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Local softball icon Holaday reflects on what Title IX has meant to women's sports

EDITOR'S NOTE: TopSports.news writer Rick Peterson recently sat down with highly-successful high school and college softball coach Brenda Holaday to discuss the far-reaching benefits of Title IX, which was signed into law 50 years ago, on June 23, 1972. Holaday talked about how far women's sports have come and how far they can go in the future.

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By RICK PETERSON

TopSports.news

Brenda Holaday has had a bird's eye view of what Title IX legislation has meant to female athletes not only in Kansas, but across the United States.

BrendaHoladayHighly-successful softball coach Brenda Holaday has seen first hand how far women's sports have progressed since Title IX went into law 50 years ago. [The Washburn Review]

Holaday has been a highly-successful softball coach at the high school and NCAA Division II level for more than four decades as well as a high school and college athlete.

And while the current Washburn University and former Washburn Rural coach is immensely proud of how far women's sports have progressed over the past 50 years, she knows there's still progress that can be made in years to come.

"It's come a long ways,'' Holaday said. "It's got a ways to go for sure, but I think first and foremost what happened along with Title IX, is those opportunities allowed female athletes to get better. When it started out, female athletes weren't in the weight room, they didn't have the best coaches, they weren't doing anything offseason, whereas a lot of the men's sports were.

"Then all of a sudden, they started letting females in the weight room or some semblance of a weight room for them and we started realizing these female athletes were much more capable than we thought they were and at the same time they were getting more opportunities.''

After playing softball three seasons at Kansas State, Holaday started her coaching career at Wabaunsee, then led Washburn Rural to three Class 6A state championships before leading Washburn University's softball program to multiple MIAA regular-season titles and NCAA Tournament appearances over her first six seasons with the Ichabods.

But Holaday's first experiences with the impact of Title IX came in the mid-1970s as a student-athlete at Jackson Heights High School.

"I remember when I was at Jackson Heights we got our first male coach,'' Holaday said. "Kenny Thomas became the women's basketball coach and I can remember I was a freshman coming in and we won state and Grand State with him. He'd always coached boys and I can remember the reaction of the boys in our school and parents to how hard he was on females and I think my memory of that is that it was kind of that aha moment for everybody to go, 'You know what, these girls can be coached just as hard as boys, these girls can be worked just as hard as boys, they can train just as hard, they can condition just as hard.'

"And I think that was happening at the same time some other opportunities were being created, so I think some of the explosion during that time was sort of two-fold.''

Holaday coached 19 seasons at Washburn Rural High School, recording a 351-93 record and leading the Junior Blues to three Class 6A state championships and 16 6A state tournament berths, with five second-place finishes and three third-place finishes.

Holaday accepted the head coaching position at Washburn in 2016 and has led WU to five straight winning seasons, with the Ichabods coming off a 45-15 2022 season and NCAA berth.

Holaday said it's been gratifying to see the progress the sport she loves and women's sports as a whole have made.

"I think absolutely that if you sit down and watch a game you'll see the athleticism of these kids and see the crowds that come out for them,'' Holaday said. "When we play softball at Washburn we're really looking at how we can add seats because there's no place to sit and those are all good things. From my years in high school there's a magic about this time of year -- regional and state tournaments -- and you see the true essence of representing your school.

"People didn't use to go out and watch and a sport like softball is a really exciting sport to watch and we get that draw and we're starting to get the same attention that a lot of the male sports get and the same thing from a budget standpoint and travel standpoint and just terrific advancement for sure. And there's been a lot of people that have helped that battle to get us to this point.''

Holaday is also proud to see more and more females get into the coaching field.

"I've never been a person that thought you need to hire a female, but I think you want to hire the best person for the job and there are a lot of good females out there,'' Holaday said.

Holaday also remains a steadfast advocate for making sure that women's sports continue to make strides at all levels.

"I think that's part of the flag you carry as a female coach at whatever level it is that you're here to help the kids first and foremost, but you do have to accept that challenge of how do we leave it better than we found it?'' Holaday said. "I feel like there's always more to do.''