It rained the morning of Friday, July 13.
The grass was still wet on the playing
field at six that evening for the all-star
women's soccer game. West Berlin was
Even from a distance, the German
team was easy to spot. Dressed in purple
satin, with blond, short-cropped hair
and muscular bodies, they performed
their warm-up exercises in perfect symmetry.
"I think they've done this before,"
one spectator commented. "They look
like they've played together for years."
Sameness characterized the German
team; diversity was the hallmark of the
Houston all-stars that day. In gym shorts
and tennis shoes, they displayed a variety
of hair styles and shades, all accented by
"This team is definitely a melting pot
of all different types," observed Becky
Morris, wing-back for the Houston
all-stars. "We have lawyers, a ballerina,
a librarian, a couple of secretaries, housewives, an ex-rugby player and one with
a masters in music."
But team sports and the team concept
are still new experiences to American
"Playing on a team has put me with a
group of people I thoroughly enjoy,"
said Morris. "This is something I missed
all of my life. These are not just my teammates, they are my friends."
Morris said when she moved to
Houston she was lonely and did not know
how to meet people. "I never have liked
the idea of singles bars, so I just went to
work and came home.
"Then one day I read this article in the
paper about women's soccer," she said.
"I had never participated in team sports,
but I thought I'd give it a try."
That was two years ago. Morris is now
the star wingback of Houston's Women
United soccer team.
At half-time Morris talked about how
much the team had matured over the last
few years. "The experience adds a new
dimension to personal development. You
are constantly trying to improve your
ability to work with others," she said.
"It is not so much making the goal
yourself," said Morris, her face flushed
with the heat of the afternoon. "It is
when the team works together all the way
down the field to make it happen." The
whistle blew, signaling the start of the
Houston lost that game to West Berlin
2-0, but the defeat seemed only to
heighten the determination of the
Houston players. "Next time we meet,
the score will be turned around," one
Houston team member predicted as she
congratulated the victors.
•After the game one of the coaches
joined some fans sitting on the sidelines
and talked about his experience of coaching women's soccer.
"It takes time for women to learn the
team concept," said coach Larry Bolen.
"Women never had a chance to do it before. I get plenty of swimmers and tennis
players, but very rarely anyone that has
ever played on a team."
But things are changing.
It is estimated that over 45,000
women in the greater Houston area participated in team sports last year. Not
only are they out for soccer. They're
playing rugby, fast pitch and slow pitch,
volleyball, and basketball.
Kathi Chappell is now the head coach
of the Houston Hearts, one of the seven
women's rugby teams in the Houston
area. She first learned to play rugby when
she was a student at Florida State University.
"Whenever anyone gives me a hard*
time about playing rugby, I simply smile
and say 'It's dirty, sweaty, hard work . . .
and I love it!'
"It is such a release to get out there
and be so physical," explained Chappell.
"There is just nothing like the feeling
you have after a game or a hard work-out.
Your body feels all tingly and your mind
totally alert. It is a wonderful feeling."
Nineteen year-old Charlene Brunson
has been playing slow pitch for 13 years.
She has seen many changes.
"I remember when I was six. I had to
play T-ball," she recalled. "They would
put the ball on this T-like stand, and you
would stand there and hit it. Women's
baseball has certainly come a long way
What makes her continue to play year
"That's easy to answer," she smiled.
"I love the people I play with, I love the
game, and frankly, I love to win."
It has often been said that one reason
women do not excel in the competitive
field of business is that they never learned
the "rules of the game." Now that
women are participating in team sports,
perhaps the score will begin to even out.
"You learn lessons that only working
with a team can teach you," said Chappell. "It is a constant striving to get along
with each other, trying to motivate each
other to excel, without conflicts among
by Melanie Mayeaux
"You have to learn to lead, as well
as follow," she continued. "You learn to
adjust to criticism, and learn how not to
take problems home with you. I feel all
of these things are extremely important
for women who go into business," she
said. "It is not only a joy to play with a
team, it is an education."
Marion Coleman, a successful businesswoman and president of the Greater
Houston Area Women's Fastpitch League,
agreed with Chappell. "When I am playing softball or basketball regularly, I
feel better physically and have a better
mental outlook. I feel more creative and
alive, and that has a positive effect on
everything I do.
"I have made many lasting friendships
through women's athletics, and I've
learned a lot about team spirit, pride
and having a good time," she said.
But the women participating in team
sports are not only learning the philosophy of the team concept, they are
learning that in order to succeed, one
must have a strong desire to win.
"You have got to want to win," explained Chappell. "If there is not 150%
effort on the field, your chances of success
"Learning to compete also teaches you
how to keep the competition only in the
appropriate situation," she continued.
"After beating each other's heads in for a
few hours, you all walk off the field arm
in arm. You learn to be a fair, honest and
The joys and advantages of playing
with a team are not limited to aggressive
sports such as baseball, soccer and rugby.
Bowling provides an important outlet
for those women who wish to participate in a sport that is a little less physical.
Rai Fisk has been bowling for 35
years. She is now the General Office
Manager of the largest organized women's
sport organization in Houston. The
Houston Women's Bowling Association
membership totals over 31,000.
"Playing on a league gives one the
chance to go out there and perform, and
be recognized for the effort," said Fisk.
"It provides a great sense of companionship and competition.
"You meet people from all walks of
life," she continued. "It is like being in
a totally different world. Bowlers, as a
group, are such caring people. The
feeling of support is overwhelming."
But whether it is the physical endurance of rugby, or the Friday night competition of the bowling league, the
women that come out to play are as
varied in their backgrounds and occupations as they are in their appearances.
"It is always a shock when one sees
the different types of women that come
out to play rugby," said Chappell. "This
year we had waitresses, nurses, secretaries, lots of students and a truck driver.
Last year we had a mother and daughter
on the team."
It is the evolution of a group of individuals into a cohesive unit that fascinates Coleman. "I suppose the thing I
like best," she stated, "is watching a team
grow-individually and collectively—into
a group where everyone is supportive
and where each person realizes that she
is an important, necessary and unique
part of a total team effort."
Morris, relaxing after the loss to the
West Berlin team, expressed the same
commitment to her teammates. Then
she smiled as she revealed a more personal
satisfaction. "Running down the field
with all your adrenalin flowing is like
all your childhood fantasies coming
Melanie Mayeaux was a journalism student
at College of the Mainland and plans to
continue at UH in the fall.