Friday, October 31, 2014
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Sports is a family affair
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Bernice Carlin (right) and her daughter Kim Roysland (left.) Together the mother and daughter have spent 50 years at Fosston High School coaching girls athletics. (MPR Photo/Bob Reha)
The University of Minnesota's women's basketball team will play in the NCAA tournament Saturday. It's wonderful recognition and air-time on national television. For the players, it could mean a shot at the WNBA, the women's professional league. For guard Kelly Roysland, this tournament is more than a game. It's the high point of a journey started by her grandmother Bernice Carlin.

Moorhead, Minn. — Kelly Roysland and some of her teammates are on the court at Williams Arena. They're taking some extra shooting practice. Roysland is a sophomore guard for the Gophers. She doesn't start, but is usually the first player off the bench.

Roysland is a good all-around player. She's a tough defender and a consistent shooter. This year Roysland made 33 consecutive free-throws; a school record.

Success at sports is nothing new for Roysland. Her high school basketball teams won three state championships. Her volley ball teams won two state titles. But Roysland is quick to acknowledge if it wasn't for the work of others, she never would have had the chance to play.

"If we didn't have the people that fought for women to be able to play sports too, who knows if we'd be here today or how sports would be today," says Roysland. "I think there would be something, but as far as to the magnitude. Like, here we're at a Division I school now and we're packing this place, we're packing it with 12,000 to 13,000 people."

Women's sports have made great progress in the past 30 years. Legislation known as Title IX is one reason why. The law passed by Congress in 1972, prohibits sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal money.

But for years before Title IX, some high schools and even colleges offered few or no programs for women athletes. It's a time Kelly's grandmother, Bernice Carlin remembers. Carlin started her career playing basketball at Oak Grove High School in Fargo. Opportunities for games with other high schools were limited. Many schools had no teams.

"We played the alumni and we played the Freshmen from the college teams," says Carlin. "Then when I was at Concordia, I was on a team there and we played the other colleges, that was the limit of what we could do."

For Carlin, there was no March Madness, no state tournaments, no large crowds. After college, Carlin moved to Fosston, Minnesota to teach and coach. She started programs in basketball, volleyball and track. It was a tough job. The coaching and teaching was the easy part. But in 1955, changing attitudes was a different story.

The popular belief in those days was that girls weren't strong enough to play sports. Participating in sports wasn't considered proper. Carlin smiles at the memory. Once she started the teams, there were other issues to resolve.

"I had a lot of hard fights with some of the men coaches that didn't want to give up their space," says Carlin. "That's the whole thing, they just didn't want to share the facility, because they never had to."

But Carlin refused to give up. She persevered and wore down resistance. She coached until 1981 and watched as Title IX helped her family. Her daughter Kim played volley ball in high school and at Bemidji State. Kim Roysland succeeded her mother as coach at Fosston High School.

Roysland coached Fosston's girls volleyball team to it's third state championship this year. She's retiring from coaching after 25 years. Roysland has seen women's athletics earn acceptance and thinks her mom is a big reason why. Kim Roysland says there's another reason; men who have daughters.

"That's what changed it the most," says Roysland. "Because their daughters want to participate and right now, I see so many fathers that are so willing to give of their time and so excited for their daughters."

Kim Roysland and her mother Bernice will be in Williams arena Saturday night when Kelly and her team mates play St Frances. For Bernice Carlin it will be a special moment.

"It's one of the most fulfilling dreams a person can have," says Carlin. "To see that she's (Kelly) had this opportunity and that all the other girls have had the same opportunity too."

Saturday's game will be a thrilling time for the whole family. Kim Roysland says she's not sure what will be the best part. Seeing her daughter play, or watching as her mother's dream is fulfilled.

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