“Only six women in this February’s Kick Off Games, huh?” This phrase or something very like it was said in all innocence to me recently. After my surprise passed it occurred to me that it was a good thing that one of our new throwers saw that as a smaller women’s class. The assumption of “Only Six” is a clear indicator that Texas games have a healthy number of women throwers these days.
The key to that last sentence is contained in the final pair of words “these days”, this was not always the case. Let us use the WABAC machine and go back to 2008. This was the year I began traveling to more games, mostly within Texas. To my surprise I discovered a distinct dearth of female throwers, and several contests that simply didn't have a women's class at all. *blink blink* Checking my calendar for a year stamp I was simply astonished to find that no, I hadn't fallen through a time slip and wound up back in the 50s, these guys really didn't think women wanted to play. Frustrated to find festivals within driving distance that did not allow me the chance to compete I researched alternative locations that threw on the same weekend to attend the next season. Stubborn can be a virtue where I come from.
It get's better, y'all.
A little birdie informed me that women's classes had been referred to as "Bad Product" and unreliable. Something along the lines of we would show up once or twice and then just disappear. Meaning the ADs would have a class of 4-5 one year and none the next, so they couldn't plan or budget accordingly. Fair enough, I can see the business side of that. With the idea of proving I was serious in mind I took my show on the road - Texas, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Louisiana in 2009. Took all my own gear, came early, stayed late, judged, shagged weights, pulled tape, shook hands, talked up the crowd, threw as the only woman on the field and kept improving my game. The next year was more of the same 14 games and 5 states, including the Big Show at Pleasanton. No one could say I wasn't serious about my game, and the folks that called me bad product before started asking me for help on recruiting more women.
For the last two years I have maintained 13-14 games a season, with at least one new state a year. Lots of thank you letters have been written. Numerous training trips to folks that know better than me how to get this done. Continuous outreach to the female strength community locally and on line via blogs, NASGA, Facebook and direct email has yielded numerous new throwers . Taking time to explore other strength sports, venues and festivals to find new converts and new avenues to display our sport has been rewarding as well. One on one coaching with the folks that express even an inkling of interest in the games has also buffed up our ranks. The unending support of my local crew with North Texas Heavies and TCAA has helped tremendously. (also have to make a nod to Mike Baab here)
The road from "bad product" to "only six" has been an uphill rough climb. It was worth every blow to the ego, busted callus and torn kilt, because no other woman is going to run into that same barrier in my home state.