Following National Girls and Women in Sports Day, I decided to take a look back into Hillsdale’s history of female athletics.
The Collegian archives never disappoint, and this time was no exception.
In 1965, the newspaper premiered its first “women in sports” themed column. Dedicated to celebrating team wins, advertising intramural opportunities, and announcing team tryouts, the “Sports in Shorts” column had a stupendous effect on athletic opportunities for women.
However, as with much of Collegian history, the column had a few snafus.
For starters, the column was originally called “Feminine Dollies.” Not the most ringing endorsement for increased female athletic participation, but it’s just a title that we can read past, right?
However, the content of the column had its low points too.
Take Feb. 24, 1966. The column said, “Although this isn’t exactly classified as girls’ sports, I would like to mention the basketball team. When this goes to press, they will have one game left against Michigan Lutheran Feb. 26 and then on to the tournaments.”
The writer then proceeded to dedicate over half the column to the men’s basketball team.
In a similar spirit, on April 20, 1967, the entire column was an advertisement for cheerleading team tryouts. I’m not saying cheerleaders aren’t athletic. I’ve watched Netflix’s “Cheer,” so I’ve seen stunts for the ages.
However, I just don’t know that a team whose existence depended on cheering for a male team deserved all the attention in this column. The synchronized swimming team must have had an update that week.
Yes, you heard me right: Hillsdale used to have an all-female synchronized swimming team.
On March 17, 1967 “Sports in Shorts” read, “The synchronized swimmers are still meeting every Wednesday night at 7:30 in the field house under the direction of Miss Nelson and Jody Schmitt.”
This team continued to perform and compete well into the late 1970s, and Hillsdale even offered a credited course in the discipline at one point.
As I continued to read “Sports in Shorts,” I found that some of the content issues were not the fault of the authors, but of Hillsdale’s facilities.
On Oct. 6, 1996 the author advertised a volleyball game, writing, “Be sure to wear your red flannels— still no heat in the gym, you know. To boot, the floor is being revamped and the ladies are waiting patiently.”
In that same article, the column reads, “The swimming pool won’t be open (unless it’s for ice skating) until the boilers are hooked up.”
Somehow Hillsdale’s athletic facilities managed to have damaged air, land, and water all at once. I almost have to commend them.
While the humorous ironies of the column jumped out at me, I must recognize the awesome outlet it provided for female Hillsdale athletes.
On Dec. 2, 1965, the column read, “With snowflakes falling on Hillsdale the women’s sports interests have moved into the Field House. Their program for the remainder of the semester includes basketball, badminton, swimming and volleyball.” This demonstrates the high number of opportunities for women at the time.
In addition, the column reported on the first basketball game played by a women’s travel team.
On Feb.16, 1967 the author wrote, “After only practicing for a week, the women’s basketball team lost their first game against Concordia Lutheran Jr. College.”
While the report of the loss is unfortunate, “Sports in Shorts” shows Hillsdale’s dedication to increasing female participation in athletics at a time when many colleges were not making this push.
Hillsdale’s commitment to this cause dates far before this column’s founding. For instance, Hillsdale has offered intramural women’s basketball since 1920, according to The Collegian.
While the delivery was flawed at times, “Sports in Shorts” is a good showcase of Hillsdale’s continued dedication to education and wellness for all of its students.