For a dozen athletic seasons, Jody Moten has been immersed in sports: first bowling, then basketball, swimming, softball and volleyball, and now tennis.
With each sport and with each game, the 22-year-old senior has sharpened her skills. This year she has begun to win recognition for her athletic accomplishments, including a recent shower of awards from the University of the District of Columbia, which named her "Female Athlete of the Year."
Moten's other awards include the Reslyn Woodriff Henley Memorial Medal for athletic ability and scholarship (she is the second woman in 30 years to receive it). She also received a Dual Sport Varsity Award for tennis and volleyball, the Women's Tennis Outstanding Player award, the Most Valuable Player in Volleyball title and a plaque for making UDC's All-Academic Team with a 3.0 grade average.
The miniature grandfather clock on the mantel in the Moten home is now flanked by those awards and by a gold watch. The watch, given for four years of participation in volleyball at UDC, was the only award she had counted on bringing back to the comfortable home her father purchased more than 20 years ago on Ingraham Street NW in Brightwood.
All the other awards came as something of a surprise to Moten. "I was surprised because I didn't think I was going to get MVP (Most Valuable Player) in anything," Moten said.
The flurry of awards, Moten acknowledges, soothes the disappointments of other years when she did not receive the recognition she thought she deserved. The admission, though far from bitter, is one indication that there is fire beneath her usually calm exterior.
When she returns to UDC this fall, Moten will resume her role as the top-seeded female tennis player, but her athletic ambition has only recently come into focus. "I would love to be a professional athlete," Moten said, with a note of conviction that seemed to surprise her mother, Juanita Moten.
Athletics have long been the unifying theme of the closely knit Moten family that includes her parents, two sisters and two brothers.
Moten's eldest brother, John, was named to D.C.'s All-Metropolitan football team when he attended Wilson High School. Moten's younger sister, 16-year-old Yvette, is a softball enthusiast who talked Jody into joining a softball team this summer. She decided to give up time she could have devoted to tennis in order to share one last season on the diamond with Yvette.
Moten's father, John, now retired, often ends up coordinating the family's athletic activities. As a consequence, he and the house bustle with activity. But Jody Moten appears to win the family trophy for staying active. She is what her mother calls "busy, busy, busy."
At age 10, Moten began bowling in the Youth Games, which are held every summer for teams of youngsters 9 to 15 from 13 cities. She participated for four years, once leading her team to first place
Moten took up tennis seven years ago and now is on a tennis scholarship at UDC. Her heroine is Althea Gibson, who in 1951 became the first black American woman to play at Wimbledon. In 1957, Gibson took Wimbledon titles in both singles and doubles (with teammate Darlene Hard).
Sydney Hall, UDC's tennis coach, regards Moten as "a very dedicated person who has achieved a great deal since her time at the university. Jody," he said, "provides leadership and is an inspiration to the other women players."
If Moten decides to try out for the Olympics in 1984 (when tennis will be included for the first time), Hall will offer his support. He has given Moten a hard appraisal of her chances of success on the pro circuit, however. Professional and college tennis, he said, are dimensions apart.
Moten's private coach, former pro Sly Barnes, has also given her a realistic view of the pro tennis circuit. "Jody . . . has all the skills and abilities . . . to pursue that avenue if that's what she wants to do," Barnes maintained, "but it's going to require hard work and determination."
Moten easily escapes the stereotype of the athlete who has time only for sports and self-gratification. She is majoring in therapeutic recreation with the eventual aim of establishing a physical therapy clinic after her sports career is over.
"When I was younger, I wanted to be a pediatrician. I love children," Moten said. She was somewhat dismayed by the amount of education it would take to reach that goal, however.
At UDC she was introduced to recreation, and then to therapeutic recreation as an educational alternative. "I pursued it because it's something I think I'd really like to do. I'd like to work with the handicapped."
During the past school year she found time to be an assistant girls' basketball coach at Georgetown Day High School and helped to keep the statistics for several of UDC's men teams.
Despite her athletic successes, Moten is acutely aware of her academic shortcomings. She failed math and English, but says, "I was lazy and didn't apply myself." She has since made up the courses, contributing to her 3.0 grade average. She is determined to set a better example for those teammates who perceive her as a leader.
After years of competition, Moten is still seeking self-confidence.
"Maybe I need someone to really push me," she said defensively. Sly Barnes pushed her last summer. But, she says, she choked up in her matches because "I was trying so hard."
While conceding that the greatest barrier to her dream of a professional sports career may be her own "lack of discipline," Moten is ambitious. "I just don't have the confidence I need--and I know I can play."