When I graduated from an all-boys high school in Silver Spring in 1968, school spirit was at all-time low.
My sport was tennis, and my classmates would rather have conjugated a Latin verb than cheer for us. Even the winless football team drew more support.
I missed out on the 'rah'-rah spirit, which became passe during the anti-establishment, Vietnam War years.
A few months ago, I noticed a small crowd filtering into the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School gymnasium and decided to find out what was happening. A basketball game was in progress, involving the B-CC girls team led by 5-foot-7 Ann Lawrence, who recently received a basketball scholarship to George Washington U.
In addition to her basketball talents, Lawrence ran the third leg of a good two-mile relay team, ran the 200-meter hurdles, threw the discus and played on the school's volleyball and softball teams.
Lawrence is a thoughful, mature teen-ager. Her coach, Kerry Ward, says Ann "combines hard-nosed toughness and intensity. She plays sports for sheer pleasure as much as for winning. She loses herself in physical expression."
Lawrence says she has no heroes, but she has been inspired by Ward.
"I never thought that he could get so much respect from everyone. He watches basketball and goes to games. He puts so much time into helping us. He really got everyone involved. Right now, he's working on plays for next year," the 17-year-old Lawrence says.
Ann says the school's perception of girls as athletes has changed tremendously in the past few years.
"Girl pocks were frowned upon when I was in 10th grade," she says, "but 35 girsl are on the track team now.
The girsl raised money for their basketball team by charging admission to their games. Some scoffed at the idea, but by the end of the season, the gym was half full. Also, a marathon was organized in which each team member took turns dribbling a basketball around the track.
"We went for 12 hours and got about $500," says Lawrence. "With that money we bought uniforms, basketballs and other equipment."
Of sports, she says: "Some kids hate to practice. They don't like to run. The only time they run all out is in a meet. But you've got to work hard to get good.
Like many teen-agers, Ann is trying to discover who she is. She knows abosolutely what she is not.
"A lot of people in school think of me as just a big jock. If they know me, they don't think that way. I don't walk around school in Adidas, a T-shirt and gym shorts, like some girls."