Feed on


Interview with Missy Foote on Jan 14th, 2013 

Missy Foote Watching Her Team Play.

Missy Foote Watching Her Team Play.

L: Lok Sze Leung (Interviewer)    F: Missy Foote (Interview Subject)

L: Why have you chosen Middlebury? Why Division III?

F: I like this level of Division III because I like it that players are committed to being good but have other interest in their life including academics. I ended up here by mistake. I saw an advertisement in the paper for a sailing teacher and (women’s) lacrosse coach and I applied on a wimp and got the job. I thought I’d be here for four or five years but I loved it so much. I was teaching at a middle school, grades 6, 7, and 8, Coming here and finding out that you could tell a student to do three or four things at once and they could actually do three or four things at once was such a nice relief for me that I love this level. I also love, love, love this area. I am a hiker and I ski. So I like being able to access all the beautiful outdoor places. So absolutely that’s why Middlebury for me. It’s a great place to raise kids. The community knows everyone; everyone knows my family.

L: So you came for lacrosse and then also became a field hockey coach?

F: Well, so I came to coach lacrosse. I was hired in 1977 to coach (women’s) lacrosse and teach PE sailing.

L: Oh…okay, okay.

F: And they started a women’s basketball team that year. And so I was asked to coach the women’s basketball team. Oh! And then they asked me to coach swimming! So that year I was coaching swimming, basketball, and lacrosse. Swimming was a fall sport, basketball was a winter sport. They all overlapped each other. So I’d go to two practices a day. I’d go from swimming to basketball in one day. And then I’d go from basketball to lacrosse in the spring in one day and that was a little crazy. Um…I’m going to tell you some stories about how this complex used to look like when you get to that. It was just ridiculous. There were no locker rooms…so eventually, and really probably in the last 10 or 15 years did I stop coaching even two sports. So after a while I’d started to just coach field hockey and lacrosse. And now, it’s just lacrosse, with the constrain of responsibilities.

L: Yeah, yeah. Why have to chosen to stay here? ‘Cause I’d bet there were instances where you could have gone somewhere else.

F: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been asked to coach at…to apply for a lot of jobs. Like I said I love this level where we don’t own our athletes. You know, in many ways your commitment is what you want to make it. And I’d like to have a player like you who is dedicated and committed to their sport. But um it isn’t because they have to be, but because they want to be. And I just like that balance that you’re also committed to your academics. And you know you win the national championship and you go back to your room to study. Because that’s what you’re doing. We’re not going to Disney World or um, to the beach.

L: Yeah, haha!

F: And, I love the area. I love Vermont. I was skiing this morning. I got up early and I was skiing. Just saying I was so lucky to live here. I can be in the woods and then go sit in my office all day. And um, I just love love love this area. I don’t think I’ll ever leave.

L: Really.

F: I don’t think I will. I hope I never have to.

L: Oh okay haha. Tell us something about your early years here. Well I guess continue the swimming story.

F: So, do you know anything about Title IX?

L: Yeah.

F: That was the law. That was enacted. It was a civil rights law that was enacted to give women the opportunity to have the same privileges. Or prevented schools from discriminating against women, pretty much. And any schools that received federal funding. And so it really wasn’t intended for sports but it became a sports-focused law. When I came to Middlebury in 77 Title IX began around for one year (?). So Middlebury was just starting to try to make our women’s athletic program equal to our men’s athletic program. So they were adding sports like crazy. So that’s why I was hired to coach lacrosse and all of a sudden I turned around and I was coaching basketball and swimming. So we had had a very small swim team, which expanded. The pool used to be where the grille is, do you know that? It was called the Brown Pool. We always thoughts it was sort of weird to have your pool being brown? Um it was somebody’s name.

L: You mean…

F: It was called Brown Pool but you know everyone was like Brown? Pool?

L: Haha…

F: It was someone’s name but it was a tiny little 6-lane pool and there was a men’s team and a women’s team. So we crammed. You know everyone in this pool. Practices went on for like four  hours and I’d go to basketball practice as well. So basketball practice. We started a basketball team. We did not have a basketball program at all. And we had…16 players on the team and we would go to games. Do you guys travel in vans or you’re on a bus?

L: Vans.

F: So you know a van holds 15 people. And we had 16 on the team plus me as the driver. But we only could get one van. That’s all we were allowed to get. So we just squished people in this van. And we would ride to games with these big basketballs. You know they don’t even fit under the seats. So the basketballs would be piled high in the van or in the back or something. And we had uniforms that were light blue, like baby blue. You know like almost “that” color. Ridiculous. Nobody was giving us much money. They just wanted to have this program.

L: For the sake of…?

F: Title IX.

L: Oh wow.

F: Yeah. We also had one locker room in this whole building for women.

L: It wasn’t here?

F: It wasn’t this building. It was where the faculty locker room is now. But it was for all women. All teams – general, public, everyone. So at half time of the basketball game, we go up to the locker room. There’d be people there changing to go play squash…and the other team was in there too! We’d be on one side of the lockers talking about our strategies and they’d be on the other side of the lockers talking about their strategies. Kids would be coming in and go do whatever. It’s just ridiculous. So, and in lacrosse, our field wasn’t here. It was Battell Beach. That was the lacrosse field. And, so, kids never used this locker room ‘cause it’s silly to come use this locker room and go back to Battell to practice. So they’d just change in their dorms. Everyone would walk to dinner, you know, stop and watch tennis and talk to everyone. It was very informal, very casual. We couldn’t get on the field until the snow melted, which didn’t matter because I was coaching basketball until March. You know our season was suppose to start in February but I was coaching basketball. The other thing was women’s sports were just beginning to be…tennis and skiing were big women’s sports at Middlebury but the rest of the sports were just beginning to be seen as something that we could be really competitive in. Field hockey was probably the first one, and soon, I gave up coaching swimming to coach field hockey. So then it was just field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse. Field hockey was competitive and started to do really well. But you know we would have eaten oranges at half-time. There was a little bit of less emphasis on whether we should be competitive or not. And that was a big change. Something that I really wanted to change. Proving that women were competitive and they should be allowed to be competitive. I mean you know what I am talking about. And should be allowed to want to win. And go to tournaments where there is an eventual winner not just a tournament where everyone plays everyone else and you have a “play day”. But that meant more facilities here. We had to add locker rooms. We had to add fields. You know we had to get give women access to things. In those days then we added basketball. We added swimming. We added soccer. We added hockey, ice hockey. Softball and I think volleyball were the next two to come on line. But all of that we had to add facilities, locker rooms, and fields. And resources; we had to hire coaches, which I have all seen. Us going through the growing pains of that where for a while, I am sure you’re going to hear about this. Just like we added swimming, and I was asked to coach swimming and basketball and I didn’t know anything about either of those sports. So those poor girls who were coming in here to play basketball got me as a coach and I didn’t know a heck of a lot about it. Same thing with soccer. We had our men’s basketball coach was the head women’s soccer and he knew nothing about soccer. You know we all did our best but eventually we started to focus on having to hire people that actually knew about the sport. I mean imagine if you got me as your tennis coach year round, you know.

L: Haha…

F: I would learn what I could, but why not have somebody like Mike who knows about your sport. So that took a bit of a mental shift for the administration and I was involved in that…a lot actually, about asking for some dollars, some resources to be put into our women’s program.

L: But they wouldn’t let the men’s team coaches to take up the women’s team as well?

F: Some of them. But what we really wanted to make sure happened was people that were hired to coach women’s sport were qualified to coach that women’s sport. So Bill Mandigo, who is our women’s hockey coach…

L: Golf?

F: And he does golf, yea. And I think he was doing football; he was assistant football coach. But he had played ice hockey and knew a lot about it. So he slid over and became the head women’s ice hockey coach and stopped doing football.

L: And um, so you were talking about the field on the Battell Beach. Was that the women’s side of the campus back then?

F: No. You know Battell the dorm itself was coed. There was, in the 70s, it wasn’t just women’s side or men’s side. It was totally integrated.

L: Oh okay. Um…what are some of the most memorable moments at your time here?

F: Oh my gosh that’s a hard question.

L: Maybe pick three of them.

F: Lok Sze that’s a really hard one.

L: Haha.

F: Um…you know it’s funny you know I don’t go right into winning national championships. Because we didn’t win a national championship here, we were always at the site of the national championship. So those were some pretty amazing memories.

L: Right, oh, it doesn’t have to be right here. Just your years in coaching.

F: So um I remember a game when we were playing down in Baltimore, Maryland and we were losing by 6 goals and we came back and won that game at overtime and won the national championships against Amherst, of all schools! We had played them twice already. You know regular season and we met them at NESCACs and we played them in the national championship. We were down by 6 at the half and I thought there is no way and we came back and won. And it was this incredible that this player scored. It should never have gone into the goal. I’m saying actually, while she was going for the goal, “No, no, no, no, no, no. Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot. Don’t shoot.” And she shoots and it goes in.

L: Was it the winning goal?

F: The winning goal. Yep it was overtime. Sudden victory overtime. Whoever scored the next goal is gonna win. And you know this giant pink piles on the field and I’m just standing there like “I can’t believe that went in. I can’t believe that went in.”

L: Haha…

F: So that was pretty incredible. ‘Cause that was such a feeling of being down and coming back and winning. That was really amazing.

L: Do you remember which year?

F: That was ninety…wait I can find…it was ’99 I think. Yep it was ’99 it was this team (points at photo hanged on the wall of the office).

L: Okay.

F: Yep 10-9. ’99. And that group of players are still really close. And they, you know, they are just great. This is a Christmas card from one of them. So um that was a great, great memory. You know I have to say some of the other memories from my time here aren’t necessarily even the wins it’s just the belly laughs that we had on the field together. We had this tradition in field hockey where we would do, in preseason, a triathlon. We would…um I put them on teams of three or four and they bike, they would get on a bike and ride out pass the hospital. They’d swim in the pool. They run and then we had a costume category where I got a bunch of silly outfits and they put them on and they run through an obstacle course and do some things with the ball and the stick and try to lift the ball into a garbage can or something. And those memories, you know, were just so silly and so fun and so good. So I’d say some of the belly laughs on the field…

L: Do you do that every year?

F: Well I don’t coach field hockey anymore.

L: Yeah but like when you were…

F: Yeah every fall. It was a giant tradition here. We had tons of videos of it, tons. Really silly.

L: Why do you not do it lacrosse?

F: I don’t know! They are much more serious these days!

L: Hahaha…

F: That was a good question! I don’t know why we don’t. It was sort of this…you know what, it’s cold. So it’s hard to swim and then hop out of the pool and go…but we could do it, you know, in the later spring. Good point, Lok Sze. Really good point.

L: Hahaha…

F: We do. We have a great tradition in lacrosse where we do something silly over spring trip. Um like I gave them a bunch of cardboard one year and they had to build a chariot to carry their teammate on it. And they had to pull them, or push…

L: Wow!

F: Down the field in the chariot. It was a little competition.

L: Yeah.

F: Um, and then I have another great memory, or several great memories of winning NESCAC championships on our field here. Um and the team was just really coming together. You know, playing really hard together. You know, I can dig up a thousand memories. I remember our goalie losing her contact just before the game started.

L: Oh my god.

F: I know, I know. And she like just gotten to her contacts. So you know?

L: Yeah just one eye though.

F: Oh really?

L: Yeah haha.

F: Wow, wow. For far away?

L: Yeah.

F: Wow. Well so she had just decided that she wanted to wear contacts at season. I taught her how to put them in. She decided she wanted to wear them before a game. The Williams game. She brought them with her. She’s in the locker room trying to put them in before the game and she can’t do it. And the team comes out and gets me and said “You have to go show Emily how to do it.” So I go in, and she get it like right here and she’d be like “I can’t do it! I can’t do it!” I’m like “Give me that contact!”

L: Hahahaha…

F: Slammed it in her eye!

L: Hahahaha…

F: ‘Cause you know it’s kind of scary to have something to come at your eye you know.

L: But when you’re used to it…

F: It doesn’t matter at all.

L: Yeah, yeah.

F: But anyway she lost one just before the game and it was a national championship game. And we send her back into the locker room and said “you come back with contact” and she said she did. I don’t know. She played a great game. But I was sort of thinking we would lose this game if she haven’t had an extra contact ‘cause you can’t see the ball! So yeah I have a ton of those silly silly memories.

L: Wow. That’s crazy. So you substituted someone while…

F: The game hadn’t started. It was warm up.

L: Oh okay.

F: It was like they were playing the national anthem in about a minute and she had to run and get it, come back out. Yeah we would have to start out back up goalie, which would have been…she could have played better without her contacts than the backup goalie with her contacts.

L: Hahaha…oh my god. That’s funny. Um, who would say are the most exceptional athletes or people associated with the program? Or the programs.

F: All the programs? Or lacrosse?

L: All.

F: Alright. Well Heidi Howard. So I started to put up all of our all-americans years ago and we ran out of wall space. But Heidi Howard if we were ever to do a Hall of Fame, Heidi would need to be in there. So she played three sports here for a while. She played field hockey, ice hockey, and lacrosse. And I don’t think she was an all-american in ice-hockey ‘cause she only played for two years but she was an all-american field hockey and lacrosse player and she was here during that run of ours over the national championships. She was the smoothest, most calm player. And she doesn’t even look like an athlete, does she?

L: Yeh.

F: But she is so quick, and so smart, and so focused, although you are the most focused player I have ever seen in my life.

L: Oh really?

F: Yeah you really are. I mean I don’t know a lot about tennis but you sure look focused.

L: Okay haha.

F: But Heidi is close, really close behind you. And played mid-field in lacrosse, which meant she played both attack and defense so she was instrumental on both ends in the field: scoring a lot of goals, keeping the other team from scoring. Was incredible. So she was amazing…is still an amazing athlete. She would go down our history as one of our top athletes here. And then Julia Bergofsky. Here. She also played field hockey-lacrosse. So she graduated in 2001 (should be 2002) and Heidi graduated in ’99.

L: That’s when you were still coaching both teams?

F: Yeah. Yep, and Julia was an amazing athlete. Different then Heidi but also mid-field. Maybe a little better lacrosse than field hockey. But I’d say the two of them are probably our top field hockey and lacrosse athletes. Julia won a ton, ton of awards, nationally, when she graduated. You know we had some pretty incredible skiers here. Um, you know, I don’t know as many of the men, some of the men’s basketball players set some amazing records. I’m sure someone that interviews the basketball coach…Greg Birsky was great. Um you’re go down in history, Lok Sze.

L: Haha. No, not really.

F: Yes you will. I think you will. I’m predicting it.

L: Haha. How about people? Coaches? Or people you have worked with?

F: Oh okay. You have to put Bill Beaney in there. So have you learnt about the rules in NESCAC? We were not allowed to go to…teams were not allowed to go to nationals championships until ’94 and so in the fall of ’93 we could go.

L: Because of academics?

F: Yeah. Our president said academics were most important. So the spring of ’94, women’s lacrosse qualified. We were the first team to qualify to go to a national championship and we made it all the way to the final four and we played Trinity…not Trinity, I mean College of New Jersey. We got spanked badly. We go beat like 20-3 or something. It was bad, but it gave us a taste for what it meant to be in that national arena. Um but hockey I don’t think they got a bid to go that year.

L: Field…?

F: Ice hockey. But they did go maybe the next year and then they started…they won our first national championship I think. Um I can’t remember maybe…our (women’s lacrosse) first one was ’97 so maybe they won in ’96. I’m not sure. So we couldn’t even go till ’94 and we won in ’97, lacrosse, and then we won in field hockey in ’98, and then lacrosse in ’99. So you know Bill Beaney and Bill Mandigo, both, who coached men’s hockey and women’s hockey, are legends, in terms of what our teams…you know, in some ways we are lucky, we are all coaching at the right time. You know when teams were allowed to get national recognition ‘cause some of the coaches that were here before then couldn’t get this recognition but still had amazing teams. And football, our football team is not allowed to go to the national championship. But you know Micky Heineken, who coached football before Bobby Ritter. He had a couple of undefeated seasons. Really, really, really successful. But he wasn’t allowed to go to an NCAA tournament. You know our ski teams have done really, really, really well. And they are Division I. They are competing against Division I schools so that’s not easy.

L: Yeah I’m actually writing for The Campus, for the ski team.

F: Oh you are?

L: Yes.

F: So do you do Nordic and Alpine?

L: Yeah I’m starting to know more about them.

F: So Annie Pokorny…

L: Yeah she qualified.

F: Booke um…

F: Forget her name too but they both just did really well.

L: Yeah and the guy, um, Dave Donaldson.

F: Yes.

L: He transferred from UVM and then just a race at UVM.

F: Yeah I know how cool is that! Lok Sze I’m so glad you’re doing this! That’s great!

L: Haha. And I saw that he actually won a national title when he was a freshman.

F: Wow did he? Wow.

L: In 2009, at UVM.

F: That whole ski life. It is nuts. I don’t know how they do it. I mean they go up the mountain early in the morning, ski, come back go to class. Or they’d go to class and go ski all afternoon. That’s hard. It is a hard life.

L: Yeah. Have there been any moments of disappointment in your coaching career? Have your coaching methods changed over time?

F: So my disappointed moments wouldn’t be wins and losses. I mean I hate to lose. I hate to lose. And I can tell you some losses. You know, those aren’t the biggest disappointments. I think for me it was in those early years when I was trying to advocate for what women’s deserved and I was just, you know, getting door slammed in my face.

L: The administration?

F: Yes, I was really…those were bad years. There’s an interview…I can send you the link to it. But someone interviewed me about what life was like at Middlebury when I first came here and I talked about that. I talked about how I was asking for, you know, things that seemed pretty fair to me. You know if you have a brother at Middlebury, why does he have access to a locker room and he can play on a team that is coached by a good coach and you can’t ‘cause you’re a female? You pay the same tuition. It just didn’t seem right to me. Those were hard years. Those were really hard years. Fortunately, I loved the players I was coaching. And that made that part of it worthwhile. But I was coaching a lot of sports and doing a lot of work. I didn’t think it was fair for me or for the kids I was coaching. So those were probably the most disappointing years. But has my coaching changed? Absolutely! Gosh. If I’m still coaching the same way I was 30 years ago, something would be wrong. I still think I have a little bit of the same philosophy. You know we’re gonna be good. I don’t wanna coach a team that isn’t committed to being. I really don’t. But we can do it and help each other get better by pushing each other hard but I also like to have fun. And you know I make up games out there all the time that are gonna make people competitive. It doesn’t all have to be drudgery. It can be fun…

L: What’s drudgery?

F: Drudgery is like hard…something that is really hard. And I don’t want it to be so hard that it’s miserable. I want you to want to work hard. So philosophy’s the same. But lacrosse rules have changed a lot.

L: Did you start out as a lacrosse player?

F: I played lacrosse in college; there was no lacrosse in high school when I was young. I played field hockey and basketball in high school, and gymnastics, scary.

L: Hahaha.

F: That’s scary. You know when I was young, a little girl. Girls didn’t do sports. I grew up in the South where I remember going out on a date in high school. The boy came to pick me up and my mom said “where are you going”. And he said “we’re going to play miniature golf.” Do you know what miniature golf is?

L: Yeah, yeah.

F: And my mom would give me a hug and a bye and whisper to me, “let him win”, ‘cause she knew how competitive I was. Meaning he would never ask me out again if I’d beat him.

L: Did you beat him?

F: I think I did. Haha. ‘Cause I wasn’t gonna let him win.

L: Hahaha.

F: But girls were not supposed to be competitive. I don’t know. How was that like in Hong Kong? Is that the case? I mean is it culturally alright to competitive for a female?

L: Hmm…I don’t think people even played sports back then.

F: Really.

L: I’m not sure actually.

F: Anyone or just women?

L: Women. I’m not very sure.

F: Yeah. I would guess not, probably.

L: Yeah, in China.

F: What about now?

L: It’s like…women are expected to stay at home and do cleaning and all that. And get married

F: And their husbands have the right answer for everything. Is that still the case now?

L: No. I think especially after, well obviously, after World War II, and then like the global trend of the rise in status of women, and then yeah now in Asia.

F: Now Hong Kong doesn’t have the one child rule, right?

L: No.

F: I don’t think so ‘cause you have a brother. But I was just wondering what does that do? You know I wonder if that has any influence in China over you know…

L: Gender. I think initially it was for population control. But then people, because of the…there is a saying in China, it means focus more on the boys than the girls. Meaning that people would want to have the boy…

F: Yeah because they are gonna carry on the family name.

L: Yeah the family name and also they can also possibly help the family more in terms of labor work, farming and all that. So people actually, if they had a girl they would dump them.

F: Put them up for adoption? Or leave them on the street?

L: Yeah that’s why quite a lot of people from America or just like Western people, when they go to China…

F: Adopt girls.

L: Yeah. They are mostly girls. They are starting to reform and change the law right now. If you can show that you can afford raising more than one child then allow you to…

F: Well you know, a child that grows up with no siblings there’re gonna have no aunts, and eventually no cousins. Kids will have no aunts and uncles. So the family shrinks.

L: That’s actually a very effective way to control the population. But there are also a lot of problems like aging, because the family is getting older and older. With the technology, the public health and all those, the family is just gonna get older.

F: Did you hear that China passed a law? I think that children can be sued by their parents? For not visiting enough?

L: Really?

F: I want that rule in America.

L: Didn’t know that.

F: That wouldn’t be true in Hong Kong right?

L: No, no.

F: Completely separate. Okay, back on track.

L: Can you briefly talk about the impact of Title IX at Middlebury and how it has changed over the years?

F: So our athletic director, when I came to Middlebury in 1976, was brand new. Title IX had been in effect four years and our athletic director was complying with Title IX because it was a law. He had not yet had the chance to experience the real intent of Title IX, which was to legitimize women as athletes. He didn’t understand or believe that the purpose of it was to give women real opportunities. So he did what was required, nothing more; he added more sports for women.  It wasn’t really until the ‘80s, mid ‘80s even, that women who attended Middlebury had grown up having the benefits of Title IX. They knew only the reality of equal opportunity athletically throughout their primary and high school years. They had been coached by those with expertise in their sport, they had uniforms and facilities equal to their male counterparts and the fathers of these girls were interested in what they were doing and legitimized their participation in athletics. So these students came to Middlebury with that same expectation and found that Middlebury was behind the times. Suddenly I had people supporting my efforts for equality for women athletes at MIddlebury .

L: Who were they?

F: Megan Kemp was one, she might be up on that wall.

L: Oh the lacrosse captain! Who spoke…

F: Yeah! Wow!

L: I read something about her.

F:  Ingrid Punderson and Megan Kemp went to the Athletic Director and the Board of Directors and complained about how vastly different the landscape was for male and female athletes at Middlebury. Our athletic director suggested to me that I that I calm down the students who were complaining; my reply was that I supported them. And luckily some members of the Board agreed and proposed putting some money into womens athletics, hire new coaches, (there were only 2 womens coaches on the staff at that time)  add some locker rooms, build some fields, even out practice times and meal money and equipment purchases, increase access to the training room and equipment rooms, etc..

L: So basically you, the tennis coach, and some students.

F: Yep.

L: How has the NESCAC rivalry changed over the years? Also have changes in the NESCAC membership affected those rivalries?

F: In field hockey and lacrosse, the rivalries were pretty much the same. And for us that was almost always Williams, and sometimes Amherst. But some of the NESCAC schools we never played. Like we didn’t go all the way down to Connecticut. Do you play Conn College? Did you go way down there?

L: Ah…last year. Um I didn’t go but they did.

F: That’s a long way. We wouldn’t go to Maine. We would sometimes play Bates but it was a long drive. So we would play other teams that were nearer, closer to us that were much more competitive. So we would go around and play Union or go to New York and play Williams and Smith. Those were couple hours away instead of five and six hours away and they were much, much more competitive games. But then the NCAA came up with a rule that, I don’t know if that’s true in tennis, but in team sports anyway you have to play everyone in your conference. It’s a rule. So suddenly we couldn’t play those teams anymore we didn’t have enough weekends. So we started to go to Bates and Bowdoin and Conn College. So it really ramped up the competitiveness of our conference. Some of our opponents got good. You know Bates got good.

L: For lacrosse?

F: Yeah.

L: So for field hockey it’s mainly Amherst and Williams? And in recent years Bowdoin?

F: Yeah I’d say Bowdoin in recent years. Williams has struggled in lacrosse in the last couple years. So it’s Amherst and Trinity in lacrosse. They just won the national championships. And the Trinity coach played for me here.

L: Really!

F: Yeah, and grew up in Middlebury. I’ve known her since she was born! So Trinity. We haven’t beaten Trinity in a couple years. We’d lose to them in overtime or by a goal or something. So our conference is the most competitive conference in the nation. It’s really really really hard to win our conference. We haven’t won in a bunch of years. And then you go the final four you’re gonna find another conference opponent. I mean it’s like you guys, with like Amherst right?

L: Yeah. Amherst, Williams. Same. Um…what changes have you seen in the relationship between sports and academics? So as you said at the beginning it was all academic and then now it’s more…striking a balance between the two?

F: Yeah. I have to say. I know it has gotten harder to get into Middlebury. So I think players, student-athletes, feel a little more stressed than they have used to. There is a study, I heard someone quoting this fact. The amount of homework assigned now is similar to what was assigned in the early ‘80s. But I think the pressure students feel to do it really well, or read all the readings instead of just part of the reading has ramped things up. And I definitely hear more talk about how stressed student-athletes are. And then the other thing I think the biggest change is that classes bleed into practice times more. So class is supposed to end at 4:15pm but professor keeps talking or they have speaker or a film. There is more stuff that kids are supposed to do and it’s harder. You feel like you want to go to practice but you can’t, ‘cause you have to stay in class.

L: How about social life and other aspects?

F: When I first came the drinking age was 18. You’re gonna die I don’t know if you’re gonna even put this in here. But I would put a 10 dollar bill in my pocket. We would go run. For a run, a team run. And then we would go into town and run. There is a hill in town, the Frog Hollow Hill and there was little bar there. We would run sprints up the hill and then I go buy everyone something to drink afterwards. Hahaha.

L: Hahaha what?! It’s not the best drink…

F: Practice would have been over but you’re right. It’s just sort of the norm, you know. The cultural norm. I think socially, I mean I have a sense that the drinking is much bigger problem than it’s once was. I mean I don’t know for sure if it’s because the drinking age is 21 and people binge drink and pre-game. I feel like people drink to excess (?). They party hard. And I don’t feel like that was once a problem.

L: And do you think athletics has anything to do with it? Like going to games?

F: And athletes often led the social trends at Middlebury as they often do on most college campuses. Yeah I think that has something to do with it sadly enough.

L: What do you think the role of sports has changed in the Middlebury education?

F: One of the reasons why I love being a liberal arts school besides the environment of being at Middlebury is that I think Division III and a liberal arts school want to educate the whole person, which includes the body and the mind. So the role of someone participating in a sport at a Division III level and liberal arts school is just that. You know you’re gonna be better in your academic class because your body is being challenged to perform. But not every student here does something athletically so there is this whole role of what does athletics mean to someone that is just watching. I think there is nothing better than having the opportunity to go outside yourself and go to a basketball game or a tennis match and watch someone else push themselves to this limit that you could never do. I could never play tennis like you but I can dream of what it would feel like to play and watch you push yourself and struggle in this battle. Every swing and every point. It’s a strategy and a challenge for you and I can lose myself in that. There is nothing better than that: if you win I feel great, if you lose I feel bad for you. Same coming to the basketball games. There is nothing better than a spectator watching young…you know people that do this ‘cause they want to; they are not paid to do it; they don’t have to do it ‘cause they got a scholarship; they do it for the love of it…and they are young and they are still working on a lot of things. There is nothing better than watching that struggle go on and having small victories. Small points. A rebound or winning a volley or whatever. It’s great for the spectator to see that. I think that’s a role right now in liberal arts education – to watch someone else do that.

L: Would you say at the beginning athletics was just more for exercising? As you said like not competitive?

F: Yeah. But I love how it has evolved to the competitiveness of it. Because you’re doing it for the joy of playing. But the joy of winning, or playing your best, maybe not winning but being your very best, whether you win or lose if you know you gave your best, you’re satisfied with your effort. And you’re evaluating what you could have done, I know you (interviewer) are, to win. You’re also knowing that you gave your best or you didn’t. And if you didn’t you’re figuring out how you can give your best next time and in what way. That’s so much better than just playing the game to play. I can’t do that well. I went out and played paddle. Have you ever played paddle?

L: No.

F: Ruins your game.

L: Long time ago.

F: Would ruin your tennis game but I go out and play. I can’t play that game. It’s all like flat you know but I don’t wanna get out there just to play. I wanted to keep score. I played on Saturday and people just wanted to rally and I was like “no let’s keep score.”

L: What do you think are the factors that allowed this to happen? The increase in competitiveness in women’s sports.

F: I think we were part of the trend that was happening nationally. I think it was Title IX. Really helped. I think it was also the NCAA rule a little bit, making schools play each other. So I think it was the laws. Thank goodness.

L: How has recruiting changed? Or the reputation of the school, or the advancement in technology changed the process of recruiting?

F: When I first came to Middlebury whoever came to Middlebury would try out for the team. We had some very good athletes. I mean we were good, but I never recruited. And then gradually, kids were expecting to get recruited and there were tournaments where we went to watch kids play. That was the first big change. That happened really through out athletics, with men too. And now there are recruiting tournaments, several, pretty much every weekend that NCAA allows recruiting tournaments to happen. So I can at a recruiting tournament left and right. There used to be the kids that send videos. Now they send links to YouTube, which is so much better.

L: How about the change in the reputation of Middlebury?

F: I have to tell you. It’s pretty easy to recruit at Middlebury. It’s hard to get a kid in but I don’t have much trouble convincing the kid. All I have to do is to come sit in my office and we’d go out to the field and see the mountains and know the reputation of our athletic department.

L: And that happened only in recent years?

F: It happened about when we started to recruit.

L: How long ago?

F: That was probably the mid to late ‘80s.

L: What is the connection between the team and the community? Or the town?

F: I think that has changed. I think we have much nicer expectation that our kids are involved in the community more. Once upon a time there wasn’t much involvement. They would know townspeople and townspeople would know them a little bit ‘cause they’d come to games. But now we do community service in town and our townspeople know our student-athletes and vice versa. I think that’s a big change.

L: What’s the relationship between the coaching staff and the administration? And you’re actually both.

F: The good news is, our new athletic director is not that new. He has been here 6 or 7 years, coached men’s lacrosse for years.

L: And he also came here for school.

F: Right, he was a Middlebury student. Here’s the thing. Remember the name Tom Lawson?

L: Oh the father in law of Mr. Quinn.

F: Yeah. So that’s kind of interesting. But I think people really really respect him and admire him because he coached and he comes to every decision from a coach’s point of view. And he hasn’t been off coaching long enough to not think about that. He is a task master. He has very high expectation of this department. If you hear anything I think it’s that people might feel like he asks a lot of them. I think we need more administration. That’s what I think. There is a lot to do in administration.

L: You mean like more help?

F: Yeah. We need one more of me. ‘Cause we just can’t get to everything that needs to be done. Building this complex…there is just so much going on! Plus just day to day management of this giant department, and games, and staffs, and kids.

L: Tell us something about your secondary athletic assignment. I guess that’s your women administrative role.

F: Yeah. Well my secondary assignments were at one point I never consider anything secondary. To coach field hockey, basketball, lacrosse. So maybe basketball was my secondary assignment. But now so I’m the Director of Physical Education, that’s probably secondary. That isn’t as big as being the senior women and the associate athletic director.

L: Wow. So four…?

F: Yeah head women’s lacrosse, associate athletic director, senior women’s administrator, and director of physical education.

L: Yeah we really need four people.

F: See we do, you’re right! You can say that.

L: Or you can do it.

F: Yeah just keep doing everything!

L: Can you briefly talk about those assignments?

F: So Erin Quinn is the athletic director. And I’m the next person that is sort of underneath him and that’s sort of the associate athletic director. That means that anything that come sort of administratively to our attention, he and I figure out how to solve the problem. Senior women administrator. Every school, every Division I, II, and III school in the US has a senior women administrator. Because there was so few women in administration that the NCAA said that every school has to have a senior women administrator. So that’s my title as well.

L: You’ve been doing that for a long time?

F: Yeah. So basically being that and the associate athletic director puts me into a lot of committee on campus. Anytime we hire a new coach I have to be on that committee. So the idea of that is that I represent women and the women’s point of view. So we are applying for intern for next year. We are asking for grant, for money that would help with administration. And I’m applying for this grant and this person would be a woman, um, hopefully we’ll get it as a woman. So I represent that department a little bit. I tend to oversee women’s sports a little more. So one of the things that I got to do as SWA was to go to Mobile with you. That was part of me wearing my administrative hat.

L: So that’s not only sports but everything too? Wow. So the whole school.

F: Yes, although it’s pretty much narrowed down to just sports. You know it could be I get to put on some committee just because I represent the women’s point of view when they want you to represent the athletics women’s point of view a little bit. Because I’m the SWA I serve on the committee that reviews the coach every 3, 5, or 7 years. They get a big review.

L: 7 years? I might Mike is…

F: Mike is not up this year. I think he is next year though. He wasn’t up last year. This year is Bill Mandigo…so we do this giant review on everyone that is up on their 7th year. When Mike came we had to change people around ‘cause we had so many in one year so I think you’re right, he’s up next year. So that’s one of the roles that the SWA has to do.

L: Is there anything that you would like to share? I guess a lot of Title IX stuff will be in the link. Is that the one with the celebration?

F: No but I can send you that link too. Were you there?

L: No I didn’t go. I wanted to go.

F: Okay I don’t know if I can find that. I think I can. But I also got interviewed a couple years ago, I don’t even know what was that for. I just went in and started to talk and they just asked me a bunch of questions. The archiving had the people that have been in Middlebury for a while to talk about what it would be like back in the days. I told you pretty much what was asked in that interview but I’ll send you that link. L: Okay. Thanks! I think that’s about it!

F: You’re welcome.

L: This is really interesting; I wish I have more time.

F: I know. That’s so fun that you guys are doing this.

L: Yeah I might have to come back to you again…

F: Okay, come back! That’d be fun.

L: Yeah ‘cause what we are trying to do is to construct the story and to put it on display when the thing is built.

F: Well I went to Gettysburg with my team last year, well I guess two years now. They built and new field house and they had really great visual history of the athletics at Gettysburg. The other thing I hope you guys think about. They have won one national championship. I like it how our trophies are all out and shown. But you would have thought they won a hundred national championships. There was so much stuff about their one national championship and I do feel like ours are maybe a little too hidden. There isn’t even enough room for them!

L: Yeah! The cupboard is like…

F: I go in there and try to get them all together. We’ve got some in one cupboard and one in another because you get one of the big ones if you were runner-up, or third-place, or fourth-place. So we’ve got one last year that set in my office just this fall ‘cause I couldn’t fit it in up there. So I do think we need to do something about that. And then we can have a hall of fame. I think we should…I don’t know.

L: Yea I think we should too, especially for team sports. There is less individual recognition.

F: Right, on a team sport.

L: Maybe we should form like a broad and vote.

F: And I don’t want it to be some room off the side. I think people should be able to see it as part of our…

L: Yea, yea.

F: Good! I’m so glad you guys are doing this!

L: Well it’s part of the class. Haha…

(the subsequent conversation was unrelated to the interview)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.