What Do You Mean Girls Can’t Play Ball?

“Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.'”

—Ronald Reagan

Today’s story contributed by Pat McKinzie-Lechault.

“What do you mean girls can’t play ball?”
“My daughter can beat every boy in the gym!”

In a time when girls were relegated to the sideline by a society that said, “Sit, smile, cheer,” Dad told me, “Run, jump, play.” Heck, my dad was ahead of Title IX.

basketball coach

Pat McKinzie-Lechault and her dad, Jim McKinzie.

When other dads insisted their daughters play dolls, Dad nurtured my athleticism. Every time Dad played catch with my brother, he’d throw the ball to me too, so I grew up feeling equal to boys.

Dad even taught me how to hang on to a football so expertly I’d have been a first string wide receiver had I been a boy. While society insisted sports were harmful for females, Dad encouraged me to play ball. During the infancy of Title IX, together my father and I fought a steady battle for girls’ sports.

I grew up in a different time. It was during an era when athletic girls had no role models. When others teased, “Hey, jock,” I cringed, but never lost my self-esteem.


Pat McKinzie-Lechault, Jim McKinzie and granddaughter, Nathalie Lechault, who played in a Final Four for University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point before becoming the first doctor in the family.

My dad never loved me less because I grew up in skinned knees instead of nylons. He encouraged me to be myself even when it meant being different and pursuing a career usually sought by men.

When I grew up, “Tomboy” was a dirty word. None of us dreamed women would one-day star in their own Showtime. Nor could we imagine that my dad would coach the first girls’ high school basketball championship team (1977), and that I would receive the first athletic scholarship in Illinois (1978). I went on to play in the first Women’s Professional League, and then I played overseas. Eventually I became a coach, just like my dad.

I coached the sons and daughters of diplomats and world leaders in international schools abroad.

But my proudest moments were the time I spent coaching my daughter and son, passing on the confidence, the pride, and the gift of self-respect my father gave to me.

“Thanks for everything you taught me, Dad. Especially the jump shot.”

Pat McKinzie, a Wade Finalist at Illinois State University, was one of the first Women’s Professional Basketball League draftees and American players abroad. After a 1983 car accident in France ended her playing career, McKinzie focused her energy on coaching, teaching, and writing. She is married to a French businessman, Gerald Lechault, with whom she raised two Third Culture Kids. She currently resides in Switzerland. Pat’s recently released memoir, Home Sweet Hardwood, A Title IX Trailblazer Breaks Barriers Through Basketball is available on her website.
Her blog: X-pat Files From Overseas

Jim McKinzie, an All-American football, basketball and baseball player at Northern Illinois University, and son of legendary NIU Eureka College Coach Ralph McKinzie, Jim taught 33 years at Sterling High School, Sterling Illinois, and coached boys’ basketball, football, and track. He also advocated for girls’ sports at SHS in the early infancy of Title IX. He coached my little sister’s Sterling Golden Girls basketball team to the first ever Illinois State High School State Championship in 1977. He raised four children and is known as Papa Mac to generations of athletes. He is the proud grandfather of six and will celebrate his 60th wedding anniversary with his wife, Lenore, this August.

Your Comments

    1. Pat

      Thanks Sandra,
      I was very lucky to have been raised by a loving father, who accepted me just the way I was, and helped make sure that I had every opportunity to succeed in my career.


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