GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Sports were always a major influence on Elizabeth Parker Haskins’ life but had it not been for a statute signed into law on June 23, 1972, her name never would have been immortalized in the rafters of Guilford College’s Ragan-Brown Field House.
“My mother played basketball and her coach convinced her to come to Guilford. Which was probably the major influence getting me here,” Haskins said.
With aunts who played and coached sports and brothers with whom she played baseball and softball, Haskins became involved in athletics at an early age. Having played basketball in high school, she was drawn to Guilford College because of the strong women’s intramural athletic presence already present on campus.
Around the time President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law, Haskins – then Elizabeth Parker – registered as a freshman. The law itself is one sentence long and reads: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
It wasn’t until the college’s athletic director gathered a group of women athletes that Haskins began to realize the impact the law may have on her.
“I didn’t think men’s collegiate athletics was managed very well, and I didn’t think we ought to be copying their program,” she recalled.
After meeting to discuss what the student-athletes envisioned in a women’s program, some of those talks were put into practice.
“My sophomore year, we had a volleyball team, and we played inter-collegiately. But that would have been the first time. It was intramural before then,” said Haskins, who had never played volleyball before getting to Guilford but was recruited her freshman year.
The following year, Haskins became one of the first women to get an athletic grant-in-aid at Guilford in both basketball and volleyball. She also later played softball at the college.
“When the scholarships first started being offered, you noticed the caliber of students improving,” Haskins joked.
Haskins said she also played field hockey but hadn’t been told she needed shin guards, so her career didn’t go beyond a single, pain-ridden performance.
“In volleyball, we built a team out of people that hadn’t played before and won the state championship against all the other colleges and universities,” Haskins said. “We were just one conference then.”
Four years after she first walked onto campus as a student, Haskins walked off the court for the final time. Along with her team and suitemates, she celebrated everything she’d accomplished during her career, including scoring 42 points in a basketball game, which stood as the Guilford College Women’s Basketball record until 2005.
“I think it taught me how to build on the gifts of the people around me and to look for those gifts and talents so that we could form a cohesive team,” she reflected.
Following her time at Guilford College, Haskins earned a master’s in education at Duke University before becoming a teacher and coach.
“It was one of the best experiences of my life to work with those young women and to see them develop and to know that they had opportunities that women before them did not have,” she said.
Haskins then moved to Chicago where she used her experiences as an athlete to guide her as a school administrator.
“It taught me to create. That you couldn’t do it all, but if you’re creative, then you can find a way – in basketball terms – to score those two points when you needed them. And when I played, there was no three-point shot,” she said.
Twenty years after her final shot at Guilford, Haskins became the second woman elected to its Athletics Hall of Fame. In 2009, her #22 jersey was retired.
“I was in no way prepared for what it was going to feel like to see the jersey rise,” she recalled.
While the ceremony itself was emotional, one of her fondest memories is meeting with the women’s basketball team at the time.
“To see their zest for the game, to see how much better they were than I had been and to see that they had a world opening up to them that I had never dreamed was possible,” Haskins said.
As she dribbles and shoots around the new basketball court in the field house, with the #22 jersey reading “Parker” overhead, Haskins cannot help but reflect on the chapters of women’s sport that were written thanks to the single line which is Title IX.
“I’m in awe. I’m just in awe. Because they’re so talented, and they can jump so high, and they show so much endurance and hard work. The emphasis that they put on training and discipline is just amazing to me,” Haskins said of present-day female athletes. “It feels good to be part of that.”