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Courtesy: WMU

40 in 40 - Jean Friedel

Courtesy: Kristin Keirns, associate director of athletic media relations
Release: 07/25/2012
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Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, takes a look at 40 key moments/females in the history of women's athletics at Western Michigan University. Though the selection process, an effort was made to highlight a moment and player/coach from each of our current women's sports programs, as well pay respect to our women's legacy sports. A different feature will be released each of the 40 days, July 24 through Sept. 1.

Jean Friedel

Head Coach Field Hockey 1960-82; Basketball 1960-63;
Volleyball 1960-65; Golf 1960-64; Synchronized Swimming 1961-62;
Gymnastics 1969-74; Track & Field 1972-78;

WMU Athletic Hall of Fame: 1988
Illinois State
Athletic Hall of Fame: 1978

If there was a mother of women's athletics at Western Michigan, it would be Jean Friedel. The legendary pioneer founded and served as the first coach of five different programs - basketball, field hockey and volleyball (all three established in 1960), as well as gymnastics (est. 1969) and track & field (1972). She also filled in as coach for the golf and synchronized swimming programs, heading up seven different sports during her tenure.

When Friedel came to Western Michigan from Illinois State as a physical education teacher in 1960, programs were being started from scratch. Basic equipment had to be obtained (field hockey sticks, volleyballs, basketballs, etc.) and facilities (locker rooms, practice areas) had to be secured. On top of this, there was little to no funding, making resources hard to come by.

During this era, coaches did not recruit and there were no scholarships. Participants were found after announcements were posted prior to the beginning of each season. Women playing sports on a competitive level, rather than recreationally, was a relatively new concept. Some women would sign up never having played the sport. Friedel literally had to teach the game, basic rules, fundamentals and all.

"I honestly don't think that I can claim fame as an outstanding coach with long lists of championships, but I had the tenacity to hang in there and fight for women's sports when it wasn't a popular position to take," Friedel wrote when learning of her WMU Athletic Hall of Fame induction.

Friedel would serve as the only head coach in the 22-year history of field hockey at Western Michigan, as the program was carried from 1960-82. WMU won the first two ever Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) state championships in 1971 and 1972. Many members of her teams distinguished themselves on state, national and international levels, including Dee Dustin and Marcia Karwas, who competed on the U.S. Field Hockey National Team.

Friedel also had heavy involvement in the United States Field Hockey Association, coaching the Great Lakes Sectional team five times, and serving as an umpire and on the national selection committee.

Friedel graduated from Wisconsin-LaCrosee in 1951 and earned her master's degree from Illinois State in 1956. She coached four sports at ISU from 1956-1960 and was a co-founder of the Central Illinois Field Hockey Association.

Friedel was inducted into the Illinois State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978 and the WMU Athletic Hall of Fame 10 years later. The Jean Friedel Women's Sport Endowment is one of 18 endowments through WMU's Gary Fund, which supports Bronco athletics.