Original

Debby Jones: ‘No, little lady, I want to speak to the men’s AD’

This is the sixth story in the SLR Original series on Title IX  (See previous)

Way before my days of tackle football and slow-pitch softball, as a kid, I heard stories of my mom playing basketball in junior high. It was the late 50s and early 60s, but I didn’t understand that there was no varsity team. 

I was playing tackle football several days a week with a team of women decades after she had played basketball in the Girls Athletic Association, which in many schools, was effectively a one-day event. 

One day. One day each school year. Some girls might have lucked into one day in the fall and one in the spring. My mom and her peers in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools played at whichever school had the biggest gym, with six on a side (they too, supposedly had delicate constitutions).

Among those generational peers was Debby Jones, who went through CMS just a few years behind my mom. I was sent her way by Vicki Hamilton, and through my Title IX education, Jones came to represent those, like my mom and Judy Murphy, who didn’t benefit from the amendment’s protections while growing up.

She remembers the GAA being mostly a social club for her at Charlotte’s Garinger High and a one-day event in the spring in high school, hosted by Winthrop College (now University), and the next spring by Greensboro College. 

Jones coached several sports at West Charlotte High from 1972-97, winning 12 conference titles in 17 years as a tennis coach. As a coach she caught people off guard — despite her success, many were surprised when she became the second female AD in the school system at West Charlotte. She led there for four years before moving on to the new Vance High, where she was athletic director from 1997-2002.

“We had a football playoff game, and the coach at one of the other cities called,” Jones recalled. “They were the home team and he said, ‘I’d like to speak to the AD.’ ”

Jones told him that’s who she was. But he persisted.

“‘No, little lady, I want to speak to the men’s AD!’”

Aside from interactions like that, her 36 years in CMS were “charmed” and her time as West Charlotte’s tennis coach was particularly successful. 

Jones went to college in a time when there were no athletic scholarships yet for women, but in her decades as a coach and administrator, sent several players off to schools with scholarships under their belts. 

Read the next part of our series on Title IX: Marjo Rankin.

Ellyn Ritterskamp is a journalist and teacher who loves thinking about sport and ethics, especially if there is baseball involved. She lives in Charlotte, NC, has appeared on three TV game shows, and has visited all the parks in Major League Baseball, the South Atlantic League, and the Carolina League.

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