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They were great athletes in basketball and golf, and they started sports organizations for women. Transcript of radio broadcast:
I’m Steve Ember.
And I’m Faith Lapidus with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell about two women who helped change the world of sports: golfer Betty Jameson and basketball coach Kay Yow. Both women were founders of women’s sports organizations.
Sandra Kay Yow was born in nineteen forty-two in Gibsonville, North Carolina. She developed a love for basketball from her parents, Hilton and Lib Yow. She attended East Carolina University and earned an English degree. She went on to become an English teacher, librarian and girls’ basketball coach at Jay Allen High School in High Point, North Carolina.
In nineteen seventy-one, she began coaching college sports. She became the women’s athletics coordinator and women’s basketball coach at Elon College in North Carolina. Four years later, North Carolina State University hired her as the school’s first full-time women’s basketball coach and athletics coordinator. She also coached women’s volleyball and softball.
Kay Yow had become a very successful basketball coach. In nineteen eighty-one she began coaching women’s national teams. She coached the United States team in the World University Games. The team finished second, winning a silver medal. Five years later she led the United States women’s basketball team in the Goodwill Games and FIBA World Championship. Both teams won first place and received gold medals.
In nineteen eighty-one, Kay Yow, along with others, founded the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. She also served as president of the group. The WBCA was established to unite coaches at all levels of the game and to develop basketball as a sport for women and girls.
In nineteen eighty-seven, Kay Yow learned she had breast cancer. She did not let her health problems interfere with her responsibilities as coach and leader.One of her famous expressions was: “When life kicks you, let it kick you forward.” Just ten month after learning she had cancer she coached the United States women’s basketball team to an Olympic gold medal in Seoul, Korea in nineteen eighty-eight.
Kay Yow has been recognized for her service to the game of basketball. She was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Hall of Fame among others.
Coach Yow also became well-known for her work in cancer awareness. In two thousand seven she established the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund in partnership with the V Foundation for Cancer Research.The V Foundation was named for Yow’s friend Jimmy Valvano. He was the former coach of North Carolina State University men’s basketball team. He died of cancer in nineteen ninety-three. That same year Yow lost her mother, Lib Yow, to breast cancer.
Kay Yow died in two thousand nine. She was sixty-six years old. Earlier that month, she had announced that she would not return to coaching that season. She had missed four games because of extreme lack of physical energy.
She had fought sickness from cancer for more than twenty years. Her funeral was held in Cary, North Carolina. Hundreds of people attended, including coaches and athletes from NC State and other teams.
During the ceremony, mourners watched a video message Yow had recorded for the funeral.She thanked them for their support, and she spoke mostly of her strong religious beliefs which helped her through difficult times, including her battle with cancer.
She also read a poem she wrote in nineteen seventy-six called “My Thoughts on Sport.” She talked about the importance of learning about life through sports. She said sports stretched her to her limits and sometimes she wanted to quit. She said winning was more than the score on the board.
Kay Yow touched the hearts and lives of many people. She was known as a great coach, teacher and friend. She expressed love and kindness toward people including strangers. Immediately after her death, Kay Yow was honored at many college basketball games, both women’s and men’s.
The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association gave permission for teams to wear the color pink to honor Coach Yow’s work in educating people about breast cancer.Pink is commonly used by groups that try to raise money to search for a cure for the disease.
People said many kind words about Kay Yow. They remembered her as a woman of great emotional and religious strength. They spoke of how she fought extreme sickness in a brave and graceful way.
Duke University men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski said:“God bless Kay. A fighter to the end.”
photos Janos Schmidt
photos Janos Schmidt