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"Well, Karen and Cathy get a lot more publicity than we do," and Johnson grins while both the girls look flustered. "But they deserve it. Right now they're playing better than we are."
"Are girls in sports popular in this school?"
"I haven't really thought about that," says Kammin, the Story City heroine, and then pauses to work out the matter. "I guess we're popular enough. It isn't a big deal. I mean you play sports because it's something you like, but I suppose you are sort of doing something for the school, too, so nobody looks down on you."
"Maybe this is something," contributes Eggland, as if working away on a puzzle. "The homecoming dance is a big social event here. The last three years a girl who has been on one of the teams has been the queen of it. I think girls in sports are more popular, at least with the boys. We're together a lot, and the girls in sports are the ones who are doing things."
On a midseason Thursday afternoon Bill Hennessy, the head basketball coach of the Roland-Story girls' team, is running his charges through a light, day-before-the-game drill. He is working with his forwards, setting up screens to give his bomber, Cathy Kammin, open shots. At the opposite end of the court, the assistant girls' coach has the freshmen and reserves. Kenneth (Pat) Eldredge, the boys' basketball coach, is sitting on the stage with some of his team, watching and waiting for a turn on the court. During a break, Hennessy comes over to talk. Eldredge (whose team also has won a state championship) and Hennessy are both slender, graying, soft-spoken men. They are old friends, having coached together for 16 years. "Pat, what about the comment you hear that if less time and attention were given to girls' basketball, the quality of boys' basketball in Iowa would improve?" Hennessy asks.
"There might be some truth in that," says Eldredge, smiling. "If we didn't share a gym, if we had more coaching for the boys, if the boys got all the attention, we might have a better team, but that is just a guess. What I do know for certain is that if we cut back on or did not have the girls' team, our sports program for humans would be a lot poorer. I wouldn't want to see that happen."
Whatever value sports have, men like Bill Hennessy and Pat Eldredge believe they are human values, beneficial to boys and girls alike. All those dire warnings of the medical, moral and financial disasters that would follow if girls were granted athletic parity are considered hogwash in Iowa. The local girls have not become cripples or Amazons; the boys have not been driven to flower arrangement or knitting. In fact, there may be no place else in the U.S. where sport is so healthy and enjoys such a good reputation.