Madeira Amazons: Former female athletes don't want school district to change teams' nickname

MADEIRA, Ohio – Danielle Lydon, Brenda Collins and Janice Bushelman are Amazons forever and proud of it.

The former Madeira High School athletes are upset that the school district wants to change their nickname – one that male athletes once used to insult them, but that legendary coach Nadine Wilson adopted to inspire them.

The girls nickname started 40 years ago when the boys basketball team – Madeira boys teams are called the Mustangs - trashed the girls locker room and spray painted the words "Amazon Women" throughout.

Lydon, a former basketball player, and her two sisters wore that nickname with pride, and not just because Wilson’s teams were winners.

Wilson was the winningest girls high school coach in America, according to a Sports Illustrated article in 1982. At the time, her lifetime record was 1,385 wins and 57 losses in basketball, volleyball, softball, track, field hockey and golf at Madeira and Northeast High School in Oklahoma.

"It made us want to have our daughters play sports, too, so that they could learn how to be strong, independent," Lydon said.

Now Lydon and others are concerned the name is going away.

"When we were attending my son's basketball game, my daughter looked up and said, 'Mom, your banner's gone,’ " Lydon said.

Madeira's superintendent explained that the school district is going through a rebranding.

"We think it's important that the messaging and communications and those types of things are consistent," superintendent Steve Kramer said.

Lydon’s daughter says Amazons should stay. It’s about values, Sara Hutcherson said.

 "I'm proud of the legacy at Madeira and I think they should keep the name because few schools have two different mascots," Hutcherson said.

"A legacy that other schools could only hope to have," Lydon said.

Collins, a 1971 graduate who calls herself  “an original Madeira Amazon,” said the nickname not only represents a tradition of winning and good sportsmanship – it represents the struggle to gain equal treatment with boys teams.

“I am sure it is difficult for many current women athletes at Madeira to understand what it meant to be a woman athlete prior to Title IX. Here is a quick recap of the history before Title IX:

"We did not have equal practice time with the male athletes. In fact, we were lucky to get practice time at all.

"Equipment was second hand, and what uniforms?

"Very limited schedule for games.

"Women were not encouraged to participate in athletics.

"Many of the girls in elementary or junior high who wanted to play basketball had to get up on a Saturday and play in the small gym at the elementary school.

"The young men of the time … made fun of the women athletes, and felt compelled to put disparaging names and paraphernalia in the women’s locker room.

“Wilson, in her wisdom, told us instead of being angry and mad to embrace the term and use it to win, win, win. You know, we did. 

“More importantly, Amazons has come to mean participating in competition with your head held high. Whether you win or lose, you do so with grace. Always try hard and never, ever give up."

And it represents Wilson's legacy, Collins said. Wilson died in 2010.

“It has inspired many former Amazon athletes to achieve beyond what they could imagine. And if anything, Nadine taught us that we can be what we imagine," Collins said.

“You can’t rebrand that type of tradition. Why would you want to?”

Bushelman, class of ’75, called Amazons “an outstanding, positive term for a powerful team. 

“I am and will always be proud to be called an Amazon and will until the day I die, whether they drop the name or not,” Bushelman said.

RELATED:  Wilson's obituary, coaching achievements

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