IX AT 50: KSHSAA’s Fran Martin grows HS girls sports as coach, official and administrator

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 10:53 PM CST
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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 high school and 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) - Fran Martin, assistant executive director for the Kansas State High School Activities Association, knows the value of competing in high school sports goes far beyond the wins and losses.

“You have to learn to get along with people who don’t look like you, they don’t act like you, they didn’t grow up in the same environment as you, but you’ve got to learn to work together as a team,” Martin said.

A Clay Center graduate, Martin played basketball and ran track at Hutchinson Community College before heading to Nebraska-Omaha for hoops.

It was there she decided to pursue a career in coaching.

“It’s been a tremendous career,” Martin said. “I can’t think of anything that I would have rather done than be able to mold kids, help them to be better young women in coaching women’s sports — but also to have the young men around, to see the example that we’ve set being strong leaders in a world that a lot of times when you look around it’s male dominated.”

That wasn’t only the case as she worked through high school coaching positions at Lacrosse and El Dorado, but also at the decision-making level, as she learned when she became El Dorado’s athletics director.

“The league needed somebody, because of their size, they had to have a minority representative that was a female. And when they looked around the room to see, were there any minority female administrators? Well, I was the only one. So off you go to Topeka to the meetings,” she said.

“When I’d go to league meetings, it’d be me and the boys,” she continued. “And at the meetings generally it was, ‘Well, somebody needs to take notes.’ They all looked at at me: ‘Well, you’ll take the notes, right?’”

Martin continued her career in Topeka as Seaman High School’s assistant principal and activities director.

Soon, a full-time job opened at KSHSAA.

“I think I was the one woman out of 75 and I figured there’s no way I’m going to get this job. You know, it’s just not going to happen,” she said. “And so (I was) surprised and pleased when Mr. Musselman called and said, ‘Hey, would you like to be a part of our team?’ So 18 years later here I am. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities to serve at the national level, as the chairman of the basketball rules committee — the first woman ever to do that. Even though we’ve had women’s basketball now for over 50 years, we’ve only had one woman as the chair of that committee.”

Martin spent a large part of her career as one of few — if any — women in the room.

Just as others paved the way for her, she hopes to pass the baton to the next generation of leaders.

“I know that the ladies in the sixties and the seventies went through all of those things, probably with a lot more negativity than I have,” she said. “I hope that the next generation understands how hard it was to get to this point, because it has not always been easy to be a woman administrator, to be a woman in professional sports, to be a woman in collegiate sports — but the rewards have been so great.”

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