Blount: At 68, she's on trail she helped to blaze

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 31, 2012 - 11:53 AM

Judy Jungwirth still plays sports she once was banned from for being a girl.

hide

Judy Jungwirth

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

More than five decades after the fact, Judy Jungwirth still remembers the day she found out how unfair the world can be. She was 11 years old, one athlete among many in the Westby family, who wanted to follow her brothers and play hockey for a Minneapolis Park Board team in the early 1950s.

She thought about using only her first initial when she signed up. But she knew players could get in trouble for misidentifying themselves, so she wrote her full name. It took exactly one game for her to get thrown out of the league for the crime of being a girl.

"There was a big hullabaloo," Jungwirth said. "I didn't understand it at the time; I wasn't doing anything wrong, and I'd been playing hockey and football with boys forever. But they said, 'Girls can't play hockey.' It was the first time I realized I couldn't do something I wanted to do."

At age 68, she is making up for lost time. Jungwirth reconnected with the sport as an adult and still plays for a team in the Women's Hockey Association of Minnesota, a league she helped establish. She has also spent a lifetime spreading the joy of sports, helping other athletes -- male and female -- maximize the vast array of opportunities that exist today.

Jungwirth will receive a special merit award Wednesday at the annual celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day at the State Capitol. She has played women's professional softball in a league founded by Billie Jean King. She's coached mentally challenged adults, several high school teams and her own grandchildren. She's umpired high school and college softball and helped get varsity letters awarded to women athletes at the U who played before Title IX was passed.

Though Jungwirth has retired after 30 years of teaching physical education in Bloomington, she hasn't slowed down. After being ordered off the ice as a kid, she's determined to do everything she wants to do for as long as possible.

"I've had season tickets to Gophers women's hockey since Day 1," said Jungwirth, who lives in Bloomington. "When I'm watching those games, I'm wishing I was out there playing.

"The day I feel glad to be sitting down and watching, I'll know it's time to hang up my skates. My brain plays a better game than my legs these days. But I haven't reached that time yet."

Jungwirth grew up in a hockey family in south Minneapolis. Her brothers Jim and Gerald played for the Gophers, and Jim was a defenseman on the 1964 U.S. Olympic team.

The park board did allow girls to play softball, which became her signature sport. An infielder and self-taught pitcher, Jungwirth began playing with a U club team at age 14 and became one of the most honored fastpitch players in state history. She also got a taste of pro sports in the mid-1970s, when she played two seasons with the Buffalo (N.Y.) Breskis of the International Women's Professional Softball league.

The team played a 120-game schedule crammed into four summer months, for which Jungwirth earned a salary of $3,000. She also taught and coached several sports at Bloomington's Lincoln High School and in the Bloomington Athletic Association. But she never gave up on playing hockey and at age 34, Jungwirth joined a team -- and the administrative board -- of the Minnesota Women's Hockey League, created to give women of all skill levels a place to learn and play the game.

That morphed into the Women's Hockey Association of Minnesota, which now boasts more than 1,300 players in seven divisions. The women who got it rolling in the early 1970s, including Jungwirth, put on clinics to teach the sport to newcomers and advocated tirelessly to give girls more opportunities to play.

The efforts of those women, and of many others who will be honored Wednesday, eroded many of the barriers that kept them out of sports years ago. But Jungwirth never has forgotten how it felt to be excluded. Being allowed to play today, she cautioned, does not guarantee women will have those same opportunities in the future -- making it all the more important to keep pushing forward, which she plans to do for as long as she is able.

"People think where we're at now is really good, and they've gotten comfortable," she said. "But people forget history. They don't know how hard we had to fight for what we have.

"They used to say, 'Women don't sweat, they glow.' But sweat is sweat. And an athlete is an athlete. We worked hard for these opportunities. And we deserve them."

Rachel Blount • rblount@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 92 4th Qtr 2:32
Memphis 86
Portland 84 4th Qtr 4:37
San Antonio 88
LA Clippers 43 3rd Qtr
Denver 59
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 3rd Prd 9:54
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 1 2nd Prd 12:55
Calgary 0
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 2nd Half 0:30
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 31 2nd Half 15:45
Creighton 48
Colorado State 51 2nd Half 12:30
Denver 50
Alabama A&M 24 2nd Half 14:03
Marquette 53
Ark-Pine Bluff 26 2nd Half 20:00
Texas Tech 35
Eastern Wash 9 1st Half 15:24
California 6
Idaho State 2 1st Half 16:24
Utah State 9
Arizona 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 10:59 PM
Chaminade
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Miami-Florida 49 2nd Half 3:58
Tulane 56
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 37 2nd Half 15:40
Southern Ill 38
Pacific 9:00 PM
New Mexico St
Utah Valley U 9:00 PM
Montana
No Dakota State 0 1st Half 20:00
Cal State Fullerton 0
Utah State 6 1st Half 16:08
Sacramento St 17
Bethesda (CA) 0 1st Half 20:00
Fresno State 0
LSU 9:30 PM
UC Santa Barbara

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will Christian Ponder ever be a full-time starter in the NFL?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close