Blood & Guts: The First Olympic WBB Team’s Camp in the ‘Burg
It was the summer of 1976 and basketball greats Pat Summitt, then Pat Head; Nancy Lieberman, and the rest of the first U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball team trained at the University of Central Missouri. What kind of experience did these elite athletes have while spending time in town and living at the East Hudson Conference Center?
First and foremost it was about basketball. Lloyd Grove writing for the Kansas City Times spent some time and reported on what the ladies were experiencing on and off the court during their time in Warrensburg. The Johnson County Historical Society has shared his article on their Show Me The History website.
Grove detailed the team's grueling practice schedule at Garrison Gymnasium. The ladies were practicing twice a day, six days a week for the qualifying games in Hamilton, Ontario. The ladies endured "punishing workouts" and exhibition games against high school and NCAA basketball players. He also may have witnessed one of the more grueling practices the team endured:
"O.K." Miss Moore shouted, clapping her hands. "let's go to the corner. let's get into weaves, let's get into lay-ups." And so began perhaps the most rigorous practice of the U.S. Women's Olympic team to date. For about two hours Miss Moore and her assistant. Sue Gunter, from Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Tex., pushed the women through weaves. fast breaks and drills.
According to Grove, and what some of the players told him, the last half hour of practice was the worst.
Gail Marquis. 22, a forward from Queens (N.Y.) College, calls it "suicide;" guard Ann Meyers, 21, from U.C.L.A., calls it 'blood and guts." Also known as "the hamburger" and "the Big Mac." the Interval sprint—from the baseline to the mid court line, back to the baseline. then to the opposite baseline and back—Is designed to increase the players' stamina, especially late in the game.
Part of the appeal of training at UCM, or the then named Central Missouri State University, in 1976 was the simple fact that there weren't a lot of distractions to the basketball.
A high schooler named Vic Bozarth watching the ladies practice told Grove pretty much the only things to do were see a movie, bowl, shoot some pool or hang out in the college union. Grove said many of the ladies were to tired from the practices to do much more than sunbathe at the Uninversity's Pertle Springs rec center, sleep or watch soap operas. Although he did mention some of the players "play golf at Pertle, shop in town, or go out dancing. "
Perhaps, Pat Summitt summed up the experience best:
This isn't the liveliest town in the world. But you try to make the best of it. I try not to think about what I'm doing now—I think about the future and competing in the Olympics. if I didn't do that, I would really go nuts.
You can read the entire Kansas City Times article by Lloyd Grove, read more about the team, and their time at Central Missouri State University; and many other interesting stories about Johnson County, Missouri on the Johnson County Historical Society and Museum's Show Me The History website .