Brenda VanLengen and Bessie Stockard pose for a photo.

On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to welcome three women who were very involved with the history of women’s basketball into the Real Media studio. Real Media is our filming and production partner. 

The day began with Bessie Stockard, who played college basketball at Tuskegee University, started the Federal City College program from scratch and was the first African American woman to serve on a U.S. National Team coaching staff. The team was preparing for the 1976 Olympics, the first to offer women’s basketball. 

In an inspiring interview, Bessie talked about her childhood years in rural Tennessee, her playing experience as a college athlete and professional tennis player and her coaching career in which she broke down barriers and built one of the most successful programs that few have heard of. 

Many women’s basketball fans know Cheryl Burnett as the Southwest Missouri State coach that led the Lady Bears to two Final Four appearances, but we caught up with her to learn about the early years. Did you know that her mother played basketball in the 1940s? Cheryl still cites her mother as a role model for her and her sisters. 

Cheryl’s exposure to basketball and legends of the game grew as she watched the 1976 Olympic team practice in Warrensburg shortly after graduating high school, and then went on to play for Marian Washington at the University of Kansas.

Legendary Washburn coach Patty Dick rounded out the day of interviews. She reflected on knowing future Olympic coach Billie Moore from a young age and even playing softball with her. She also discussed her frustrations and the challenges of establishing high school and college sports for girls and women in sports during the 1970s.

We cannot wait to share these women’s stories and perspectives with you. Stay tuned to ifnotforthem.com and our social media channels for updates on the project as we meet with more legends of the game.

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