Feldmann selected to Winona State Hall of FameAlexandria’s Carol Feldmann doesn’t think of herself as a reformist for women’s athletics during her days at Winona State University, but there is no doubt her recent honor is an indication of the impression she made on the school.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Alexandria’s Carol Feldmann doesn’t think of herself as a reformist for women’s athletics during her days at Winona State University, but there is no doubt her recent honor is an indication of the impression she made on the school.
Feldmann was named a member of the 2012 Hall of Fame class at WSU after serving as a five-sport athlete for the Warriors from 1964 through 1968. It was an era when the opportunity for women to participate in college athletics was only getting started.
Feldmann just wanted to take advantage of those opportunities. She had no idea that she was going to be a part of a greater movement across the country that would eventually lead to an equal playing field for women with the passage of Title XI in 1972.
“I guess not really because it was just the very beginnings,” Feldmann said. “We just had limited time to participate in different sports. We were not members of the Warrior Club like the guys and didn’t receive letters when we first started out. You just kind of went and did your thing and had fun, and that was that.”
Feldmann became further a part of that transformation at Winona State when she became the first female to receive a varsity letter in 1968. Now more than 40 years later, she will join some of the best athletes in school history in the Winona State Hall of Fame.
Feldmann was one of six athletes recently selected to the 2012 class at WSU. All six will be inducted on October 19 as part of the Warriors’ homecoming weekend.
“The members of the Winona State Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2012 are all well deserved,” Warriors’ Athletic Director Larry Holstad said in a statement. “The committee did a great job of selecting a class that represents the many eras of athletic success at Winona State. All six inductees are great candidates who made important contributions to Warriors Athletics and rose to the top of a list of extremely worthy candidates.”
The honor came as a complete surprise to Feldmann. She knew she had been nominated but said that had been a couple years ago. That’s why it came as a shock when head football coach Tom Sawyer called with the news.
“It was amazing,” Feldmann said. “It was very exciting and humbling. Joyce Locks, who was a professor at Winona State at that time in the physical education department, was the one who nominated me. We’ve kept in touch at Christmas over the years. It was very exciting to hear that news.”
Locks was one of the pioneers in the progress women’s athletics saw at Winona State. She joined the school in 1962 and served as its first director of women’s athletics and as a softball, tennis and golf coach before retiring in 1987. She was inducted into the WSU Hall of Fame herself in 1994.
Locks was in the beginning stages of her work when Feldmann arrived as a freshman in 1964. Women’s athletics looked nothing like they do today at that time.
“It was more like a sports day where you went to a certain college and different teams were there and you just played everybody,” Feldmann said. “That was the tournament for that time. Maybe we went three different weekends for sports days. It wasn’t anything like it is now. Otherwise if it was, there would be no way a person could participate in that number of sports.”
Feldmann came to college from Florida where she competed on the tennis and swimming teams in high school. She added basketball, volleyball and softball to that list once she got to Winona State. She served as a team captain in both tennis and swimming and advanced to the National Collegiate Tennis Tournament in 1968.
Basketball and volleyball were in their very beginning stages when she arrived. Feldmann recalled starting with three players on each team in basketball, with none of the players being allowed to cross midcourt. Volleyball was in a similar stage, where bumping, setting and spiking weren’t on the radar yet.
Feldmann looks at how far those sports have come for women since then and doesn’t think of herself as part of the change. Her greatest memories come from the simple enjoyment she got out of playing them.
“It was a wonderful experience,” she said. “I look back and think of all the fun I had, the friends I made and going to different schools, being able to see different campuses. It was just a great time.”
Those experiences continued to shape how she feels about an individual’s right to compete. Feldmann has volunteered with Special Olympics Minnesota for years, even being named the 2009 SO Coach of the Year in the state. She also wrapped up her 12th season as the head coach for the Alexandria adapted bowling team this spring.
“I see the opportunities that I had as a really great experience and a growing experience,” Feldmann said. “I just wanted to provide that to other students and give them the same opportunities, to try different things and excel at what they felt good at playing.”
Feldman never shied away from those new opportunities at Winona State. That’s part of the reason why she will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this fall.
It is an honor she will accept with a lot of humility. She still doesn’t think of herself as a pioneer for women’s sports or think a lot about what it means to be the first female to ever receive a letter at WSU. For her, it was and always will be about the joy of competing.
“Just the fun of participating and doing the different sports,” she said. “I guess that’s what I think about the most.”