Fighting For Change

Annie Hoskinson

I’ve always been taken aback when I see how far women’s athletics have come.

If I’m being honest, I’m not sure I ever got an opportunity to really appreciate the success as much back then — you know, when I was still so deep in the fight.

Back in those days, I was more like, “Okay, we deserve this, and we’re just gonna bull on ahead!”

These days, however, I can truly take a step back and appreciate where we were then and where we are now.

We haven’t solved all of the inequalities for men and women in sports. But the arrival of Title IX sure did stoke those flames to make us want to do better.

Women should be given the same opportunities as men, period.

I feel just as strongly about that today as I did back then.

The afternoon jog

Sports aren’t just about competing and winning.

They’re also about camaraderie, problem-solving, and personal growth.

If you can learn how to be successful in sports, you can learn how to be successful in other ways, too.

Everyone, including women, deserves an opportunity to find that level of success for themselves.

I remember trying to convince the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs of that fact back when I was in school. It was during that 1973-1974 timeframe when we were fighting tooth-and-nail for the university to pay attention to us.

We tried getting a hold of him but had no luck.

But if he was thinking we were just going to give up and move on, he was sadly mistaken.

Unfortunately for him, we ended up figuring out that he ran at the football track at noon virtually every single day.

I threw on my running shoes and went out to the track to join him for a little jog.

When I caught up with him in stride, I told him what we were trying to do, and he told me to call his office, and he’d get me in there for a meeting.

So I made the phone call, set up the meeting, and went back to rally supporters to come with me for the face-to-face sit-down.

We ended up convincing him enough to green light another meeting for us with the Chancellor.

And then, without any warning whatsoever, all communication suddenly ended.

As women’s athletics was under the P.E. Department, I asked one of the executive assistants if she thought the university was going to do anything about women’s athletics, and she flat-out told me, “No.”

I calmly leaned against the wall of the office and said, “Well, fine. I’ll have my dad sue.”

Not long after that, we were told that we’d be getting $15,000 and four sports — field hockey, tennis, gymnastics, and skiing.

We went back to also fight for the inclusion of basketball and got the green light — the funding, however, remained the same.

It wasn’t much, but it was certainly a start.

And as a result of our efforts, I got to play basketball and field hockey for DU in 1974 and 1975.

Oh, and by the way, it took me five years before I came around to telling my dad about me saying he’d sue — the look on his face was priceless.

We haven’t solved all of the inequalities for men and women in sports. But the arrival of Title IX sure did stoke those flames to make us want to do better. Women should be given the same opportunities as men, period. I feel just as strongly about that today as I did back then.

The first women’s scholarship

Everything we did to help get women’s athletics off the ground was well worth it.

The idea from the very beginning was that if you’re going to have men’s sports, you’ve got to have women’s sports as well, you know?

Women deserve the same opportunities to experience being a student-athlete in its entirety, complete with all of the life lessons that come with it.

One of my favorite memories is helping with the first women’s scholarship at DU.

I was trying to get into athletic administration at the time, after realizing that becoming a P.E. teacher wasn’t for me.

There was this young woman by the name of Pat Whedon, who was the goalie on the field hockey team.

I knew she wouldn’t be able to come back another year unless she got some sort of financial support. So, while I was fighting for a job, I was also fighting for her scholarship.

And we got it!

I can’t remember if it was half room and board or full room and board, but we got it.

She got the first one!

After it happened, they called me into the athletic department and told me she was coming back to school and would get a scholarship.

As I got up to leave, they told me, “Wait, we’ve got more.”

That’s when I learned I also got the job in athletic administration.

It was truly a special moment because it felt like everything had come full circle. I was fighting for change, like so many others, and suddenly, I was put in a position where I could continue that fight at an even higher level.

I’ve never taken that moment for granted.

Staying in the fight

I didn’t take it for granted because it all goes back to Title IX.

There’s been nothing but gratitude on my end for all of the doors it has opened.

Things are much better than they were 50 years ago, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still work that needs to be done.

We can do a better job of promoting women’s athletics. Women’s sports have to be seen — we must have more televised events.

And yes, I get that’s easier said than done, but at the same time, we can’t get complacent. One of the things I love about DU is that there has been a real push and even an expectation from the university that we treat sports equally.

But we all have to do our parts as well.

One of the ways, Colorado has gone about promoting and recognizing women’s athletics is through the Sportswomen of Colorado organization. The idea is that we recognize female athletes throughout the state.

It started all the way back in 1974 and has continued on to this very day. I had the honor of serving the organization as the Executive Director for the last six years and retired this year on June 30.

It’s just such an amazing program that gives us a chance to honor so many wonderful women.

It doesn’t matter what sport you’re in, either.

From field hockey to basketball and even barrel racing, we recognize it all equally. It’s easy to do as such when you come from a time when none of it was available to women, when something as simple as creating a basketball team was treated as some far-fetched idea.

I always hoped we’d come this far when I chatted up the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs on the running track.

But just being here and seeing what it’s become is nothing short of amazing.

I often think of how far we’ve come, and then I imagine how far we’ll go.