a deep understanding of the unique experiences – as well as challenges – that their student-athletes face as young girls growing up in a shared tribal community.
Monette and her athletes share the connection of a tightly knit, remote community with multigenerational homes and certain limitations in access to resources. While raising her sons and opening her home to others in need, Rebekah has experienced first-hand the balance between honoring Makah culture and exploring opportunities beyond the borders of the reservation.
One of her sons, Josh, studied linguistics at Dartmouth, where he’d committed to the deep traditions of the Neah Bay community in order to bring the Makah language to full fruition back home. A respected, loving tribal member, Josh was just 19 years old when he lost his life gathering food off the shores of Neah Bay. Facing one of the greatest challenges of her life, Rebekah worked through her grief with her community of student-athletes. She continued coaching, remembering what Josh had told her years earlier when she’d considered hanging up her whistle to spend more time with family: “They need you.”
“Have a mentor, be a mentor.” Rebekah carries this philosophy close to her heart. As an experienced and trusted advisor, Rebekah learned from her own coach how to support those in need, meeting them where they’re at with a stable foundation of guidance. The simplest – yet most difficult – life lesson she seeks to instill in her players reflects sport in its purest form: “Control what you can control.”
This philosophy has helped Rebekah develop players into future coaches, some of whom she has hired and worked with for the past decade or more. It has also gifted Rebekah with the ability to provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences for the young athletes at Neah Bay High School and beyond. Last month, Rebekah led the Red Devils to an 11-0 record in the North Olympic 1B League and a #5 Seed in the WIAA State Volleyball Tournament.
Beyond just athletic success, though, the volleyball players in Neah Bay need Rebekah Monette. Having coached as long as she has, it can be difficult for a mentor to step back and take in the view from the top. As their state tournament run came to a close in November, one of her athletes was forced to miss the final game due to injury. When the athlete suggested that maybe she should have played the game even while injured, Rebekah put her arm around the player and simply reminded her, “You are more important than any game.”
Through loss, love, and selfless giving, Rebekah will always be there to provide a safe place of learning and opportunity for her girls, both as volleyball players and people.
OCOSTA HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL, BASKETBALL, BADMINTON, TRACK AND FIELD
Before Title IX, there was Betty Harrow. Coach, organizer, fundraiser, bus driver, athletic director – it’s difficult to fully sum up all the roles Betty played in the lives of the student-athletes she represented. Regardless of her position, she always worked hard for young women, “simply for the love of the sport and the chance to provide the girls with an activity.”
Already the head of the Girls Athletic Association (GAA), Harrow took over as the PE teacher at Ocosta High School in 1963, breaking down social stigmas and discriminatory hiring practices. Three years later, with girls' sports still unsanctioned, she coached her first girls’ basketball team, the beginning of a 27-year reign atop Washington state youth athletics.
By the time Title IX took form in 1972, Harrow already had six years of coaching under her belt across four sports: Basketball, track, badminton, and – most notably – volleyball. While she inspired a winning culture wherever she went, Harrow’s volleyball teams achieved the most measurable on-court success. In 20 seasons, her squads never had a losing season, amassing 12 league championships and 10 State Tournament appearances along the way.
Throughout her tenure, the sport underwent significant changes in strategy and personnel. Meanwhile, Betty’s focus on positivity and teamwork remained steadfast. Despite a deficit in Ocosta’s school population and athletic enrollment, Harrow’s teams would compete and win against some of the state’s largest schools. And most of the time – due to a lack of funding – Betty would be the one driving them to all corners of the state, no matter the distance or compensation.
As her former pupil and fellow Title IX pioneer Charmon Odle described, “[It was] really a thrill when Betty came to Ocosta, and girls finally got a chance to really get out and compete.” Other past team members have described Betty’s dedication and leadership as a major factor in their decision to stay in school, where they could compete in sports. By the time Betty Harrow retired, countless young women had gone on to pursue careers in athletic teaching – including her daughter and granddaughter, who both grew into formidable athletes and inspiring coaches in their own rights. For her love of sport and unending dedication to young female student-athletes, Ocosta HS has since named Harrow as Coach of the Century for Girls Athletics.
RAINIER BEACH HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
In the days before her professional career, Tara Davis was already busy blazing trails towards greatness and recognition for women of color in the Pacific Northwest. An all-Metro athlete in soccer, track, and basketball at Rainier Beach High School in the late ‘80s, Davis dominated the Seattle sports scene as a youth in her community.
And that didn’t stop after high school. Davis’ All-American performance during her senior season at Rainier Beach earned her a scholarship to play hoops at the University of Washington, where she immediately helped the Huskies to four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
Following her final Big Dance with the basketball team, Davis, who’d racked up four individual State Titles in high school track, joined the UW track team as a senior – where she promptly won a Conference Title in the long jump, setting UW and Pac-10 records along the way. Not long after, she returned to the court, staying at home to compete in the inaugural season for the Seattle Reign, the city’s first professional women’s basketball team.
Of course, Davis’ legacy as an athlete in her community is unparalleled. But her impact as an advocate for student-athletes is perhaps even more impressive.
From Administrative Intern to Assistant Director of Athletics, Davis has exceeded at all levels of the Seattle Public School District’s positional ladder. And at each and every rung, she has used her experience and influence to remove barriers that create injustice for student-athletes in Washington state.
Across the 22 middle schools and 10 high schools in Washington’s largest school district, Davis’ liveliness is a pillar of positivity and equity for student-athletes and their families. Current and former colleagues within Seattle Public Schools point to Davis’ humility, integrity, and unselfishness as crucial components for her success as a “strong role model for female athletes and Athletic Directors alike,” who always prioritizes student-athletes’ well-being above all else.
In 2018, Seattle Public Schools recognized one of its most decorated devotees, inducting Davis into its Hall of Fame class. Four years later, as she continues to support young athletes across the state, it’s up to the rest of the state to elevate her impact – from her barrier-breaking accomplishments as an athlete to her equity-driven voice as an advocate.
OCOSTA HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Charmon Odle graduated from Ocosta High School in 1970, two years before Title IX legislation finally began construction on gender equity in sports. Even without a sturdy foundation for the start of her athletic journey, Odle put together an unprecedented, unforgettable rise to the top of college basketball in Washington state.
A gifted softball and basketball player, Odle’s abilities took center stage wherever she went – court, field, gym, or pitch. Fortunately for the folks in west-central Washington, Odle stayed close to home after high school, making her first post-graduation performance in Aberdeen.
Before Odle arrived on campus, Grays Harbor College had never fielded a women’s basketball program; by the end of her two-year tenure, they’d made it all the way to the regional championship game. Odle, who had quickly become the focal point of a brand new program, scored 32 points in a 45-36 loss to Southern Oregon.
After two seasons at Grays Harbor, Odle moved north to start another Hall of Fame career, this time in Bellingham. Throughout the mid 1970s, she rewrote the record books at Western Washington University, becoming the first woman in program history to reach 1,000 career points. She finished her career as WWU’s all-time leader in points and steals, leading the Vikings in scoring in 1977.
Odle’s performances had caught the attention of the rest of the league, and in 1976 she earned Area and Region All-Tournament recognition. But while her statistical accomplishments kept Western’s record-keepers working overtime, the crowning moment of Odle's career came after the 1976-77 season.
For far too many years, Western had gone without recognizing a woman as Athlete of the Year. Then, after another transcendent season in 1976, basketball phenom Charmon Odle was named WWU’s Athlete of Year, becoming the first woman in school history to earn such an honor.
Chief among her many contributions to Washington athletics, Odle helped blaze the trail towards equitable recognition for female athletes across the entire state. After her college career came to a close, she was inducted into both the Grays Harbor and Western Washington Halls of Fame. In 2000, WWU helped cement Odle's legacy further, naming her a member of its All-Century Team.
BOTHELL HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC DIRECTOR
In the early years of Title IX legislation, young female athletes across Washington state seized any opportunity to finally compete in high school sports. For many, however, the initial excitement evaporated with the realization that participation hadn’t quite translated into recognition.
For Yonni Mills, Title IX meant the opportunity to officially compete in the sports she’d already been playing for years. Basketball, volleyball, track and field – if they were offering it, she was doing it. After she graduated from Shorecrest High School in 1975, Mills accepted an academic scholarship and moved to Pullman, where she earned a spot on the Washington State Varsity Volleyball Team.
Unfortunately, treatment of female athletes, varsity or otherwise, remained so unfair that it bordered on unsafe. From frigid treks across campus to an overpriced food court, to sparse storage spaces in grimy locker rooms, Mills and her teammates battled gender inequity in all aspects of their lives.
When her school continuously neglected to grant her a varsity letter, even withholding her letterman’s jacket, Mills’ frustration began to boil over. One day, a long-time WSU professor and track coach belittled the accomplishments of Mills’ teammate during class, griping about the school’s baseline inclusion of female athletes at the expense of funding for men’s sports. Mills shot up out of her seat, slamming her textbook shut. ”You know what? She placed second in Nationals. How ‘bout ‘Congratulations?’” she asked, storming out of the room.
“Why I did it, I have no idea, but I guess I was just done,” she recalled later. “I mean, we just put up with it for literally months. I think it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
For four years, Mills and the WSU Women’s Volleyball Team swam upstream through a torrent of injustice – and achieved great success, eventually placing at the national tournament. After college, Mills returned to the Seattle area, where she coached and eventually became the Athletic Director at Bothell High School. But among the expansive assortment of accolades lining her office, the one document still glaringly absent from Mills’ desk and bookshelf was a collegiate varsity letter. Then, one day in 2007, she received a phone call from WSU. They were inviting her to a ceremony to award her and her teammates the varsity letters they’d earned thirty years earlier.
So, nearly three decades after her final game in the Crimson-and-Silver, Mills returned to Pullman to finally retrieve her recognition of greatness. To this day, the letter remains on display in Mills’ office at Bothell High School.
“There are still moments where people have to do what Yonni did, and stand up to something,” said WIAA Assistant Executive Director BJ Kuntz. “People just get fed up. They say something, and they do something. And I think people are more and more courageous to do that."
GARFIELD HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
As a Black woman in the 1970s and ‘80s, Joyce Walker confidently crushed any and all ignorant misconceptions about her potential as an athlete or community member. Now, over 40 years after her first game at Garfield High School, Walker remains perhaps the most decorated basketball player – of any level or gender – to ever compete in the state of Washington.
A three-time All-American, Walker capped off her high school years by leading Garfield to an undefeated season and 3A State Championship victory, in which she set State Tournament records with 40 points, 17 field goals, and 33 field goal attempts. After that season, the Seattle legend took her talents down south to play for LSU – a decision that was largely unpopular among her supporters.
“Don’t go down south – don’t do it,” she said in a previous interview from LSU, quoting her advisors’ misguided, racially charged warnings. “And I wanted to go. I just wanted to get away.”
So, without flinching, Walker left the Pacific Northwest and promptly began her dominance of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). In her four years with the Tigers, she earned honors as an All-SEC athlete three times and All-American twice, leading the conference in scoring for three consecutive years. After college, Walker represented the United States on numerous national teams, including the 1984 Olympic Games, and later became the second woman to make the roster of the legendary Harlem Globetrotters’ basketball team.
After her playing career, Walker returned to the Seattle community, where she became a coach and mentor for young women on numerous high school and youth basketball teams, both on and off the court. Most recently, she has spent several years as Garfield High School’s head basketball coach, winning the 4A State Title in 2005. From the free throw line to the coach's chair, Walker has spent her life inspiring young people of all demographics to stride above dangerous stereotypes, just like she did.
REDMOND HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS XC
When Head Coach Carson Potter led the Redmond High School Girls Cross Country team to its first-ever 4A State Title in 2019, she fully understood what that Championship trophy meant for the Mustang history books. But she was shocked to discover what it represented in the legacy of women cross country coaches. Her victory in Pasco – a full 47 years after the passing of Title IX legislation – represented just the sixth WIAA 4A State Girls Cross Country Title won by a female coach. For Potter, this statistic has further exposed the glaring lack of opportunities for women coaches in athletics at all levels.
“The 50th Anniversary of Title IX is a great opportunity to highlight the positive impact and empowerment sports has for young women,” she wrote. “But more importantly, it is a time to reflect and recognize the inequities that still exist in sport participation, media coverage and coaching.”
Potter reminds us that – fifty years since its inception – the issues that Title IX sought to solve remain unavoidably relevant in the world of sports.
“While Title IX has advanced opportunities for women and girls in sport,” Potter says, “this progress should be thought of as the beginning and not the end.”
|Saint George's Girls Track & Field
Before they’d ever even set a spike on the starting line, the girls who constructed and competed for the Saint George’s Track & Field Team bumped up against unrelenting barriers. In the spring of 1971, coach Ray Peterson sent out a message to recruit students interested in establishing the school’s first-ever track team, expecting a cohort consisting of a bunch of boys. Instead, he was met with the resounding determination and excitement of a group of girls.
After their initial meeting with Coach Peterson, the girls set about assembling their own uniforms and equipment – for which meet officials unsuccessfully attempted to prevent them from running relays on account of unmatching jerseys. Still, the young women pressed forward.
Two years later, they’d replaced the pillows cushioning the SGS high jump pit with real, adequate equipment. The .38 revolver and blanks they’d used as a makeshift starter gun were returned to their rightful owner. And from 1973 to 1975, the Saint George’s Track & Field Team had begun hurtling full-throttle towards statewide dominance. Against programs three times as large, “the ‘Dragonettes’ beat each opponent except one, placed first in 62% of the duel events, set six City track records, and set the State mile relay record for all classifications,” along the way to eight State trophy winners. In district competition, they cemented their dominance with 11 event records over just three years.
Overcoming unflinching “attitudes and obstacles standing in the way of their participation and success in sports, the Saint George’s Girls Track & Field Team of the early ‘70s reflects the very best of athletic pioneers – of any gender, era, or level. As former SGS discus-thrower Julie Hansen recently wrote, “for us participating, there was no shortage of enthusiasm and the feeling that we could be as good as anyone out there.”
MEAD HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
While she eventually took the reins of the volleyball program at Mead High School, Judy Kight began her coaching career at her alma mater, Shadle Park High School, where she played under Title IX pioneer Linda Sheridan. By the time her tenure had come to a close, Kight had assembled a combined record of 583-150, including a staggering 236-61 mark in league play. Alongside an abundance of volleyball expertise, Kight instilled within young women the importance of working hard together to compete at a high level and accomplish a common goal – which they frequently did, racking up seven state titles and 15 total trophies across 17 state tournament appearances.
Even after 23 years of combined success on the court, however, Kight’s most prized accolades extended far beyond the trophy case. Throughout her career, she inspired other teachers and coaches, mentoring peers in her school and league. Inside the gymnasium and out, her teams represented themselves with class, consistently competing – as her motto went – with “heart, guts, and passion.” From practice to postseason, Kight cultivated focused, determined teams who were always together in their pursuit of becoming better volleyball players and, more importantly, accomplished young women.
|“The Woman Leader as a Leader"
Director of Athletics and Chair of Sports Studies, Recreation and Athletics
|“Women Leaders as Change Agents in Sports and Society”
|Julie McCleery, Ph.D
UW CENTER FOR LEADERSHIP IN ATHLETICS
Director of Research-Practice Partnerships
|“Pirate Captains, Mama Bears and Soapboxes: A Different Way to Look at Leaders Who Convene, Collaborate and Connect”
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
Senior Vice President, Legal and External Affairs
|“Women as Culture Builders”
|Hannah Olson, Ph.D
UW CENTER FOR LEADERSHIP IN ATHLETICS
Assistant Director & Teaching Associate
UW CENTER FOR LEADERSHIP IN ATHLETICS
Research Assistant & Teaching Associate