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All American Red Heads: Professional Women's Basketball Team Of The Past
The All American Red Heads (1936-1986)
Prior to today's version of the WNBA, women's basketball had struggled for years to reach any type of status in the professional ranks. A sign of the times, the general idea was that women simply couldn't play basketball. In addition to that, there was absolutely no way a women's team could compete against a man's team.
The All American Red Heads disagreed, and proved that philosophy wrong night after night.
The concept came from an individual named C.M. "Ole" Olson. In 1936, he put together the first team of women basketball players that would humble the like of men throughout the United States for over 50 years.
However, the task of coming up with a name that would immediately draw the attention of fans came from his wife who owned a string of beauty salons throughout the South. Thus, the All American Red Heads were born!
The team would play by men's rules, against men's teams, and steadily demonstrated talents and abilities far beyond those they competed against. Comedic antics prevailed, much in the same mode as the Harlem Globetrotters would use to entertain the crowds. However, never did basketball take second place as they demonstrated skills many men could only hope to develop.
In it's heyday, three teams traveled the United States for the organization. Making money in half filled high school gymnasiums was a tough act, but the ladies never let that stand in their way of providing a quality performance. Reputations were built and as the teams returned to the areas year after year, crowds and profits increased.
Not An Easy Life On The Road
Life wasn't easy. Each season stretched from October to early May, During the season, it wasn't unheard of for the team to play in over 200 road games. That's an average of almost 28 games per month! And today's professional teams complain over their "light" schedules!
The off seasons were filled with basketball camps and clinics. Teaching the basic and advanced skill levels of dribbling, passing and shooting to young women was not only a vocation, but a way to increase the overall talent of females participating in school sports.
As women's professional basketball became more prominent, the team novelty for fans seemed to die for the Red Heads. Finally, in 1986, the All American Red Heads ended touring. However, that's not the end of the story!
April 7th, 2012, was the day of recognition for all the exceptional efforts put forth by this team. The All American Red Heads became a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall Of Fame. September 7th, 2012, is their day to become formerly enshrined.
I saw the All American Redheads in 1967. It was a small crowd of maybe 150 people in a small high school gym in Spencer, Indiana. However, the show they put on was top quality and could've filled any major entertainment facility with fans. However, they found the heart of America by doing it the hard way.
The pictures provided are from a program sold at that show. I've kept it for all these years. Why? Because, even though it took the Basketball Hall of Fame another 45 years to discover, I knew I'd had the privilege of seeing something special that evening. Not only did I want to hold on to the memory, I wanted to be able to say,
"I still own a piece of memorabilia of one of the greatest teams that ever played the game!"
All American Red Heads Official Website
- All American Red Heads 1936-1986
All American Red Heads were the women's professional basketball team that played by men's rules and beat men about 80% of the time.
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