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Ms. Donna Maria Clark
44218 Nicholas Cr.
Hammond, LA 70092
Nunez Community College
|Donna's Living Memorial to Yvette Girouard is followed by an excellent history she wrote about the start of the softball program. Her LM was submitted on July 19, 2017 and posted by Dr. Ed Dugas that day.
Donna Clark - Softball 1980
I only played on the 1980 team when we were a club sport and Sue Spears was our volunteer coach.
Although I wasn't on the teams coached by Yvette, it was Pat Pourciau and I who helped organized the 1980 team and who recruited Yvette to come coach the 1981 team.
Pat and I knew Yvette from a few years earlier as she was a friend of our high school softball coach and we knew her reputation and demeanor would be perfect for coaching a college team - especially one that was just getting started.
Although I didn’t play for Yvette, I continued to follow the team as I was so proud to have been part of the making of something as special as the Lady Cajuns Softball Program.
I could see changes in the young women who played under Coach Girouard. Not only did she inspire and encourage them as competitive athletes, she helped them transition from girls into strong women.
As the years went on and the softball team continued to become more and more successful each year under Yvette, my pride in the softball program continued to grow. Unless you were part of starting something from its inception, it may be hard to understand how one can feel such pride almost 40 years later.
The history of how softball finally arrived at USL and what led up to Yvette Girouard becoming coach of the Lady Cajuns Softball team may be interesting to some readers.
Having played softball at P.G.T. Beauregard High School in St. Bernard, Pat Pourciau and I were disappointed when we arrived at USL in the fall of 1977 and discovered that there was no women’s softball.
Being freshmen, we did not know how to go about getting this remedied. But by the next year, we had met others on campus interested in playing softball and approached personnel in the Athletic Department about a team. We were told that there wasn’t enough interest nor funding.
To test the waters, we posted signs in the dorms and around campus that anyone interested in forming a softball team should report to Hamilton Field at a specific time.
Dozens of interested women showed up and signed a request for a softball team. This list was brought to the Athletic Department and a graduate assistant was assigned to work with our group.
We had some practices at Hamilton Field and I believed we proved that there was enough interest for the university to support a team. Unfortunately, we were told that there still weren’t any funds.
Ms. Sherry LeBas did get approval for us to start an official Club Sport team meaning that we could use the USL name, but would have to raise our own funds.
So for the 1980 season, we recruited a USL P.E. instructor, Sue Spears, to be our coach - uncompensated, of course.
After tryouts, we ended up with about 20 players who raised funds to travel, mark the fields, buy equipment, and pay umpires so we could play softball.
The drive and somewhat limited success of this first women’s softball team to represent USL finally led to the University agreeing to minimally fund a team for the 1981 season.
After Pat and I convinced Yvette to leave a very successful career as a high school coach to coach an infant collegiate team without compensation, the USL Athletic Department officially approved an intercollegiate women’s softball program.
It was only through Yvette’s dedication and personal sacrifices over those first few seasons that the Lady Cajuns developed into a college team that earned the respect of the region’s long-established teams.
There are dozens upon dozens of former players scattered across the country who were fortunate enough to have played under Coach Yvette Girouard.
The maturity, confidence, hard work and collaboration skills learned through their experiences with Yvette are most likely a contributing factor to their successes in college, careers, and life in general.
I know this to be true as I met many of her former players at a UL Softball Reunion in 2013 at which I was so honored to have been asked to attend.
The current and more recent players were amazed to hear how women’s softball came into existence.
Three of us from the 1980 inaugural team were present. We loved hearing the stories of the players who came after us and one common theme prevailed - Yvette Girouard’s influence on them lasted long after they played ball for her.
She continues to be thought of with gratitude and even a bit of reverence by those women she so positively influenced.
* * * * * * *
The University recently celebrated the 1981 Lady Cajuns Softball Team as the first when, in fact, the first softball team was organized in 1980.
I recently found team photographs and a team roster. The list of players was prepared to serve as notice to the players' instructors that we would miss class for a game. This March 12, 1980 letter verifies that my claim is accurate.
I will attempt to explain the history behind the creation of this team. In 1979, I was enrolled in an HPED course that was a combined volleyball/softball course.
Several of my classmates decided that we wanted to look into why USL didn't have a women's softball team as we had played high school ball and desired to continue playing softball at the college level.
We spoke to someone in the athletic department about this and were told that there wasn't enough interest in women's softball. We argued this point and were finally told that if we had enough women come forward, the athletic department may entertain our request.
We had flyers placed in all of the women's dorms and around campus announcing a meeting behind Bancroft in Hamilton Field.
A female graduate assistant named Jean (I seem to recall she had formerly been a USL volleyball player) met with us. About 60 interested women showed up for the meeting.
For a couple of weeks, we practiced on Hamilton Field using our own equipment. We even had an initial cut. The remaining players names were posted in the dorms and in the HPED department.
I'm not sure what the time frame was, but at some point, Jean informed us that the athletic department had decided not to field a softball team. We were disappointed, but many of us vowed to pursue our cause with the athletic officials.
We were referred to Ms. Sherry LeBas. I explained all of the events that happened thus far and informed Ms. LeBas that we were prepared to go the distance. I do not recall the exact number of men's sports at the time, but I do know that we didn't have the same number of women's sports.
I mentioned Title IX because I had served on my high school's Title IX Committee as a student member. Ms. Lebas promised that she would speak to the Athletic Director (a male I recall) about funding a women's softball team for the next season.
The following semester, the HPED department had separated the volleyball/softball course into two individual courses. My roommate, Pat Pourciau and I enrolled in the softball course.
Our instructor was Sue Spears. Several familiar faces had enrolled in this course because we were seeking an opportunity to play softball. We convinced Ms. Spears to approach the athletic department and ask about USL having a women's team.
Sue Spears reported back to us that Ms. LeBas had gotten approval for us to start a team as a Club Sport. Furthermore, we were told, that if we were successful as a club sport, the University would then consider funding a collegiate softball team. Ms. Spears had agreed to coach us for no compensation and we had to hold fundraisers to finance our expenses.
After a couple of weeks of practice, we announced that we were ready. We received some old, broken hand-me-down equipment from the men's baseball team. (As the catcher, I distinctly remember wearing shin guards that were too long.)
We bought our own uniforms, paid for the use of Beaver Park, paid for umpires, and had to pay to have the field marked for each of our games.
We were successful in getting a few state teams to come to Lafayette to play, but had to travel to several of our games. I think it was Sue Spear's van that we used to travel. Our fans consisted of close friends, immediate family, some dorm residents, and a few others.
Because most of the campus was not aware that we had a team, I do not recall ever seeing any USL official at our games. However, we did prove that there was enough interest to warrant the University funding a women's softball team.
During this first season, I continued to play intramural softball. I was on the ROTC women's team and during a game tripped while circling the bases and tore the ligaments in my ankle. (I declined surgical treatment and as a result was told by the orthopaedic surgeon that I would never play any sports that would require intensive physical activity.) I then became the third base coach and team treasurer for the remainder of our short season.
On the enclosed disk, I have several action shots and a team photo.
Even though the players' names are listed on the enclosed letter, I am sure of only a few players' names in the team photo. Kneeling from left to right are ?, Jackie Narcisse, Amy Boudreaux, Phyllis Scorsone, Janet Trahan, ?, ?, and me. (If you look closely at my right calf, you can see my cast.) Standing are Barbara Fontenot, ?, Patricia Pourciau, ?, ?, ?, Adrian Granger, Sue Spears, ?, ?, and ?. Amy Boudreaux, Pat Pourciau, and Phyllis Scorsone definitely played on the first intercollegiate team in 1981.
Others from our 1980 may have as well, but I just can't remember even though I was a devoted fan of this team coached by Yvette Girouard.
In summary, I would like to assist in correcting USL athletic history. The 1981 team has continued to be celebrated as the first when, actually, our 1980 club sport team players were the real pioneers.
During this centennial celebration, I would like to see the University finally acknowledge the women who fought for two years to establish a women's softball team.
The last 19 years have been tremendously successful for the Lady Cajuns Softball team under coach Yvette Girouard, however; I truly believe that none of it would have happened without the efforts of my classmates and Sue Spears who sacrificed the time and money it took to prove that USL could support and needed a women's softball team.
Please pass on this information and the photos to as many people as necessary to ensure that the Athletic History of the University of Louisiana - Lafayette includes the true, first USL Lady Cajuns Softball Team.
Classes of 1981 & 1983
(Athletic Network Footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas - the pictures mentioned as being on disc, are found in the photo gallery in the Softball link, 1980)
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