Just for Fun


The Story of AAU Women's Basketball
Robert W. Ikard
978-1-55728-889-9 (paper)
July 2009


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Prior to the 1972 passage of Title IX, women’s basketball was a minor sport in the United States. It was played by companies such as Cook’s Goldblume Beer and Sunoco and for obscure colleges such as Iowa Wesleyan and Wayland Baptist as part of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). But during the two generations of the mid-twentieth century, women’s basketball improved and became more popular throughout the country. AAU All-Star teams dominated women’s international basketball until the emergence of subsidized national teams in the 1960s.

The women who played on these AAU teams helped to lay the foundation for women’s athletics today. Most of the teams came from central and southern states, and most of the players had rural origins. “Country girls” from Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas competed at an elite level unknown to their city sisters. The AAU formed several successful international teams of gifted players that gained fame abroad but that were anonymous at home. Until nearly the last quarter of the century, skilled women basketball players had only one option after high school: the AAU.

This is the history of these gifted women, their coaches, and their teams—their records, motivations, and personal stories. Extensively illustrated, Just for Fun is the first book to thoroughly explore the complex history of the Amateur Athletic Union’s women’s basketball program and to bring to light the four decades of women’s basketball all but forgotten in the current success of women’s athletics.

Robert W. Ikard is a thoracic surgeon, basketball enthusiast, and amateur historian who lives in Nashville. He is the author of two previous books: Near You: Francis Craig, Dean of Southern Maestros and No More Social Lynching. His father taught science and coached the girls’ basketball team in Hampshire, Tennessee.

“Just for Fun is a wonderful tribute to a forgotten era of women’s basketball. Dr. Ikard has painstakingly researched how a very important part of women’s basketball came to exist, and has made it an exciting and fun read.”
—Sue Gunter, former Head Coach LSU Lady Tigers

“If there’s anything you’ve ever wanted to know about women’s amateur hoops, it’s in Just for Fun. Ikard has done the homework, now you hoopheads can sit back and enjoy the ride.”
—Rick Telander, author of Heaven is a Playground and Sports Columnist, Chicago Sun-Times

“Ikard’s Just for Fun is an enjoyable, folksy telling of the times, teams and players of women’s AAU basketball. Ikard, a true fan of the sport, weaves an enjoyable tale—enhanced by terrific visuals—for the casual reader.”
—Susan E. Cayleff, professor of women’s studies at San Diego State University and
author of Babe: The Life and Legend of Babe Didrikson Zaharias

“Bob Ikard has done women’s basketball a great service with this detailed exploration of one of its most significant eras. Anyone with an interest in the sport should read this book.”
—Pamela Grundy, author of Shattering the Glass: A History of U.S. Women’s Basketball

“The previously untold story of women’s basketball’s beginnings“Ikard (a basketball aficionado and amateur historian) offers a meticulous history of women’s basketball in the US—from the first game played at Smith College in 1892 to the 1970s—but he focuses on the AAU in the first half of the 20th century. . . . This period of women’s basketball is rarely discussed, so Ikard’s book will be valuable to sports historians. . . . Highly recommended.”

“Exceptional chronicle of a sorely overlooked period in American sports.”
—Ron Wynn, Nashville City Paper

“Well documented for a history aimed at the general reader, Ikard’s work is likely to become a launching point for a renewed look into a corner of women’s and sports history overlooked by researchers.”
—Bill Smith, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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