The NCAA was criticized for the stark differences in amenities for women and men at this year’s tournaments. Are you surprised that inequality would still exist?
As someone who has been in the profession for 30-plus years, I’ve witnessed first-hand the progress made as it relates to equality and growing our women’s game. Unfortunately, this year’s tournament revealed the disparities that continue to exist in our sport. Our women’s game is a great product with inspiring role models who excel on and off of the court so it’s important that we continue to push forward and demand better. My hope is that this year’s tournament inspires others to make the needed changes to the systems and structures that have allowed these inequities to persist.
You and your husband Fran, Lehigh’s softball coach, have combined for more than 1,350 victories at the university. What has kept you at Lehigh for three decades and counting?
Wins mean very little to us at this point in our careers. We’ve coached 18 championship teams (Fran has 11, we do keep count!). Those experiences are more meaningful to us as we’re driven to provide a championship experience. However, it’s the people who have kept us at Lehigh. We’re privileged to work with exemplary student-athletes and have some small part in their growth and development at Lehigh; we are blessed to work with outstanding colleagues who challenge us to bring our best each day; we are fortunate to have a visionary leader in Joe Sterrett [’76, Lehigh Dean of Athletics,]; and the relationships we have formed with university faculty, staff and alumni have been some of the most meaningful to both of us.
Lehigh is celebrating 50 years of undergraduate women. How has women’s athletics evolved in your 33 years as a coach?
Significantly! My first full-time job at Lehigh was a dual role as head women’s softball coach and assistant women’s basketball coach. We had a limited number of full-time coaches for our women’s programs, sub-par facilities and limited budgets for recruiting, financial aid and equipment. Thirty-three years later, the evolution has been transformational in providing the needed resources that are critical to the student-athlete experience and competitive opportunities for our programs to excel and compete at a championship level. Continued progress and support from our women alumni will be very important to keep the programs moving forward.
The Lehigh women earned their fourth Patriot League title and NCAA tournament appearance in program history this year. You’ve been at the helm for each one. What is the impact of making the tournament—not only on the program, but the university as well?
Our championship was certainly a bright spot amidst a very difficult year in the pandemic. It was fun to hear from so many university staff, faculty and alumni following our win against Boston in the title game. I know for many of our athletic teams who were competing this spring, our experience provided a sense of inspiration for what could be achieved during a very challenging time for all of our student-athletes, coaches and programs.