To view a video story about Joan Russell Price, click here.
By Emma Hunt, UCSB Athletics Communications
Joan Russell Price was a dual-sport collegiate athlete at UC Santa Barbara. She continued her athletics and went on to compete internationally in track and field. Price was nicknamed “Here Comes Trouble” because she was such an advocate for increasing opportunities in women’s sports. Currently, she is the executive director at the Montecito Family YMCA and is a huge supporter of women’s athletics.
Price attended UCSB during the time just after the passage of Title IX. She competed on the women’s volleyball team all four years, and because if Title IX, also had the opportunity to participate in women’s track and field for her final two years. Price grew up in an athletic family and reflected on that.
“I was fortunate to have a mother who participated in sports,” Price recalled. “She had the attitude of ‘whatever you want to do, you can do it’.”
Prior to the passage of Title IX, Price competed in several different sports throughout high school, specializing in volleyball and basketball. During that time, the budget for the entire high school women’s sports programs was equivalent to the budget of the gloves for the men’s football team. She played during a time called J.A., or Junior Athletics. The J.A. allowed for only one practice and one game per week, but she and some of her teammates wanted more from their athletic experience, so they went out and found a volunteer volleyball coach and started to practice five days a week.
Price remembers her basketball experience.
“Having played high school sports before Title IX, there was this archaic game that was basketball for women,” she said. “It was 6 on 6 not 5 on 5. The athletic departments thought that women were not able to do fast breaks, so they had two players allotted to run the full court. I always played basketball in the backyard with my brothers and, to this day, still cannot understand why anyone would want to play 6 on 6. “
Since high school recruiting was not available at the time, Price had to contact coaches and visit schools on her own. She ultimately decided on UCSB because of the successful volleyball team coached by Kathy Gregory. Although men’s programs were obviously more popular than women’s during the 1970s, women’s volleyball drew quite large crowds.
“The women played their games in Rob (Robertson) Gym and would fill (the stands) all the way up the second set of bleachers,” Price remembered. “It was quite popular.”
UCSB did not have women’s track and field until Price’s junior year.
“I thought I would be a high jumper but (former Gaucho coach) Sam Adams, who was the men’s coach at the time, introduced me to multi-events, and I was able to go to nationals in both volleyball and track and field,” she recalled.
When asked to talk about her experience of competing in both sports and the benefit she experienced, Price stated: ”At the time, the seasons were completely different. Volleyball was fall and track and field was winter and spring. So I was able to compete in both sports. I think the training for track and field helped my volleyball quite a bit. At that time, the running and weight lifting that all athletes now take part in was not the case in most sports, but it was for track and field.”
Price describes the passing of Title IX as “very transitional.” Initially, she was concerned there were no immediate changes to women’s athletics when Title IX passed. There are always people who do not like change, so there were many groups fighting the changes that resulted from Title IX. Those in opposition to legislation felt the changes would take away from men’s sports, instead of opening new opportunities for women’s athletics.
“We (volleyball) were the first team allowed in the training room,” Price said. “The trainers used to say: ‘oh the girls are having tea parties in the whirlpool’. It was a very different time.”
Title IX also provided educational opportunities, as it prohibited sex discrimination in federally assisted education programs. Price noticed educational changes more rapidly than athletic changes. A major focus of Title IX was to encourage and assist women to move into advanced levels of education.
“If you look at the time when that was done the percentage of women in med and law school was about 20 percent,” she said. “Now, it’s over 50 percent. My sister went to law school during that time so you can see that those opportunities picked up as well.”
Price feels one of the biggest changes she has seen has been at the high school level.
“What I love is that nobody questions when a girl wants to participate,” she said. “There were times when I was called a ‘tomboy’ because I wanted to participate in sports. I think socially it’s now so acceptable to have girls participate and some of the biggest supporters are dads. They see what a benefit it is to have their girls participate in sports.”
Price believes Title IX can be summarized in one sentence: “Title IX is great.”
“Everyone should have the same opportunity, not just sports, but also in education,” she said. “It has truly had a wonderful impact on our society.”