Parrish: Instructor’s legacy worthy of praise

Last week, Wood County Drug Free Schools Instructor Judy Parrish was honored by both Wood County Board of Education and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice for her work to develop and then get established girls’ sports programs in the state. She earned the Governor’s Service Award for the effort.

Given the number of outstanding high school girls’ sports teams in our region now, it is difficult to remember that in 1966 it was up to people like Parrish to start girls sports CLUBS. She did so with the help of some Ohio school systems doing the same.

It seems incredible now to think of the talent that fizzled out because colleges did not want to offer scholarships to outstanding athletes who had been playing for clubs, not certified high school teams. Equally unsettling is the attitude that prevailed at the time.

“It was club-based we were going all over the area and was told that’s pretty risky when you have moms and daughters in the car. Absolutely, that was the factor,” Parrish said.

With the help of Title IX and continued hard work by Parrish, the young women in our state now have a chance to shine –and shine, they do. But make no mistake, they still face plenty of that same patronizing and belittling attitude. The difference now is that with the support of people like Parrish, they are far too busy become stellar athletes to believe any of it.

“Yes it was difficult,” Parrish said. “We only got to practice in the ‘little’ places, because the boys got to practice in the ‘big’ places. Many times we sat on the bleachers and waited for the boys to finish.”

Today, the boys’ and girls’ teams in our high schools all have the opportunity to, if they work hard enough, reach their full potential. Plenty of our young female athletes are joining the guys in continuing their athletic careers and educations in college programs. That is possible in large part because Parrish stood up for all of them and earned the nickname “the mother of girls’ sports in West Virginia.”