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Looking back on female athletics at Luther College

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Looking back on female athletics at Luther College

Field hockey team after Title IX, 1977. Terri Dean goes after the ball.

Field hockey team after Title IX, 1977. Terri Dean goes after the ball.

Photo courtesy of the Luther College Archives

Field hockey team after Title IX, 1977. Terri Dean goes after the ball.

Photo courtesy of the Luther College Archives

Photo courtesy of the Luther College Archives

Field hockey team after Title IX, 1977. Terri Dean goes after the ball.

Juhl Kuhlemeier, Staff Writer

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Women in Motion

Competitive women’s athletics have undergone major changes in the past 50 years as women across the country fight for equal opportunity rights. Luther has been immersed in these changes, though the school is not without its challenging history in female sports.

When women’s sports at Luther began during the 1964-65 academic year, not only were there fewer opportunities for women to compete in sports than men, but there were also more restrictions and barriers for participating female athletes. Between 1926-1961, C. K. Preus Gymnasium was the main building for practices and recreational activities, but women’s sports were segregated from men’s at this location. Along with limited practice spaces, a negative public opinion of women as athletes forced women’s practices to be at inconvenient times of day.

“I’ve heard stories about [women] running at night,” Program Director of Athletic Training Solberg (‘88) said. “The view was [women] weren’t supposed to be seen out doing things athletically; that’s not what ladies did. Well, [they] do now.”

Photo courtesy of the Luther College Archives
C. K. Preus Gymnasium.

Solberg remembers his time as a student spectating women’s sports. At this time, women competed in the same uniforms for different sports and endured harsh conditions in order to practice or compete, according to Solberg.

After the C.K. Preus Gymnasium burnt down in 1961, and with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, conditions for female sports at Luther changed. The Regents Center was built for all athletes and practice spaces were created more equally. Women no longer had to practice sports in a basement facility with few windows and low ceilings. Gender equality in sport grew throughout this time.

Even over the past 18 years since Assistant Director of Admissions and Assistant Women’s Soccer Coach Julie Shockey Trytten (‘01) graduated from Luther, facilities for women’s athletics have continued to improve, including the soccer pitch’s lighting, seating, and fencing. During Shockey Trytten’s competitive days, men and women shared one and a half practice fields, whereas now each team has their own field.

Photo courtesy of the Luther College Archives
Students play defense in an early women’s basketball game at Luther.

Though logistical changes have improved women’s soccer, team dynamics have remained largely consistent over the past couple decades.

“We’ve always considered ourselves a family,” Shockey Trytten said. “We’ve always tried to work year-round to be a team and to do things as a team.” 

Current student-athlete Ally Peters (‘19) has had the opportunity to be a part of three different sports teams at Luther. The sense of community on these teams is something she will forever be grateful for.

“Despite swimming being fairly different from cross country and track, one thing remains consistent for them both: I’ve never felt more supported in my life than I have within these communities of female athletes,” Peters said. “On both teams, these women show up every day ready to work, have fun, and push each other to improve both as competitors and people.”

Shockey Trytten and Clinical Education Coordinator Kris Agena, who have both worked in women’s athletics at Luther for over a decade and a half, concur that both Iowa and Luther have typically been at the forefront for equality of women’s athletics. According to Shockey Trytten, Luther has not had many issues concerning Title IX in sports. In fact, Iowa has been progressive with sports equality.

“[The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union] was actually the [organization] that all the other states looked to as they had to all-of-a-sudden develop female athletic teams back in the 70s for girls,” Agena said.

Because of things like Title IX, the inclusion of strength and conditioning coaches, and ever-improving coaching staff and facilities, Luther women’s athletic programs continue to grow and athletes’ skills surpass those of before.

“Participation-wise, [there are] more women in sport than when I went to school here 18 years ago,” Shockey Trytten said. “For instance, when I was a junior or sophomore, I think we had 16 people on the team total, and now there’s nearly 40. So that’s a big difference.”

Motivation for success has also increased due to the inclusion of year-round training with strength and conditioning coaches. Athletes continue to physically and mentally prepare out of season with strength coaches, so they can focus on honing sport-specific skills during the in-season. Agena has appreciated this addition, speaking to the recent success of the softball team.

“If I saw growth of something, it’s the level of talent,” Agena said. “Probably more so than anything, growth [of] that level of talent has come because of strength and conditioning coaches. Softball is indicative of where that change occurred.”

Female athletes are now more focused on winning competitions and breaking records than they are concerned about practice locations and clothing restrictions, Solberg noted.

“I don’t know if our students really understand the [history of limitations in women’s sports] now because everybody kind of has these things,” Solberg said. “[Now, there are] some extremely athletic women just like [there are] men. It’s [a] considerably different time, and that’s good.”

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