Legendary Spectator

Georgene BrockGeorgene Brock, who pioneered women’s athletics at Minnesota State Mankato, is still enjoying her seat in the stands.

You can’t sense the height of Georgene Brock’s accomplishments by the tone of her voice. You certainly won’t hear her take credit for her unrivaled level of achievement. Instead, the soft-spoken grandmother of women’s athletics at Minnesota State Mankato would rather muse about the impetus of these achievements—the student-athletes whose futures drove her to great heights.

But none of this means that Brock’s story shouldn’t be told. In fact, as long as women at Minnesota State Mankato continue to achieve athletically, what Brock was able to do for them during her 34-year career at this University should be told repeatedly.

“Our University has always been on the cutting edge in terms of women’s athletics,” says Paul Allan, the associate athletic director, communications at Minnesota State Mankato. “Legend, icon—these aren’t words I just throw around—but in the truest sense of those words, that’s what she is.”

Brock came to Mankato in 1964 from Tempe, Ariz., as a teacher. After stints coaching women’s bowling, volleyball and tennis, she became the school’s first director of women’s athletics. Today, as she speaks nostalgically about the humble beginnings of the women’s program, she points out several not-so-subtle differences between women’s athletics then and now.

“It started in the intramural programs, then we went to extramural programs,” Brock explains. “Gradually, the state got organized and started adding organized teams. The coaches who started the teams were just volunteers at the time. There wasn’t any money to pay anybody. I went to a volleyball workshop run by the Olympic organization and I came back and started the team. Then I started the tennis team because I played tennis in high school and college, and I started the bowling team because the men’s coach thought maybe we could start something for the women. The first league was postal—everyone mailed their results to me, and I decided who won because we didn’t have money for travel.”

Coach Georgene Brock with the 1978-79 Volleyball team

Georgene Brock with the Volleyball Team she coached in 1978-79

From those humble beginnings, Brock pioneered a program that grew to include 12 intercollegiate women’s sports by the time of her retirement in 1998. Together, those programs helped the University earn seven North Central Conference women’s All-Sports Trophies, rewarding overall competitive excellence, during 12 years of conference membership under Brock.

Brock, true to her constant and insatiable thirst to see the women’s program thrive, still attends as many events as she can get to.

“I follow them in the paper and go to volleyball and basketball,” Brock explains. “I’m not able to go to softball because I have a bad back. Whatever I can attend, I do. I tune in on the radio and Internet as well. The skill of the athletes and the acceptance of female athletes is so great to see.”

Those who worked closely with Brock remember that her care for individual student-athletes drove her to do what she did. She wanted Minnesota State Mankato students to have not only the chance to compete during college but also the opportunity to use the skills they learned as athletes to become better teammates after graduation as well.

“The opportunity to work with so many people in the area who were eager to offer opportunities for women to compete was really wonderful,” Brock says. “And it’s always great to hear from athletes who are doing well after school. People like to hire college athletes because they’ve worked with people and are used to being on a team.”

“For her, it was always about the student-athletes,” Allan adds. “Men and women both. She’s not one to take credit, but she was an ardent champion of student-athletes behind the scenes. It was always about doing what’s right for those athletes. That will forever be her legacy.”

For some, success in athletic administration would be starting a team. Brock started 12. For others, it might be earning membership into a hall of fame. Brock is in four.

The accolades she’s received are countless, but Georgene Brock’s success should instead be measured more plainly—by the simple fact that whenever she can, she’s able to take in a women’s athletic event at Minnesota State Mankato.

“It’s wonderful to see,” she says.  “It’s extraordinary what women can do and what they gain for being a part of that program.”