Marcy Weston (Photo courtesy Central Michigan University)
As women’s history month comes to a close, so does the career of a woman who’s had a national impact on women’s athletics.
Marcy Weston has spent the last four decades at Central Michigan University, as a women’s sports coach and administrator. She announced her retirement from CMU earlier this month.
Jeff Popovich sat down with Weston to discuss her time at Central, and he asked her how a five year gig turned into a 42-year stay in Mt. Pleasant.
Marcy: Actually I’ve had that question asked to me several times in the last few months. I came here with the option that I’d move somewhere else after five or six years and Central Michigan really gave me an opportunity to do everything I loved. Started out as a Field Hockey coach and after two years I was called in and they said, “Well you really probably don’t have a job here anymore because the field hockey coach is coming back she was getting her P.H.D” I go, “Well I can do something else” They go, “What else can you do?” I said, “Well what do you need done”? Because I wanted to make sure I kept my options open. They go, “Well we need an assistant basketball coach” I go, “I can do that” “…and a volleyball coach” I said, “I can do that”. I was an average at best volleyball player, I had never coached volleyball. So I quickly went to five volleyball clinics around the country to get more knowledgeable, and then totally lucked out with four players from the Michigan State Championship volleyball team just came to Central. We had open tryouts, and I was a good judge of talent I picked all four of them, and that was the beginning of my volleyball career. And really good athletes make coaches look really good. So that’s kind of how it started; it worked out very well, I had a good volleyball coaching career and I got to stay in basketball. Even after I got out of officiating I worked part time for the NCAA. Central always allowed me to do that as long as I got my work done. So there were a lot of crazy years in there where I didn’t have a lot of time off, but you know I was young and kind of crazy and I did it and wouldn’t have changed anything. Jeff it helped fully round me out as a coach, as an administrator, as a mentor, as a support person for other staff, and central let me do that, which is why I stayed that long. A lot of places would have said, ‘Can’t do this outside stuff’ but my athletic department knew and the president knew all those years. Those weren’t the years where you told everybody everything you did, because I didn’t want them to think if I was you know five minutes late for something its because I was doing outside work. Sometimes you’re just late.
Jeff: As you arrived here, you arrived at the same time coinciding with the debut of Title IX. So you’ve seen the growth and acceptance of women’s programs and student athletes over the decades. What’s it been like watching the impact of Title IX, and the growth of women’s athletics over the years?
Marcy: Jeff you know it’s interesting because anybody that’s spent any time looking at Title IX no one really knew the impact it would have on athletics. It was basically an educational amendment that any public or post-graduate or secondary school, if they received federal funds they had to make sure that educational opportunities were available for men and women. Boys and girls, men and women. Nobody thought about athletics, it was like can they get into med school, can they get into law school, can they get into engineering school where there was a ponderance of men, it was basically educational. Well then it wasn’t until really in the 80s where people started to go, ‘Wow…it’s also athletics. It’s also anything else you could think of’ any other program where the institution receives federal dollars. A school like Central Michigan certainly receives federal appropriation. So when it started it just happened to coincide with me being here, but again we didn’t even know those implications.
Jeff: Officiating has always been a part of your life as well, you were officiating before you even came to Central. So after decades of officiating, what does it mean to be the first woman to win the Gold Whistle Award back in 2008?
Marcy: Actually Jeff that was a major touch point in my life. I’ve been a member of NASO, National Association of Sports Officials, for twenty-five years. Just because it’s the only, everybody goes “Who would want to join an officials organization?” Obviously an official (laughs). It, in any sport, they have articles, they have support for every sport there is. So I was a member of that, I’ve been on their board of directors. I’ve done a lot of things with that group, and when the executive director called me and said, “You’ve been selected as the Gold Whistle Award” I mean, I’m very rarely at a loss for words, but I was. I go, “Barry.. m..me? It’s all guys.” He goes, “Yeah, well it’s not all guys anymore”. And I said, “Wow, I’m stunned, flattered, exuberant” I mean these are like final four officials, NFL officials, you know world series officials have had, you know and I go, “I’m a women’s basketball official” and they go, “Well we believe that the body of work and the things you do…”and I won’t go into details, but I said, “What could I say but thank you”. That was…that was huge for me I can’t even…I can’t even tell you how I felt, but it was exuberant.
Jeff: So looking throughout this extensive career, what would you say was the best part of your job throughout your career here at Central and what will you miss the most?
Marcy: Clearly working with student athletes. That is the most fun part of my job. I have said this part many times I would never want to work anywhere with all adults of any age; young, middle-aged, older, because I think it would be boring. Now maybe not because I try to find the positives in everything. But working with young people, student athletes in the formative years. I started out teaching in middle school, never was at the high school level where I might from middle school to get my masters and went to college. But the benefits of athletics, physical education, activity, sport, recreation, activity in and of itself is so valuable I think to the psyche, the development of boys and girls. Even if you’re not real good at it, there’s a value in the experience. Because I think the values you learn later in life from that you can’t quit when you’re losing. If you don’t like somebody on your team, you still got to play with them. If the coach yells at you or empowers you sometimes you don’t think you can do it, and you can. And there are all those opportunities in real life as well, but you can learn those from an early age in a sporting environment. So to me, working with young people in athletics gives them so many opportunities that they may not always view as an opportunity. They might view that they’re being like “unfairly challenged” or “unrealistically challenged” , but so many that endure and make it, they go, “I got through that. I got through that awful situation.” We were 0 and 12 and we won our last two games, so we finished 2 and 12. And it’s hard going the other way where you won and then lose at the end, but it’s still a lesson to be learned. And I think the value and coaches with young people is they can show them how you can get through tough situations. So working with young people has always been my joy.
Jeff: Well that’s good to hear Marcy, and you’ve been such an inspiration for so many people I wish you the best of luck in retirement and thanks again Marcy for talking with us today.
Marcy: My pleasure Jeff, thanks for the invitation.