Star-Bulletin Sports


Visibility of female
sports impresses Perry

By Cindy Luis

Play days. Street ball. High schools intramurals.

Barbara "Bobbi" Perry found opportunities to play. And they kept finding her.

Title IX was nearly a decade away when Perry graduated from Kamehameha in 1963. She played tennis for the Warriors and, when volleyball was added her junior year, she embraced the sport.

She went from a club player at the University of Hawaii to the national team in three short years. In 1968, Perry was one of three Hawaii products on the Olympic team in Mexico City.

"The opportunities kept coming up for me," said Perry, now 57. "Things kept happening boom, boom, boom. It was very exciting.

"I was very fortunate. I had opportunities to play a sport I loved at a high level. I guess I was naive because I never thought that we might not be getting what the men were getting."

What Perry got was plenty of exposure to sports from an early age. Growing up in Kalihi Valley, she and her two younger brothers participated in whatever game was being played on the street or at the neighborhood club.

At UH, she hung out at Klum Gym and eventually was asked to play for the women's club team. At 5-foot-10, her height was an advantage, but her greatest asset was her gut feeling that she could play at the top level.

After two years at UH, she transferred to Long Beach State to be closer to the U.S. national team that was based in Southern California. Perry made the World Games team in 1966, the Pan American team in 1967 and then the Olympic team.

"The first time that I went away to Long Beach State was the first time I had ever left Hawaii," she said. "I played volleyball and basketball. We didn't have real uniforms. What we wore was the white shirt and shorts that Physical Education majors wore and over that a pinny (bibs with numbers).

"We didn't have scholarships but we had money for meals, we got to travel to play other teams in the league. And we didn't have do our own laundry."

Perry went on to coach volleyball at Southern California, then moved to Redondo High where she coached boys and girls volleyball and girls basketball. When the girls wanted to compete in track, Perry ended up coaching that sport, even though she had little knowledge.

Perry brought that experience back home to Hawaii, where she taught at Castle High School before embarking on a 20-year career in the Punahou School athletics department.

"I think part of the problem with girls sports back then was there were no role models," Perry said. "We had volleyball for both boys and girls, but no one was questioning why boys played basketball and girls didn't. (Boys had a state championship in basketball beginning in 1957, while the first girls state basketball tournament wasn't until 1977.)

"Maybe you need a lot of people questioning before something will happen. Being out in Hawaii, part of the problem was we didn't know about the opportunities that were happening in other places."

Now semi-retired, Perry is an education assistant at Kamehameha Schools elementary division. She continues to play volleyball and just returned from the USAV Nationals, where her Mavericks team won the 55-and-over division.

"It was really neat to have this older division," said Perry, who earned All-American honors. "It wasn't any fancy stuff, just pass, set, hit. I can remember when the masters division was only 30-and-over. Now they have divisions in five-year increments through 55, 65 for men."

The growth in the number of opportunities and the development of the junior level of sports is the biggest change she's seen in girls athletics in Hawaii.

"There's more visibility and more acceptance of girls in sports," Perry said. "Women have shown they can play sports at a high level, that they can run marathons. A lot of the thinking that was holding females back has changed."

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