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Boand sets the bar, female coaches thrive at GVSU

Over forty years ago, Joan Boand had a vision for women’s athletics at Grand Valley State University.

She had a vision, and as a result of her efforts, she has helped pave the way for countless women at GVSU, including aspiring female coaches.

Women’s athletics were introduced at GVSU as a result of Boand’s determination in 1968. Men’s sports were around since 1964, and after hearing students’ desire to play collegiate sports, she convinced Charles Irwin, the GVSU athletic director at the time, to fund women’s teams.

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GVL / Archive / Head Coach Janel Burgess
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GVL / Archive / Head Coach Janel Burgess

“I just think that we’re just very fortunate that people are finally beginning to accept us for the fact that we can all do these things,” Boand said. “It’s very difficult to beat the old establishment, but every once in a awhile you get some men that are thinking not at the present, but looking ahead and are forward-thinking, and you will find that the women get some opportunities that they haven’t had before.”

Boand went on to have a successful coaching career in multiple sports. She compiled a 557-330 record in volleyball and won six GLIAC titles. Her women’s basketball teams also won four straight league titles from 1974-1978.

Boand’s influence is still felt even to this day around GVSU, and without her we probably wouldn’t see as many opportunities for women coaches.

“I think you look at where women’s athletics has come in the last 40 years and it is tremendous,” said women’s basketball head coach Janel Burgess. “You look at what coach Boand did here prior, in the very beginning of athletics here at Grand Valley. I mean, she gave women the opportunity to compete because we did not have that opportunity.”

While we now see more women involved in coaching collegiate sports, there still remains a lack of women currently coaching men’s sports. According to a study conducted by ESPN, only 3 percent of women coach men’s collegiate sports. It may take time and a variety of other factors for women to be accepted to coach the men’s game.

“I think that will take a variety of things to happen and I’m not sure if and when that will happen,” Burgess said. “I think you’re just gonna have to see women being trusted in that role as well as women feeling confident to play that role. If you look back at the history, it’s only happened a few of those times. It’s one of those norms that would have to be broken down university by university and situation by situation.”

With the progress women have made over the last 40 years, the idea of women coaching more sports — including men’s sports — becomes a more realistic possibility. Coaching may be on a path to reach a time where hiring coaches won’t depend so much on whether or not the potential coaching candidate has a Y chromosome.

“The important thing is we are still pushing and growing and looking for opportunities for us to do more and be more, and once we get there, the sky is the limit,” said women’s lacrosse head coach Alicia Groveston. “We’ll keep pushing and keep doing more so the younger generations have more of an opportunity. It’s gonna take more people pushing forward like those ahead of us did.”
bderouin@lanthorn.com



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