Linda Bolan, 18, a plebe and a women's varsity basketball player for the Naval Academy, discusses the boundaries of her life.
"I can only date certain upperclassmen. I have to study at certain times. They tell me what to wear, when to wear it. The academy takes away all your basic rights and privileges and, over the course of four years, you get them back . . . slowly. I could sell Navy to a high school senior, I think. tBut I'd feel guilty if I didn't give the full picture."
Dave Smalley, who coaches Bolan and her teammates in the squad's only fourth year of existence, says, "We have a program that sells itself in totalness. Any girl with good grades, good SAT scores and is also an athlete, should think about Navy."
In the spring of 1980, Navy, for the first time, will have women among its graduates. Women now train to be officers. They learn to fly. They shoot .45-caliber pistols. And they play very organized basketball.
The team was 17-7 last year and is 11-5 this season. Smalley gained two assistant coaches to run practices, teach fundamentals and, most of all, recruit.
Smalley, who once coached the men's team at Navy, recalls, "The first year (1976), this team was all walk-ons. We had 20 girls try out, we kept 13 -- of which only six had ever played organized ball. All we did was review fundamentals over and over. We had one offense and one defense. Somehow, I'll never figure it out, we went 10-1 that year."
In four years, Navy's women's team has gone from a randomly selected club to a finely tuned machine.
"To maintain our level of success," says Smalley, "we have to beat the bushes more. Recruiting has got to be intensified."
This year, Navy recruited Colleen Cassidy, a Washington area all-Met. It was a major breakthrough. But it's only the beginning.
When it's time to recruit, Smalley is like Jack Webb. Only the facts, ma'am. "We tell them exactly how hard life can be here," says Smalley. "Here you can't be an athlete without being a student. We're not putting any courses in the curriculum so athletes can slide by."
"You have financial security after four years," Bolan says. "You know there's a career waiting for you. And while you're here, everthing is taken care of for you. You don't get paid to go to school anywhere else. He (Smalley) has lots of selling points to offset the bad points."
The bad points pile up when you're a plebe. "The first year, you're scum," says junior Bernie Boska. "You have no freedom, nothing."
"I just looked at it like it was another school," says sophomore Barbara Nester. "But it isn't just another school."
"This first year is the roughest thing I've ever been through," Bolan said.
With all the regimentation, most of these women, who could have gotten scholarships to "civilian colleges," are at peace with their choice.
"You always dream about another school . . . a civilian one," Boska said. But I don't think I'd get what I've gotten here."
Bolan, who says she cried every night during her first two weeks at the Academy, smiles as she imagines college basketball elsewhere. Then she finches. "I'd stay here no matter what other school offers me a scholarship. Basketball was a major factor in my coming to Navy but there's so much more offered here."
Nester, from Severna Park, Md., knows all about regular college life. "I have a friend who plays volleyball for Maryland. We talk all the time. She just got married. I guess while she's married to a person, I'm married to the Naval Academy."
Nester doesn't regret her marriage. "No regrets. Absolutely not."
Of all the people in the Navy women's basketball family, Smalley has the fewest regrets.
"During the first year, I used to ask myself, 'What am I doing here'?" Smalley says. "But now I enjoy it so much more. It's made me a much better coach. You concentrate on coaching without all the pressures of big-time college ball. Of course, it's getting more like the big time every day."
"Basketball, in fact all sports at Nvy, will always be different," says Nester. "The whole idea of the school, the regimentation and discipline, carries over to the basketball team. I can't pinpoint exactly why we win but it involves the overall way of life here. I got a scholarship offer at South Carolina for volleyball. I'd have gone, but I wouldn't have learned a thing."