Reflections: Pioneers in women’s basketball look back at progress in the sport

By Hannah Gebresilassie

“We’re girls and we just want to have fun,” said 90-year-old Mary Wersells, the first girls’ basketball coach at Simeon High School as she reflected on the history of the sport.

Nearly four decades ago, Title IX was enforced which prohibited discrimination against female athletes. This opened the doors for pioneers in Chicago like Wersells and 81-year-old Narcissa Roberts, who became the first girls’ basketball coach at Corliss High School in 1973.

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In this video, two pioneers in women’s basketball reflect on the history of their coaching careers. (Hannah Gebresilassie/MEDILL)

Wersells and Roberts have been attending the women’s Final Four since its early stages. In the last 20 years, Wersells has only missed one championship series while Roberts has only missed two.

As active members of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, they continue to contribute to the game they love and say they won’t stop anytime soon.

Photo at top: Mary Wersells and Narcissa Roberts cheer at the 2016 Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis. (Hannah Gebresilassie/MEDILL)