I will look beyond the fact that this is another film in which a man wakes up to the fact that women athletes are good. Worth investing time, money and effort into. Like the only way we can accept that female athletics are worthy is that if men say so. Look to see a man who fought for almost 40 years to build a women’s basketball program at a Division 1 university in Montana.
The importance is not only the relevance Rob Selvig brought to the women’s basketball program at the University of Montana, but the opportunities he gave to young women from farms, ranches and reservations to have access to a free post secondary education. Plus he made them winners and family for life.
After playing basketball at University of Montana himself, Rob Selvig realized that due to a knee injury he was not going to be able to play any longer. So he decided to go into coaching. After applying for and being awarded the head coaching job for the women’s basketball team, Selvig wondered what he got himself into.
During these times, the late 70s, gender discrimination was rampant in sports. women’s athletics were underfunded and largely ignored. Paying no mind to that along with his tough coaching style he did things his way. He recruited girls who previously had been ignored or passed over. Girls who grew up on Native reservations or ranches. Girls from Montana. He put them together, was hard on them expecting a lot, and got them to play hard.
Little by little he made winning teams. Title IX was enacted and money began to be spent on women’s athletics at universities across the U.S. Scholarships were not available and the facilities improved.
Soon people came to see the Lady Griz play. By the thousands. Everyone around the university came to cheer on girls from Montana beat other schools. The fanbase became passionate and the team became known at the best west of the Rockies.
Rob Selvig is one of those stories which, unless you are a huge fan of American college basketball, you probably have not heard of. Mostly because he coached women. If a coach of a men’s team had been that successful you would know his name.
More importantly that the winning tradition he brought to the women’s basketball program at the University of Montana was the opportunities he created for the women who played for him. They gained access to a quality education. They learned about hard work and teamwork. He then hired some of them as assistant coaches giving them a job in the sport they loved. A man who was not just a basketball coach but changed the lives of those who played for him. One man making a difference and empowering women.