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IX AT 50: Wins, honors not top accomplishments for WU’s Holaday

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 10:58 PM CDT
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June 23, 1972, President Nixon signed Title IX into law, prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. Title IX has largely been considered the springboard for collegiate women’s sports to get where they are today — but the fight for equality is far from over. Every Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. leading up to the 50th anniversary of the law’s passing, 13 Sports will honor the women who changed the game for girls’ and women’s sports in Kansas.

“IX at 50: The Trailblazers of Women’s Sports in Kansas”

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Brenda Holaday knows the power sports can have on a young woman’s life.

“I felt like sports was that platform that I could make a difference for people in the way that it had been made for me,” she said. “Sports is that avenue that can help to build that kind of inner confidence, that inner strength - that it’s okay to be super competitive as a female. That it’s okay to make winning important as a female.”

The Holton-native won a basketball state and grand state championship as a student at Jackson Heights.

After a year of basketball and softball at Highland Community College, Holaday finished her career playing softball at K-State from 1981-83.

She worked two jobs to stay afloat.

“My son will look at pictures of me playing and he’s like, where’s all your equipment? We didn’t have equipment. We wore a face mask and a chest protector, no shin guards,” |Holaday remembers. “We had to provide a lot of our own stuff that we had. It was still, it was a great experience to represent K-State and to think that you were playing division one softball, but I can remember thinking, ‘This is not what I thought Division I sports was all about.’”

Out of college, Holaday coached at Wabaunsee High for a decade before accepting the job as Washburn Rural’s head softball coach in 1992.

In her 23-year tenure, the Junior Blues won three 6A state championships and 14 Centennial League titles.

Forty of Holaday’s players at Washburn Rural went on to play in college. She coached four high school All-Americans and a Gatorade Player of the Year.

Her proudest accomplishment isn’t her 415 high school coaching wins. It isn’t her two 6A Kansas Coach of the Year honors, or even her overall Kansas Coach of the Year honor in 2011.

“There’s nothing that makes me prouder as somebody who’s coached for a lot of years then to be around women that I coached, and see them today and see that they’re out in leadership positions in the world and their families, in the community and the confidence they have,” she said. “To know that sports was sort of that bridge that helped them get there.”

Holaday took over Washburn University’s program in 2016.

One year later, her team won a conference championship. Holaday was named MIAA Coach of the Year.

Success is nice — but she hopes her players understand how far they’ve come, beyond the wins and losses.

“In this particular program, we celebrated 50 years two years ago. So many of the women who came through here and really played like I did at K-State, they had nothing and they still wanted to represent Washburn,” she said. “They still wanted to represent women and they still wanted to compete in softball. They didn’t have a $20 million indoor facility and they didn’t have a turf field and they didn’t have four different sets of uniforms and all the things that our kids have. And so I think being an older coach, maybe that’s something that I can continue to instill upon the kids in this program, is to appreciate the people that came before you.”

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