Having attended the LSA Theme Semester Kickoff and listening to Michigan alum Andrea Joyce speak about her career, I saw similarities arise with Professor Lavaque-Manty’s book, The Playing Fields of Eton (2009). In the book, he discusses that value barriers exist between sport and the “disabled,” including women, the physically disabled, and generally every group that is considered to be inferior to men’s sports. There is an attitude that because of who the particular group is, they are unable to do a certain action due to the fact that they aren’t as capable. Andrea Joyce challenged these value barriers, blazing a trail for many women in the sports broadcasting arena. Coupled with advice from men’s basketball coach John Beilein, women’s gymnastics coach Bev Plocki, Dean of Education Phil Deloria, professor Robin Queen, and Vice Provost Robert Sellers, the LSA Theme Semester encourages all to use these barriers as motivation to succeed and never let anyone stop that from happening.
When Joyce entered broadcasting in 1978, as a weather girl in Colorado, there was no other woman who was on the news. Quickly, she encountered the value barrier of attitude talked about in Manty’s book. Striving everyday to breakaway from the weather and turn to her ultimate job, a sports broadcaster, she was turned down and laughed at daily. She was reminded that sports were for men and she would never be good enough to challenge that. “I felt I needed to do homework,” she told us yesterday. Then, ABC came to Colorado to cover the Nuggets. Head coach Doug Moe refused to talk to the network under any circumstances. Eager to break into the sports arena, Joyce called Moe at his hotel, woke him up from his nap, and encouraged him to do an interview with ABC. Every man at ABC was absolutely awestruck, and she was hired as a sports reporter shortly after the Moe miracle. She notes her determination in the face of adversity, saying, “You have to attack it. Have to take a risk. You don’t take the risk, there’s a reward there.” Since Joyce was willing to take risks, her time in front of the camera became flawless and golden. The value barriers still exist. However, when criticized by the opposite gender for making mistakes, she challenges them, “I dare you to tell me I can’t do this job.” It is because of her motivation to follow her own heart and goals, that women, and all other “disabilities,” are encouraged to follow their passion and make it a goal to not be stopped by these barriers.
The advice given by the panel at the Theme Semester Kickoff compliments Joyce’s motivation to overcome the value barriers we read about in the book. They discussed the importance of never backing down from a challenge, even when others doubt you because of your “inferiority.” Gymnastics coach Bev Plocki shared with her audience what she reminds her female athletes when they are told they will never win a championship. “Work twice as hard on things we don’t do well until weakness becomes a strength,” she announced, “you have to have a vision for your life. Make small goals to get to the ultimate goal.” However, Coach Beilein hit the nail on the head when asked if anything trumps attitude, which has been identified many times as a great barrier. “Effort,” Beilein simply said. The coach is correct. As we saw with Andrea Joyce, she made an effort to go beyond what everyone thought she would do. Had she just sat back and accepted that females were not allowed to share sports with the nation, there is no way to tell whether she would’ve accomplished such a great milestone. However, because she made a goal and stuck to it, Beilein’s one word answer is powerful enough to inspire anyone to prove the world wrong.
In closure, the two theme semester events I attended reaffirmed the attitude of inferiority talked about in Manty’s book. However, because so many people have been affected by it, the negativity surrounding the topic has turned many doubters into a success story. By recognizing that someone, somewhere, is going to challenge your motives and beliefs, taking a risk and trumping their attitude with effort proves that the “disabled” are just as capable as everyone else.