There’s something happening here

Deborah, shortly after finishing the 2013 Boston . . . entitled the “last smile” of the day before things turned tragic.

One of the many things I love about my good friend, Deborah Hafford, is how she has her finger on the pulse of women’s — je ne sais quoi — multi-faceted women’s issues, be it sports, business, social or other issues.

Deborah shared  a NY Times article with me in which runner Lauren Fleshman makes this observation:  “Women have never been more marketable in sports than they are now, from U.S. soccer to Serena. Forty-plus years since Title IX means we have our first generation of supportive parents and coaches who grew up with the idea of female athletes not being horrifying. People are training girls harder than ever.”   This interesting observation brought to mind a related statement I heard recently from soccer star, Abby Wombach.

In an NPR article about Abby Wombach‘s retirement, she is portrayed as:  “the youngest of seven, who says when she (Abby) was a little girl, she knew she had to be loud and tough to stand out. Her mom put her on a boys’ soccer team at 9 to challenge her.”

In this interview, her mother, Judy Wombach, said “And come to find out, many of the young women that were on the U.S. national team played boys during their early years. I did something right and didn’t know I did it.”

From an insightful English blog, “Run Young 50” , writer Katie Holmes states that “American women love to run marathons. In 2014, 43% of marathon finishers in US races were women, the highest percentage of any country in the world. In the UK the figure is 34%. And American women love half marathons even more than marathons. They outnumber male competitors at the distance, making up 61% of finishers in 2014.”

A cursory look into statistics of USA running indicates this trend to be true.  For example, in the Running USA 2015 State of the Sport, one particular statistic shows “Females account for 10.7 million finishers nationwide and continue to represent 57% from event fields.  Males in 2014 represented over 8 million finishers in U.S. races.”

Writer Katie Holmes further points out that “fifty years ago there was virtually no opportunity for women to take part in endurance running, let alone run a marathon. Women were prohibited from running further than 200 metres at the Olympics from 1928 until 1960 when the 800 metres was reintroduced to the Olympics.  It took another 12 years before the 1500 metres featured in the programme and the women’s marathon was not added until 1984 . . .”  She kindly gave my book a very positive review, and pointed to the work of all the early women running pioneers with credit for laying the groundwork leading to this tremendous growth of women’s athletics.  

I am not a statistician, but I’ve seen enough anecdotal evidence in my observations to verify this growing trend of women gaining ground in sports overall.  Of course, we had a lot of ground to catch up in the first place. Looking back over time, it seems so antiquated that, for instance, one early advocate, Nina Kuscsik, had to stage a sit-in at the start of the 1971 New York City Marathon to protest the separate start times of the men’s and women’s races.  It seems so odd now that certain running magazine columnists ever gave argument as to why women did not deserve equal awards at races.  (Believe it or not, he was serious.)  It doesn’t seem reasonable that we had to go to court to gain the right to even run as far or ski jump as far as the men. . . . but that’s another entire blog story (elsewhere on this site).

And as far as Lauren Fleshman’s statement about supportive versus non-supportive parents of potentially athletic young girls . . . . I will assume she was speaking in generalities.   I for one took up running and immersed myself in training in spite of my disapproving parent-guardians, and the rebelliousness of it all probably played a role in my decision.  So that argument  about the parents could go either way.   In fact, in my job as a Coaching Education Director and as an Athletic Director,  I’ve witnessed plenty of  cases with negative experiences in sports for children of all-too-supportive parents (aka: helicopter parents hovering).   But I digress.  Let’s close optimistically with the increased and growing trend of women represented in sports.  Perhaps women do hold up half-the-sky or as Sheryl Sandberg recommends, they are “Leaning In.”   Simply put, as Deborah states, something is happening here.


Culver Distance Camp

Boat - Lake
Lake Maxinkuckee

Another wonderful summer week at Culver Academies Distance Running Camp in Culver, Indiana.  More than 170 distance runners from high schools all over Indiana and beyond.  Even high school graduates were included, garnering good information about what to expect in their collegiate future.   University of Oregon coaches, Maurica and Andy Powell, fresh off their NCAA title win that week, were featured guest speakers.  Founder and President of the Board, Joe Mendelson, with Camp Director Dana Neer, assembled perhaps the finest coaches, counselors, athletes, and activities combination of any Culver camps to date.  How they keep improving is beyond me, but this camp is a growing success year after year.  What a joy to participate.

Dana Neer and Jacki
Camp Director, Dana Neer
Group Photo-1
Camp Staff
Indoor track-1
Culver Academies indoor track
Lakeside path

Path - Lake  Silly Face Girls Swim Girls Thumbs-UpShelbyWaverly - panel Boys Team post swim

World Record Camps

Coaches photo Coaches photo-Karen





Group Photo-Gym2Camp Coaches-Willie-Ken-Mike-JQ




At Yokoto Air Base, Japan


Click here for news article in “Stars & Stripes”–

World-class athletes give track tips at Yokota – Pacific – Stripes
By James Kimber,  Stars and Stripes, March 29, 2015


My thoughts . . .
This past weekend, March 28-29, I visited Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, Japan, with Willie Banks, Olympian and former world record holder in the triple jump, at one of his “World Record Camps” for youth athletes in Track & Field.  His partner is Mike Powell, Olympian and current world record holder in the long jump.  Assisting them (besides me) was Olympic hammer thrower, Ken Flax.  The camp was hosted by the Yokota Striders, a club comprised mostly of military personnel living and/or working on base.  Day one, a track meet between three schools was competed on base.  Day two, athletes returned to the track for our day-long camp workshop.  Among the four of us, we covered all the categories of events – jumps, throws, sprints, distance running.  The student athletes were amazing!  They were so attentive, receptive, excited to take part, and extremely grateful.  Did they ever have fun!  The day was full of activity, with fun games –and even dancing– interspersed with the traditional event workouts plus Olympic and world record story-telling by the coaches.

Coaching is what I do for fun.  My regular profession is all about education, including teaching, and primarily working to support aspiring teachers earning their credentials.   I recognize someone who makes an effective teacher, and I hope I don’t embarrass Willie by saying his teaching skills are exemplary.  It’s not often when I see a large group of children, (and these were a wide range in ages), who are completely engaged and positively enthralled, by his leadership skills.  This is how learning happens, when children are enjoying themselves and challenge themselves.

It was sad to leave so soon, and the children seemed sad to see us go, but what sweet memories.   I’ll cherish those moments, as I will cherish my first viewing (hanami) of the cherry blossoms (sakura) on my final day in beautiful Tokyo.

Blossoms with Willie-crop
Willie and Jacqueline, Ueno Park on the day the cherry blossoms opened.

Cherry Blossom full tree

At the Runner Academy

Matt Johnson of Runner Academy, at Chicago Marathon2013.
Matt Johnson of Runner Academy, at Chicago Marathon2013.

Last year, while attending the expo at the Chicago Marathon, as the guest of Marathon & Beyond magazine to do a book signing, publisher Jan Seeley introduced me to Matt Johnson of Runner Academy.  What a nice program he has, a website, coaching, podcasts and more.  I’ve subscribed to his podcasts and I’ve found them really informative.  He provides coaching advice on training and competing, he produces thought-provoking interviews with a broad spectrum of people in the running world, and he appeals to an equally broad spectrum of runners from novice to elite. 

So it was my absolute pleasure to be the guest on his show, which as Matt Johnson emailed me this morning:

Good Morning Jacqueline,

The podcast episode went live overnight and is available everywhere podcasts are heard. It is also posted to our website at