Honoring Kay Yow

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I was going to title this article “Remembering Kay Yow” but then I thought that it would be inaccurate. After all, though I have certainly heard of Kay and was aware of her fight against cancer, I cannot say that I am entirely familiar with her.

Kay YowThen again, I do live within minutes of NC State University, the school in Raleigh, North Carolina where Yow was the woman’s basketball coach for many, many years. Our family moved to the Tar Heel state in 2004 so I quickly knew that you had to pick a favorite team — Duke, UNC or NC State — to identify with the area. And, this goes for the women’s teams as much as for the men’s teams because when it comes to college basketball, we’ve got some of the best programs in the nation including Wake Forest over in Greensboro.

So, a little research about Kay Yow who died this past weekend from breast cancer has revealed some very interesting tidbits about her. Among them are:

  • Kay was one of the pioneers of major college women’s basketball, having coached at NC State for the past 34 years. I think it would be accurate to say that she was at the forefront to help bring this sport to a national level, the most popular sport for women by far.
  • Kay ended up winning 737 games over the years, which puts her sixth on the all time list among women college coaches. She was the assistant woman’s coach for the 1984 USA Olympics team and the head coach for the 1988 team — both squads came away with a gold medal.
  • Diagnosed all the way back in 1987, Kay valiantly battled breast cancer for 22 years, seeing the disease go into remission before reappearing twice — in 2004 and 2007. During those years, she lost her mother to cancer and was coaching when NC State’s men’s coach, Jim Valvano, died of cancer in 1993. Both coaches have played a significant role in raising awareness for cancer with the Jimmy V Foundation being an active supporter in honor of Kay.
  • Besides the game itself, I like to think that Kay was instrumental in shaping the lives of a number of women. From what I have heard, Yow was much more of a quiet spoken person — an educator first, a coach second.

Some people contend that the emphasis on college sports has gotten out of hand down through the years. I suppose this is true wherever academics suffer, but if sports enhances pride in a school, then I’m all for finding that balance. One thing I can say about NC State is that I have never heard the school accused of being a basketball mill. Certainly, playing well is important, but as Kay Yow demonstrated the game of life trumps all.

If you would like to make a donation in honor of Kay, contributions to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund would certainly be welcome.

Mailing Address:
The V Foundation for Cancer Research
106 Towerview Court
Cary, NC 27513

Website: Jimmy V Foundation

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Categories: Collegiate Sports