Crashing the Glass Ceiling

Department: Athletics

By B.J. Reyes

The beginning of a Hall of Fame career is sometimes hard to recognize, even when it should be obvious.

Kathy Kelley ’75 Carey was not a varsity letter winner in four sports – not even in one – nor does she hold any state championships to show for her time in Punahou athletics. She played just one sport for Punahou, and she played it for only one year. But even as the first girl to play soccer for the Buff ’n Blue – as a member of the boys team – she never considered herself a trailblazer.

“I just wanted to play soccer,” she says.

Sometimes athletic excellence stands out like a record-breaking track star or the consistent, steady performance of a world-class swimmer. And sometimes it crashes the glass ceiling – as evidenced by two of this year’s 18 inductees to the Punahou Athletic Hall of Fame.

“I think I was a catalyst,” Carey says today. “I didn’t think of myself as doing anything really special at the time, but it created something, and I’m very proud of having done that.”

In 1975, during Carey’s senior year, the landmark Title IX federal gender equity legislation was in its infancy, passed just three years earlier in order to end sex discrimination and harassment in educational activities or programs.

Soccer coach Bob Clague was in his first season at Punahou – and nervous he hadn’t yet proven himself – when he had to deal with a girl trying out for his boys team. But Clague says Athletic Director Ralph Martinson – a 2008 Punahou Hall of Fame honorary inductee – told him to evaluate her as he would any other player, and she did well.

“There was no participation opportunity for me on the women’s side and there was no problem in their mind if I played on the guys’ team,” says Carey. “It was very positive.”

Punahou athletics happened to be ahead of the curve, offering more than a dozen teams for girls when other schools struggled to simply introduce the concept. The year after Carey played on the boys team, Punahou fielded two girls teams. Carey went on to Stanford University – where she again found herself playing on a men’s team before founding the women’s squad a year later.

Today, girls at Punahou can participate on five soccer teams, including a varsity squad that has captured 11 state championships and 19 ILH titles. “It’s hard to fathom how far we’ve come,” Carey says. In adult leagues, she’s been part of seven national championship teams at various age levels. After 12 years coaching Punahou’s boys and girls teams, she now serves as an assistant coach for the University of Hawai‘i, where she has been a part of the soccer program since its inception as a club sport in 1992.

In high school, Carey’s classmate Linda “Lindy” Vivas ’75 was taking full advantage of the girls sports that were offered. The quintessential athlete, Vivas was a four-year letter winner in basketball and softball with three varsity letters in volleyball.

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Second from left (#21): Lindy Vivas '75 celebrates with teammates

But it’s her contribution to women’s athletics beyond Punahou that has had a lasting impact. “When I went to college I discovered that women’s sports were not always as welcomed or as valued as they were at Punahou,” she says.

After a decorated volleyball career at the University of Southern California and playing in professional leagues, Vivas moved to the coaching ranks, where she built a career of nurturing opportunities for women in sports.

Her name is now synonymous with Title IX, after winning $5.85 million from a federal court in 2007 in what is believed to be the largest award ever to a coach suing for retaliation under the federal gender equity law.

Despite numerous coaching awards and a 263-137 record that made Vivas the coach with the most wins in Fresno State’s history, she was fired in 2004 for what she says was retaliation for voicing concerns over the school’s lack of compliance with Title IX. “It was a pretty difficult situation there,” she says, “but I think that along the way these types of things have to be done in order for progress to be made.”

Female athletes and many of Vivas’ coaching colleagues celebrated the ruling as a victory for women in sports. “It had national ramifications, hopefully all positive,” she says.

B.J. Reyes is a reporter and freelance writer based in Honolulu. His work has appeared in publications throughout the U.S. and Asia.

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