Female athletes gain more scholarships, better image
When Terry Shinkwin played high school basketball in Cambridge nearly four years ago, she never dreamed she would be recruited and offered a scholarship to play the sport she loved so much.
But soon after her last high school basketball game, Terry was approached by Averill Haines, then coach of the Boston University women's team.
"She said she liked the way I played," says the trim athlete, who at 5 feet 5 inches is a guard for the Terriers. The school offered Terry a full scholarship , including tuition and books.
As recently as five years ago, an athletic scholarship for a female athlete was a rarity. Men's programs had the market on scholarships, equipment, and facilities. But the situation has started to change since the passage in 1972 on the Title IX educational amendments to the Civil Rights Act, which states that persons will not, on the basis of sex, "be denied, be excluded from participation in, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. . . ."
The number of scholarships available for female athletes has shot up dramatically since Title IX. The Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) reports that in 1973-74, out of 476 member schools, only 15 offered basketball scholarships. In 1978-79, 342 out of 883 schools offered basketball scholarships. The increase in other sports such as track and field, volleyball, and swimming and diving, have increased in similar proportions. In 1973-74 women received only 1 percent of the total money alotted for scholarships. In the 1978-79 school year, women's scholarships made up 21 percent of the total athletic scholarship budget. That number is still rising.
Anyone who believes that women athletes don't take their sport as seriously as men should just talk to Terry Shinkwin. She watches a group of children play in a small pocket park in Cambridge where she works. Just because it is vacation time, Terry doesn't give up practice for the sport which she enjoys immensely but plays very seriously. There are workouts, games with a summer league team, and weight lifting.
But Terry doesn't mind all the practice. Sports have been at the top of her list for years. She played softball, volleyball, and basketball all four years in high school. When she first came to BU, she played one year of volleyball, in addition to her main sport. Now she concentrates full time on basketball.
"We spend hours practicing," she says. "School is just books and basketball for me. It's always hard to give up part of Christmas break for practice, but it is worth it. You have to put in the hours."
In fact, Terry feels fortunate to have been on the ground floor of women's college basketball. Competition for scholarships is much keener today since programs at both the high school and college level have grown.
"I have seen a difference in the quality of play in the last few years," Terry says. "Now they want players who are six feet tall." But that doesn't mean she doubts her worth. "They still need a little shooting person." Her college career high has been a 31-point game.
"My coach says I am deceiving," she says with a grin. "I don't look like a great player, but I am called a very good shooter. I just try to play all aspects of the game."
Women like Terry help shatter the perception of women athletes as former tomboys who tagged after their athletic brothers. Terry has a younger brother who is not too interested in sports, and three sisters who are. Her sister Patty was recruited to play basketball at Bentley College with a scholarship, and her sister Mary plays at Regis College. The sisters all have summer jobs relating to sports, and they play basketball together for a summer league team in Cambridge.
Terry, who is a physical education and health major, wants to keep up her involvement in sports. She has toyed with the idea of going into pro women's basketball when she gets out of college, as several of her friends have done.
She hasn't had to battle with stereo- types about women athletes as either masculine or not very smart.
"I have a positive enough concept of myself not to let anything like that bother me," Terry says.
Jane Nabiger, a spokeswoman for AIAW, says that the stereotypes about female athletes are diminishing as programs expand.
"The athletes are pre-med, fashion and design, and nutrition majors, among others," she points out.
High-school athletes interested in college sports should realize that sports will be just one part of their educational experience, says Ms. Nabiger. She counsels budding female athletes to talk with their counselors and coaches about college programs. A student who is interested in engineering would not be well served if she went to a school with a great athletic program but few engineering courses.
"She would be cheating herself down the way," says Ms. Nabiger.
Over 700 colleges and universities have athletic scholarships available for women. Each year Women's Sports magazine publishes a list of the schools with the number and value of scholarships. SPRINT, an arm of the Women's Equity Action League, has a tool-free number where women can get information on sex equity in sports (800-424-5162).
Female athletes interested in scholarships should type a letter to the women's athletic director, giving a brief resume of sports and scholastic activity and asking for application forms. The athlete also may want to get in touch with the coach of her particular sport.
When talking with college officials, the prospective student should ask about the academic offerings, finances, legalities and eligibility, and competition conditions.