When Title IX was passed in 1972, paving the way for girls to play competitive sports in high school, Berthoud High jumped at the chance to have a girls’ basketball team. Gay Hughes was hired as the team’s first coach in 1974, and as she recalls it, starting a program from scratch was exciting—but also challenging.
“We had barely practiced two weeks when we had our first game,” Gay recalls. “At the first scrimmage, I was laughing so hard I couldn’t even blow the whistle.”
Barb (Straight) Day was one of Berthoud’s first female basketball players, and she remembers the excitement of participating in organized girls’ sports for the first time.
“The opportunity to play in high school was bigger than life. It was just so much fun,” she says. “We never gave a lot of thought to equality; it was just a blast.”
Teresa (Beck) Rimsky played on that original team, and she too has many fond memories of those first years of girls’ athletics in schools.
“We imitated what we saw the boys do, but there was nothing organized for us. Up until then, cheerleading was all you could do. Managing the teams was ok too, but when the opportunity came up that we were going to get to play and participate like the boys, it was like ‘oh yeah, I’m all in.’”
The first season, in 1974-75, was challenging, but by the second year, the team seemed to click, and in 1976, just four years after the passage of Title IX, the Berthoud girls’ basketball team beat Windsor High and Weld Central High in a competitive tournament that would be talked about for years to come.
Having lost to both of those teams earlier in the season, the Berthoud team was eager for the rematches.
“In the tournament, we beat Windsor and then beat Weld Central by exactly what they had beaten us by earlier,” Teresa says, recalling that the gym was full for the girls’ games that season and the crowds were excited to see the girls play. “It was novel at the time to go to the girls’ games. Attendance was great—parents, of course, but the kids got into it too.”
“The gym held 600 completely packed, but we had 700 that night,” Teresa recalls.
Winning the tournament meant the girls’ team went to the District tournament and played Burlington High in front of a packed crowd. “The gym held 600 completely packed, but we had 700 that night,” Teresa recalls. “They put bleachers on the stage.” Burlington beat the Berthoud Spartans 52-47, but the team had earned the respect of their school—and taught them things they would carry into adulthood long after high school.
“Teamwork, communication, confidence. Learning how to win and lose, and how to do both with dignity and grace,” Barb says. “You learn how to be competitive and survive in a very competitive world.” Barb also played basketball in college and is grateful for everything she gained from athletics.
“It afforded me the opportunity to get a fabulous education that I wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise, at least at that level,” Barb says. “It opened up so many doors and lifelong friendships.”
For Coach Gay Hughes, leading the BHS girls through such a successful season was a dream come true.
“I loved basketball as a kid. My dad built me a fancy hoop that was on our garage in our driveway,” she says. “I spent hours out there shooting the ball. I used to get teased for it so bad I would hide in the garage when people came by.”