WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
UCO’s Pinkston Defined Multi-Sport Athlete
By Lacy Lee Baker
In today’s athletics world, you always hear about the rarity of multi-sport athletes, even at the high school level. But, in Gerry Pinkston’s playing days, she defined the multi-sport athlete as she competed in seven different sports as a student-athlete at Oklahoma State. NFCA Hall of Famer Dr. Gerry Pinkston, Class of 1995, tells her story.
It sounds like your years as a student-athlete in the late 60’s were very much different than they are today. Tell me about it.
I played field hockey and volleyball in the same season, so I would practice for two hours with the field hockey team and then go practice for two hours with volleyball. I also played softball, basketball, badminton and tennis, and competed in track (discus and high jump). Badminton was probably the most successful sport as we participated in the sport’s first collegiate national championship, which was administered by the DGWS (Division of Girls and Women in Sports). Later the organization changed its name to the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport, and eventually the AIAW (Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) took over before the NAIA and NCAA came into the picture.
You don't hear much about badminton these days.
You know, it really is an enjoyable sport and probably was my favorite. After a weekend tournament, I would barely be able to walk to class because I was so sore. I guess you use different muscles that you normally don’t use in other sports.
What are the major differences that you see from your time as a student-athlete to today?
When I played, it was a great time to be in college. Besides getting to participate in all those sports, I got to play for different coaches and see how different teams were run. Although today’s teams are better, it really was a valuable experience to be able to compete in a large number of sports.
Of course, there was no strength training back then, although we did focus a lot on agility and endurance drills. Back in those days, people didn’t think women should do strength training because of the fear of getting muscular and perceived damage to the female organs.
So, after being involved in all those sports, it must have been a natural thing to go into coaching.
I graduated from Oklahoma State in 1971 and taught one year of junior high before pursuing my master’s at Central Oklahoma. During that time, I also was a physical therapy aide at St. Anthony Hospital, and they were great to let me have the time to be involved in coaching as a graduate assistant at UCO. Once I received my master’s in 1975, I became a professor there and was the head softball and head volleyball coach at the school, coaching volleyball for eight years and softball for 22.
What advice would you give the coaches of today?
Of course, having the right coach is important. When I played high school tennis, they didn't really have a tennis coach, so they asked the basketball coach to coach us. He called us together and admitted that he didn't really know anything about tennis, but that he would support us and do everything he could to help us. I always appreciated that he was truthful about his lack of knowledge; it seems that for may coaches of today, it's all about their ego.
What led to your retirement from coaching?
I've always been a teacher, and since I was in the academic world, I was constantly encouraged to get my Ph.D. I received my doctorate from Oklahoma State in 1982, and after that, I was asked to start teaching higher level classes. With the demands of coaching becoming greater, and well as the teaching demands, I didn’t think I could do justice for either aspect. The last three or four years before my coaching retirement were really hard since I couldn’t give my all to the student-athletes who wanted to take extra ground balls or the students who needed extra help with their studies. I retired from coaching softball in 1997 and from teaching in 2006.
So what occupies your time now?
I’m a member of the Kickingbird Women’s Golf Association and every Monday I play golf. I recently got my first hole in one; I was playing in a tournament, and on my first swing of the day, I hit a hole in one on a par three.
I’m a lifetime member of the UCO Wellness Center and walk five days a week. Just recently, I went to Europe for three weeks and visited seven countries. I’m still a sports fan and have season tickets for Oklahoma State football and Oklahoma women’s basketball, and seven of us have theatre tickets. My mother is 89, and I’m currently moving her into an independent living place.
I’m still active professionally, and am a long-time member of the Oklahoma Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Also, I’m currently on the University of Central Oklahoma Foundation Board of Trustees.
One of the most enjoyable things I’m doing is involvement in the development of a new athletic association at UCO — the C Club. The new athletics director wiped out the old athletic association, and we’ve written a new constitution for the group. Currently, we’re trying to contact all of the former UCO athletes — male and female — to join. We have 4,000 names in our database, with about 1,500 addresses so far. In addition, we’re inviting former coaches, managers and trainers to be a part.
We also have a former women’s athlete reunion, with about 100 former players attending the last one. It’s so much fun for me to reminisce with my former players, especially about how good we thought we had it.