The Bristol Hall Of Fame hosted a panel discussion on how women’s sports developed in Bristol in the early years. The panel was made up of former Hall of Fame coaches and players in the Bristol public schools. Joann Galati chaired the panel of Beth Lafferty, Debbie James, Tami Chapman, Gail Ericson, and Phil Pirog.
A press release explained each of the women on the panel spoke of playing sports in their neighborhoods at an early age. Everyday they would go out and play basketball or baseball with boys and girls playing side by side, said the release. It was not until they tried to enter organized sports that they were turned away and told it was only for boys. They were devastated, said the release. This was the first time they were told they could not play.
“The boys did not understand either”, Debbie James said, reported the news release from the Hall of Fame. “We played side by side every day and now we were told we could not play.”
“Luckily, the Bristol Park Department was ahead of the curve” said Gail Ericson, reported the press release. “I was able to swim and compete in the park department summer programs.”
Then in 1972 came a bill introduced by Former President Richard Nixon called the “Anti Discrimination Bill,” later called Title 9.
The news release reported that Joann Galati explained, “No one could be discriminated against based on sex, race or religion.” Galati said, “It opened the doors for women in so many ways, not only in sports but in the work place.”
Galati was the pioneer for women sports in Bristol, said the news release. She started the first women’s basketball and softball teams at Bristol Eastern.
“I remember the first year we were issued rubber basketballs, while the boys teams had leather basketballs, it was a slow process, but in time look where we are now,” stated Galati, the hall press release said.
Phil Pirog was the first male in Bristol to coach women.
“We were issued gym uniforms for the players, rubber softballs and old wooden physical educations bats” Pirog said, according to the release.
Many women have now advanced to play sports in college.
The release reported that Beth Lafferty stated, “Because of the efforts of people like Coach Galati and Coach Pirog working hard for the advancement of women sports, many Bristol players have earned scholarships to play at the next level. We have been given the chance to play in college and the Olympics.”
For the entire video of the of “ The History of Women’s Sports in Bristol,” visit www.bshof.org