A True Trail Blazer

The University of Michigan is known for being “the leaders and the best”.  This is a slogan seen all over campus, especially in the Athletic department. As students at the University of Michigan, we pride ourselves on having this reputation, but what truly makes someone “the leader and the best”?  The LSA theme this semester is Sports and the University, and when going to LSA’s home page the first thing seen is a list of questions. These questions revolve around sports and the connection it has to the University of Michigan. The third question on the list is “how did women break barriers in playing sports and reporting sports?”.  This question immediately made me think of someone I consider as “the leader and the best”. She truly epitomizes this reputation of Michigan, and it not only her character that makes her a true leader and best, it is her courage to speak out when no one else did. 

Carol Hutchins, “Hutch”, is the University of Michigan Women’s Softball team’s head coach. She has held this position for the past thirty one years, and has created a legacy that is easily comparable to Pat Summit.   She is a legend throughout the entire sports world, not because she’s never had a losing season, but because of the obstacles she overcame, and the impact she has made on women’s athletics everywhere.

The name “Hutch” is as common as “Bo Schembechler” on the University of Michigan campus. It is a term that gets tossed around in common conversations between two people walking to class. She is an icon for the University of Michigan because she is a trailblazer for not only Michigan softball, but for Women’s athletics. Hutch did not grow up with the luxuries that many female athletes take for granted today. Rather, she grew up in a time where women’s athletics were non-existent. In high school, the only way for her to be involved in sports was to be a cheerleader, and because of this she cheered for male athletes whom she was better than (Zungia). In 1972, Title IX was created, prohibiting schools from receiving federal money for athletics if they discriminated against women. Hutch was finally given an equal opportunity compared to the male athletes she cheered for.  She went to college at Michigan State where she played both basketball and softball, and even though Title IX was in effect, she was still faced with inequalities (Zungia).  While she was there, the softball team won the National Championship, but was never recognized by the NCAA for it. Two years later, she sued Michigan State for treating women athletes unequally, claiming that this was the only way to make an Athletic Department to change (Zungia).  After college she decided to go into coaching, and she took the extremely low paying job of assistant softball coach at the University of Michigan. Unlike assistant coaches today, she had to work half the day as a secretary for the Athletic Department, and the other half as an assistant coach. Taking care of the field was also in her job description, and she did this to provide her players with opportunity to be successful. Three years later she was promoted to head coach, and since then she has made it her mission to give her players all the resources they could need to be successful (Zungia).

Throughout her thirty one years here, she has done everything in her power to give female athletes the same opportunities as male athletes. Hutch completely built the softball program, and while doing this she created a culture that was entirely unique to the softball team.  This culture is not only based on winning and “one pitch softball”, but it is based on remembering the history of Michigan Softball and appreciating how many opportunities her athletes are given because they are Michigan softball players. It is a culture based on tradition. One tradition is for freshmen look up the history of their jersey number, and learn as much as they can about the women who wore that number before them. It is a culture that consists of respect for the game, the coaches, and the players. A culture that pushes every player to their full potential, because the program and Hutch deserve it.

The culture that Hutch created is one that revolves around play.  J. Huizinga states in his essay, Homo Ludens, that “play is older than culture” and that “play is a significant function”. Hutch’s entire legacy proves Huizinga’s statement to be true because although she was focused on giving female athletes an equal opportunity,  there was more meaning behind her actions. She wanted to give women an equal opportunity in everything, not just in play. By creating such a strong culture and softball program she has allowed hundreds of women to become empowered and has given her players opportunities that billions of people will never have.  Through a game, through play, Hutch has changed culture everywhere for female athletes, and this proves as to why play is a significant function.

“The Leaders and the best” is epitomized by Carol Hutchins. She is the true definition of Michigan, and has made a massive impact on not only sports but also the university. She is a trail blazer for the equality of female athletes everywhere, and is living proof as to how sports are more significant than just a form of activity. She makes the University of Michigan that much more impressive, and gives each student even more pride to be apart of the Michigan family.

Zungia, Alejandro. “‘The Best Damn Coach on This Campus'” The Michigan Daily. N.p., 11 Nov. 2013. Web. 08 Oct. 2014.

Huizinga, Johan. Homo Ludens a Study of the Play-element in Culture. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980. Web.