And work she has! After 41 years of teaching physical education, including 18 years of coaching womens' athletics, the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) has awarded Patricia "Pat" Hicks with the 2008 Service Award for her significant contribution to college athletics on a national level for an extended period of time. Pat is one of four people to receive this award from across the United States.
"Many people don't realize the impact that Pat has made in support of women athletes," says Anoka-Ramsey President, Dr. Patrick M. Johns. "She was a pioneer. She came here to start the programs, coach the sports, and took a leading role within Minnesota's women's athletics. We are proud to have her here!"
Drive from within
Hicks began her career in women's athletics as a four-sport athlete at the University of Northern Colorado (formerly Colorado State College) in the mid-1960's. She excelled in volleyball, basketball, fastpitch softball and field hockey during all four years of college.
Her first teaching position was in a high school in Colorado but only lasted three years since the school refused to allow girls' athletic programs.
"Back then girls did not have the opportunity to play competitively in high schools or two-year colleges," Hicks explains "It was more like, let's get a group together, toss a ball around and have cookies and punch afterwards."
After leaving the high school, Hicks' first collegiate position was at Iowa State University in 1970 as a physical education instructor and head womens' volleyball and field hockey coach. She also started and served as head coach of the womens' fastpitch softball team. That same year she was awarded the National Softball Coach of the Year.
In 1973, Pat moved to Minnesota, accepted a faculty position at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, and started the womens' volleyball, basketball and softball programs, including serving as head coach for all three.
"I was lucky to have a unique team that first year because several players came from a local slowpitch softball team: The Anoka Spooks," Hicks says. "Although they didn't know anything about fastpitch. I would tell base runners to steal and they would just look around and ask, 'steal what?'"
Leading the way
Hicks quickly became a leader at the college and among her peer coaches in Minnesota. She served as the Anoka-Ramsey Community College's womens' athletic director during much of the 1970's and 80's. She became the founding president of the Minnesota Community College Womens' Athletic Association in 1974. Her accolades include being selected to the Minnesota Community College Coaches and Players Hall of Fame and receiving the NJCAA Region 13 Service and Excellence in Teaching award. Highlights from her coaching years include shutout seasons, numerous state championships, a trip to four-year university playoffs and the two-year national playoff for volleyball.
"Athletics at Anoka-Ramsey offer a great opportunity because players get real playing time, not bench time. I truly enjoyed seeing these kids come into the program without a clue, watching them grow into athletes, and go on to do whatever they wanted to do in their life. Many of them are now teachers themselves, and involved in coaching. It seems to have made a big circle."
Hicks' coaching career came to a close in 1992 when she chose to spend more time watching her daughter, Trisha, compete in high school volleyball and rodeo. However, she remained involved in womens' athletics as a player, participating in volleyball, placing second in the nation in the Senior Olympics in 2001, and softball, playing third base for the Spooks.
"I never got sick of it," she explains. "It was my life!"
Rotator cuff surgery in 2002 brought Hicks' playing career to an end. Today she continues to advocate and support college athletics through teaching physical education at Anoka-Ramsey. She plans to retire this spring to help care for her grandchildren but will continue teaching part time.
Lifetime of athletics
Hicks says that she has learned a few things from participating in athletics, including how to maintain an optimistic attitude.
"I've learned not to take any single thing too seriously because there will be ups and downs," she says. "I've also found that the camaraderie is more important than the win-loss record."
To keep the camaraderie alive for Hicks and her players, she is planning an open house reunion, June 14, at her home and invites past athletes who played for her to contact her at 763-753-1127 or email.
Anoka-Ramsey Community College offer collegiate level womens' volleyball and basketball, and mens' basketball and baseball. For more information about athletics at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, visit www.AnokaRamsey.edu or call 764-433-1100.