Interview with Dr. Alpha Alexander: Part I


Dublin Core


Interview with Dr. Alpha Alexander: Part I


Sports for women; Sports for children; Sports for children--Coaching; College sports for women; African American women; African American women athletes;


This is Part I of the 1st Interview with Dr. Alpha Alexander for my Senior Independent Study Thesis.
***=Interview Questions

Transcript Below:

***DO: Yeah, So, I am here with Dr. Alexander and I want to look at, uh, the experiences of Black female athletes in the era of Title IX and I wanted to invite you so I thank you for being here. And, so, my first question is, uh, how did you get involved in sport?

AA: Well, as a little girl, I followed my dad around a lot. I watched football with him, he was an athlete. (DO: Umm hmm)

AA: But, sports were not available in high school for women in Dayton, Ohio at that time. But I had an opportunity, a friend of my mother’s, a teacher, and friend. He wanted to teach me how to play tennis and his two sons and so he taught us how to play tennis and I ended up becoming city of Dayton champion. (DO: Umm hmm)

AA: Um, and then I played softball and I got injured. My father, he got mad because I left tennis to play softball. (DO: Oh)

AA: I was a pretty good catcher too, at least I thought but, um, so recreationally wise I had an opportunity to participate in those two sports but nothing under, uh, collegiate or you know nothing under in terms of high school. There were no opportunities so I ended up playing the clarinet in the band.

***DO: Okay. What sport did you decide to pursue in college and why?

AA: Well, I came to Wooster and I was really excited. I did not want to come to Wooster, I wanted to, I grew up um, I was born in Nashville, Tennessee. But I grew up in Dayton, Ohio but every summer I would set south, so I would spend the whole summer playing with my cousins. So, I wanted to go to Tennessee State, where the Tigerbelles were. (DO: Right)

AA: And unfortunately, the um, my mother helped me sneak an application, uh, off to Tennessee State and I was accepted but my father had every intention of me coming to The College of Wooster.

AA: It was a Presbyterian school, a lot of people, uh, from my church actually attended here. But I got really excited because, the summer, uh before the fall, spring, before I attended Wooster, I found out they had a women’s basketball team. (DO: Umm Hmm)

AA: Knew nothing about women’s basketball but always knew that I wanted to participate in sport. And so, they were appearing at the University of Dayton, I believe, in a tournament and I got really excited and once I landed on the campus of Wooster, I found out they had 13 sports for women, which was unbelievable. (DO: (Laughs))

AA: Um, I, uh, really thought, um, volleyball was in the fall, and I thought I really had to not participate in sports and really study. (DO: Hmm (Nods head in agreement))

AA: So, I did not play my freshman year (DO: Okay) of volleyball here. Uh, but Brenda Meese, who is currently the athletic, women’s athletic director, uh, at The College of Wooster, she was from Dayton, Ohio and, uh, Beavercreek, he was a state champion, a track athlete, but uh, I used to catch rides back to Dayton, so you know, when we had the opportunity to go home, [she] would drop me off my parents would pick me up or we would pick her up and drive her back with us up here. But she took me meet Nan Nicols, the basketball coach. (DO: Okay).

AA: And, um, I knew nothing about basketball but I wanted to play basketball so that’s the sport that I chose. Um, I participated in a course of time, that spring I played tennis. (DO: Okay)

AA: Okay and then the following year, I played volleyball which we went clear to the national tournament, which was unbelievable. Um, and actually The College of Wooster hosted it. Uh, here on campus. So, that was, you know, really a special time under Ginny Hunt. I played basketball and then some crazy idea, I decided to try out for lacrosse. But I injured myself. (DO: Okay)

AA: And then towards the end of the basketball season, had weak ankles. (DO: Oh) and decided to that I had to give it up (DO: Umm Hmm) you know.

AA: And then my junior year, um, for the junior independent study, I am not even sure you still have to do that

DO: Yes, we sure do!

AA: I decided, um, I didn’t want to play tennis, I played volleyball and basketball but, um, for the independent study I wanted to try to help design a women’s track, our track program for Wooster. (DO: Oh! Okay)

AA: So, that was sort of my junior IS and then my senior year…I must have had senioritis, I decided not to play volleyball and participated in basketball. (DO: Umm Hmm) And uh, that was and then, you know, the girls athletic association I was really involved with.

DO: What sports did they have at the University of Tennessee when you were applying?

AA: Uh, no Tennessee State

DO: Tennessee State
AA: Which is a Black institution. Okay?
DO: And, and…

AA: Um, I knew they had track and field I did not know what other sports they had. I just wanted to go to a Black institution. (DO: Right)

AA: Um, and not knowing exactly what Wooster was about, and you know before I arrived on campus, um I just wanted to go to where the Tigerbelles were. And, and, and hated track (DO: (Laughs))
AA: you know, I have never been a runner (laughs)

AA: I had, I loved bouncing the ball and shooting the ball and things of that sort but I just knew but my father did not under any circumstances wanted me to return to the state of Tennessee.

DO: Hmm
AA: So, now he’s rolling in his grave because I actually moved back

DO: says “back” simultaneously (laughs)
AA: and I wanted to prove I guess , uh, there’s an article I read in there’s a lot of African Americans in the north are moving back to really to, you know see

DO: Hmm

AA: First for me, to be [inquisitive] what was all this about, was, you talking about racism and things of that sort. But, uh, I wanted to go back to try and make a change.

***DO: What kinds of personal attributes, uh, do you feel you’ve gained from your experiences in track, oh or in um in sport?

AA: Well, um, for me um, being a member of a team (DO: Hmm)
AA: Uh, knowing how to be a leader, really, uh, not feeling all beat up because I lost. Um, we know how to win, um, and I think the most importantly is perseverance. (DO: Absolutely)

***DO: What was the College environment when you got here?

AA: Well it’s very interesting, there were members of uh, my church (DO: Oh, right) okay, that were here, in fact there were some twins in and then, um, so I knew there was some people but when I arrived out of all the freshman, everybody else was matched with Black roommates. (DO: Hmm)

AA: Except for me. I had a white roommate in Holden Hall (DO: Okay)
AA: Okay, and um, that was very strange and most of the female African Americans, they put on the other end of the campus. So (DO: Oh, wow)

AA: I, uh, you know thought as I told you the freshman year , um, I wanted I didn’t play volleyball because I thought I had to study. I did not understand you could play volleyball and you know study and become a, ah, in terms of which your grades so, I was sort of isolated, you know, but, um I got the chance to meet people and actually my roommate, the next year Artura Otey, uh and Mechelle Dill who are two of my best friends ever, um, who as of today, we’re still friends, um (DO: That’s good!) and they both uh, we both became friends.

AA: Artura Otey became my roommate but Mechelle Dill she was out in California, she is my absolute best friend

DO: She became your roommate sophomore year?
AA: Uh, Artura Otey became my roommate my sophomore year. Now very interesting, after the first quarter, because we were in quarters then (DO: Oh, wow. Yeah) okay uh, the white roommate she would leave every weekend because she had a boyfriend, okay? So she never was around and then when we came back for the second quarter… I didn’t have a roommate. (DO: Oh?)

AA: So I had a room the rest of the freshman year all by myself, whereby up on the other end of the campus, all of the African American Black girls were up there (DO: (Laughs))

AA: And they were partying and having times and that was a trek for me, back and forth. (DO: Uhh huh!) But it was real interesting because I was one of the, I was the only one at that time that participated in women’s sports (DO: Hmm) here on campus (DO: Umm hmm).

AA: So, people in the basketball program got to know me, you know, and people started coming out seeing, you know, women’s basketball uh, team play. But it was like ah ha ha ha, Alpha’s participating in sports, you know, so the whole time I was here, okay, my colleagues, uh African American colleagues, they sort of laughed at me, oh she’s in the gym all the time, blah, blah, blah (DO: Umm hmm)

AA: And it’s very interesting telling this right now because now it’s sort of reversed. (DO: Ha!)

AA: Their all living in California and their healthness, and walking, exercising, those kinds and this is what I tried to tell you thirty, forty years ago (laughs)

DO: years ago! (Laughs too)
AA: You know, while you had a gym and some really nice, you know, facilities at that time. We had really nice facilities here but they used to laugh at me and ahh, she’s involved in sport. And actually my , uh, senior IS was on that, the physical activity , um, you know African Americans in Wright State, Central State, which is a predominately Black institution, and then The College of Wooster. (DO: Umm hmm)

AA: You know, I incorporated one class I had we had to do a twelve minute run/walk test and they were like laughing at me , they were like “you think we’re gonna run”? They were like walking. I distinctly remember that over in the gym (DO: Really?)

AA: When I had my friends from the other side of campus come down and participate but they were like this is full of bologna. What are you…you know (DO: Right)

AA: Why are you? They did not understand it, you know, I didn’t understand it because I didn’t have it available to me in high school. But here at Wooster, there were 13 sports for women and I was learning you know, it was something that I thought I had a passion for

DO: Right, What were your results from your IS?
AA: That the predominately Black institution was a little activity but they did at Central State at that time have girls’ sports. (DO: Hmm)

AA: Okay, uh Wright State, you know was built particularly, it’s got a whole complete maze underground for disabilities, which they were ahead of their time at that time. (DO: Umm hmm)

AA: Okay, but they had participation in sport whereby here at Wooster…the participation of people on campus that were African Americans, they didn’t want to participate. (DO: Oh)

AA: So, you had a variance of predominately white institutions this was my theory, okay, that Black institutions, then you also had institutions that was just really starting Wright State but also focused on disability, which is another diversity, uh, kind of issue. So, um, that sort of, you know the, the um, the outcome it’s been so long ago, I can hardly remember (laughs)

DO: (Laughs) But the disability is an issue (AA: Yes) and it still is going on currently (AA: Umm hmm)

***DO: So help, uh, can you tell me a few stories to help illustrate the way the team, uh, you all cooperated with one another?

AA: Yes, well actually I’ll tell you the story about um my teammate, Brenda Meese (DO: Okay)

AA: Um, we had the opportunity of playing Central State, uh, and Coach Nan Nicols, we went down. I was really excited. It’s not that far from Dayton. So my parents got to see me play the sport basketball right, and, uh we went down and Brenda and I, they literally attacked us. And, the next day, she had a Black eye, I was limping around with bruises. I ended up fouling out of the game. I was so embarrassed. Here my parents were (DO: Right) to come to see me play

AA: Outside of Dayton, Ohio and then
DO: And then that happens

AA: We lose, really terribly but not only that, they were really rough, um, and Nan Nicols was so pissed, she said you know a contractual agreement, they had to come here the following year to play. And that, after that she was not ever going to renew a contract between the two institutions. So, that happened. So, the following year, okay, here we are limping around, okay, but the following year, they came. My father had in the meantime had a heart attack. I look up in the stands, here’s my father… in the stands, I think I scored like 30, 40 points that day (DO: Wow)

AA: And we won, okay (DO: Look at that!) It ended up being victorious but to say all of that, no matter what the diversity of the team, which was very limited, in a lot of instance, I was the only one but then we did have some other African American girls play. Um, Brenda was white but she, low economic family. I’m Black, low economic family but we still gelled and ‘til today, were still friends. (DO: Friends, umm hmm)

AA: You know, and I just had lunch with her. We’re talking, we’re able to talk about anything, you know, elections, and you know (DO: Absolutely) all kinds of things. So, that that story about bonding. And, being able to guide. I didn’t know what was going to do when I graduated Wooster. I knew I wanted to go to graduate school. (DO: Umm Hmm)

AA: But I didn’t know what mission, I knew it was some mission I was on, I now sort of realize what my mission in life, you know, what I have been able to accomplish but at that time, it was a passion of something to do. Brenda went her way, she was into coaching.
She was a heck of an athlete! You know but she, went into coaching and she went to Greensboro, which was “The” physical education school, you know of the time. I went to Temple, you know, um but I got lucky because Ginny Hunt knew Dr. Carole Oglesby and she made a call and then I got a graduate [assistanceship] and opportunity to go to Temple University.







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The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio