“The History of Women’ Sports in Bristol”

May 8, 2017

The Bristol Hall Of Fame hosted a panel discussion on how women’s sports developed in Bristol in the early years. The panel was made up of former Hall of Fame coaches and players in the Bristol public schools. Joann Galati chaired the panel of Beth Kauke Lafferty, Debbie James, Tami Chapman, Gail Ericson and Phil Pirog.

Each of the women on the panel spoke of playing sports in their neighborhoods at an early age. Everyday they would go out and play basketball or baseball with boys and girls playing side by side. It was not until they tried to enter organized sports that they were turned away and told it was only for boys. They were devastated. This was the first time they were told they could not play. “The boys did not understand either”, Debbie James said, “We played side by side every day and now we were told we could not play. “Luckily, the Bristol Park Department was ahead of the curve” said Gail Ericson. “I was able to swim and compete in the park department summer programs.”

Then in 1972 came a bill introduced by Former President Richard Nixon called the “Anti Discrimination Bill,” later called Title 9. Joann Galati explained, “No one could be discriminated against based on sex, race or religion”. Joann went on to explain, “It opened the doors for women in so many ways, not only in sports but in the work place.”
Joann was the pioneer for women sports in Bristol. She started the first women’s basketball and softball teams at Bristol Eastern. “ I remember the first year we were issued rubber basketballs, while the boys teams had leather basketballs, it was a slow process, but in time look where we are now” stated Galati.
Phil Pirog was the first male in Bristol to coach women. “We were issued gym uniforms for the players, rubber softballs and old wooden physical educations bats” Pirog said.

Many women have now advanced to play sports in college. Beth Kauke Lafferty stated, “Because of the efforts of people like Coach Galati and Coach Pirog working hard for the advancement of women sports, many Bristol players have earned scholarships to play at the next level. Because of Title 9, We have been given the chance to play in college and the Olympics”.

Here are the 24 Women inducted into the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame as of 2016:
1997 – Josephson Twins (Sarah and Karen)
1998 – Debbie James
1999 – Kristen Peterson Blandino, Joann Galati
2000 – Lydia Jabs Bailey
2002 – Ann Degnan, Chryss Watts
2003 – Majorie Funk, Callie Granger Penn
2004 – Meegan Wright Martin
2005 – Tami Chapman
2006 – Gail Ericson
2007 – Kathy Ferrier Gibson, Laura Lishness
2008 – Bernice LaFerriere
2009 – Beth Kauke Lafferty
2010 – Diane Connolly
2011 – Coral Richardson
2013 – Carol Carpenter, Maryellen Holden
2014 – Ginny Ziogas Torreso
2015 – Jennifer Hadley Houle
2016 – Stacey Porrini Clingan