“After all, girls only play with a soft ball.” That’s what Dennis Papalia, the assistant coach for the girls’ varsity softball team, overheard. In 1973 Papalia was asked by a friend to help coach the girls’ softball team. It was then that he had realized the injustices that his school district was causing.
Because the school refused to fund a JV team, the varsity team was larger than most, but because the boys’ baseball team had first priority on the gym and playing fields, the varsity softball team had difficult times trying to figure out times and places to practice. At that time, the varsity softball coach made $333 a year, while the ninth grade basketball coach made $1,000 a year.
Eventually Dennis was able to form a JV team, but the team’s funding was little to none. At one point he had to ask friends of his who weren’t even teachers or faculty to help umpire the games because the girls’ teams couldn’t even afford to pay professionals. Sometimes practices would have to be dedicated to stenciling uniforms that the girls had brought in on their own, because the school wouldn’t give them any.
Finally, it was time to fight back. In 1974, all of those involved in girls’ athletics met in the teachers’ lounge to discuss change. As they were waiting, a woman walked through the door and introduced herself as the lawyer that would help their case. Shortly after this meeting, the school district decided to negotiate salaries as well as give the JV team members their own uniforms. Dennis went on to coach for years as both the varsity and JV teams’ talent, utilities, funding and fan base improved.