Title IX 40 for 40: Chris Gobrecht
Chris Gobrecht’s seven years as coach of
the Yale women’s basketball team is a microcosm of her career
as a head coach, which includes stops at Cal State Fullerton,
Washington, Florida State and Southern California. Gobrecht’s
knack for revitalizing programs shows in Yale’s 18-10 Ivy
record over the past two seasons, marking a program-record in
League victories over a two-year span. Under her guidance, the
Bulldogs won 16 games last year for the first time since 1993-94.
In 2010-11, Yale earned its first-ever WNIT berth and recorded the
program’s first-ever win over a ranked opponent, defeating
then-No. 14 Florida State, 91-85. In 33 years as a head coach,
Gobrecht has an overall career record of 503-428 (.540), ranking
her 22nd among active coaches in career Division I victories.
Who was an influential woman in athletics to you and why?
Coach Gobrecht: Title IX came a little too late for me as an athlete. Most of my playing career was spent in an environment not even close to resembling how it is today. But, I had great timing as a coach. Thanks to Title IX, I was a head coach in Division I at the age of 24. A very brave Associate Athletic Director at Cal State Fullerton named Leanne Grotke went against the wishes of most everyone else who wanted to hire the assistant coach from the men’s team, and gave me the job. I will be forever indebted to her for her courage and faith.
What opportunities for women did Title IX help create?
Coach Gobrecht: During the formative years (1985-1996) I was the head coach at the University of Washington. We outdrew the men in attendance and were perhaps the first women’s basketball program in a major media market to be embraced and given tons of media attention. I have often said that you can legislate opportunity but not attitudes, so we owed a great deal to the progressive thinking people of Seattle and the wonderful administration at Washington. However, make no mistake, Title IX provided the opportunity, and we ran with it.
How did Title IX help to change the perception of women in athletics?
Coach Gobrecht: I believe that women as athletes and particularly women as part of an athletic team have had the most profound and influential affect on the attitudes of women and the attitudes towards women of anything that has happened in the past 50 years. Sports for women changed everything. The entire culture for women in America can be traced back to women in sports, and that is all because of Title IX.
What more can be done to improve women’s athletics?
Coach Gobrecht: The ironic truth is that discrimination against women is still rampant in the competitive sports world. How is it that no one gives a second thought to a man coaching a women’s team but it is unfathomable to most for a woman to coach a men’s team? One hundred percent of all the collegiate basketball coaching jobs in America are open to men; only 50 percent are open to women and a majority of those jobs are filled by men as well, so where does that put our numbers? All jobs should be open to all. I think there are realities about what the market will bear when it comes to athletic performances that are affected by strength, speed, size; things where men have an advantage. I never saw a coach win a basketball game because he/she was bigger, stronger or faster than the other coach.
What impact has Title IX had on you/college athletics?
Coach Gobrecht: When I was growing up, I wanted to be outside; running, jumping, climbing trees, throwing a baseball…anything so long as I could be active and competing and challenging myself. It was in my heart—I don’t know why. I am so thankful for Title IX; it saved me from a life of quiet desperation…