It’s hard for Seneca girls basketball coach Kim Redman to imagine her life without playing high school basketball, but that almost happened.
If Redman had been just four years older, she would never have had the opportunity to play interscholastic high school basketball for the Seneca Indians. There was no Seneca girls basketball team until her freshmen year in high school.
Girls athletics came into their own in the late seventies after a federal law known as Title Nine took effect. The law mandated schools across the nation provide equal opportunities for women to participate in sports. Until then, interscholastic sports in public schools had been an almost entirely male-dominated activity. Ironically, many years ago, there had been some women’s interscholastic sports teams in high schools, but over time they had largely ceased to exist.
Things changed in the 1975-76 season at Seneca and many other schools. Freshman high school student Kim Greene, as she was known then, was ready for it.
The sports-minded youngster went out for the first Seneca Indian girls basketball team and made the varsity squad as a freshman. Basketball was, and continues to be, a passion for Redman. In her high school career, she scored 1,303 points. That’s a school record that stands to this day.
What was it like playing on Seneca High School’s very first girls basketball team?
Redman laughed to remember those days 37 years ago.
“Well, we won conference all four years,” she recalled. She also remembered the Indians making it to the sectional final in her junior year, one game away from the state tournament, only to lose to West Salem.
While Redman was definitely pleased to see the interscholastic girls athletic program start in 1975, it was entirely a surprise.
“We saw it coming,” Redman said. “There were already lots of intramural programs.”
Redman doesn’t recall resentment or animosity from any of the male athletes at the school when the girls team was formed.
“I think the guys looked forward to seeing the girls play and we went to follow the guys playing,” Redman said.
The only issue for the teams was sharing gym time for practices because there was, and is, only one gym at the school.
The coach of that first Seneca girls basketball team was Marsha Chestelson, a young teacher who grew up in Gays Mills and attended UW-LaCrosse, where she received a bachelor’s degree in phy ed.
Chestelson, who was only eight years older than Redman, did not have the opportunity to play on a basketball team in high school. Enjoying basketball to her meant watching her brother Rusty Hagar and her future husband Sig Chestelson play. Marsha stayed active skating, skiing and riding horses.
However, Chestelson turned into a very successful basketball coach, when given the opportunity at Seneca. She credits a lot of her success to having good athletes with positive attitudes.
“Kim was a great athlete,” Chestelson recalled.
Although Chestelson didn’t get a chance to compete on a team in high school, she sees it as an important opportunity for girls these days.
“It’s a neat thing for girls to be able to focus on sports,” Chestelson explained. “It helps them to become well-rounded students. That focus carries through in life. It’s good for all kids, but I think it’s especially important for girls. It gives them that edge and makes them confident. They realize that if they can do it on the court, they can do it other places.”
Redman, like Chestelson, attended UW-LaCrosse getting a degree in phy ed, health and mathematics. In her first job, she taught at Highland High School and also coached the varsity basketball team.
In 1986, she was hired part-time at Seneca and the job soon turned into a full-time position, as she started teaching math. Redman was the junior varsity girls basketball coach and then became the head volleyball coach. She later coached junior high girls basketball.
“I stopped coaching to raise my kids,” she recalled “It was too much with raising the kids.”
Redman and her husband have two boys and a girl.
Well, her children grew up. Kim’s daughter Taylor Redman is now a freshman guard, who plays on the Seneca girls varsity team. The Redman boys have played sports at Seneca and left for college.
Meanwhile, something happened to the Seneca girls basketball team in 2002 and 2003. Frankly, it disintegrated. Girls became unhappy with the program and some quit the team. Redman stepped forward to coach the team in 2003-04 and the school only had a junior varsity team. With some upper classmen playing at the junior varsity level, the team managed an 11-7 record. When the team returned to varsity play in the 2004-05 season, they won only three or four games, according to Redman. Not only that, there wasn’t a junior varsity team.
Undeterred, Redman began to build a program that’s turned into a huge success. Five years later, the Seneca girls basketball team won the 2009-10 Ridge and Valley Conference Championship. Then, they won it again in 2010-11 and it really doesn't appear any other team will challenge them for the three-peat this year.
How good is the current Seneca Indian team coached by Kim Redman?
Well, they’re undefeated this season with a 12-0 record and they’ve only lost two games in the past two seasons. In 2010, they lost the regional final to Potosi and in 2011, they lost the sectional semifinal to River Ridge. Their record for the past two-and-a half seasons is an astonishing 59-2. This is from the same school that could not field a varsity team six years ago.
Seneca School District Administrator Dave Boland praises the work Redman has done as the girls basketball coach and athletic director.
“Kim Redman took over the program when there basically was no program,” Boland said.
Boland is the longtime Seneca boys basketball coach and his daughter Kalli Boland is an all-conference senior forward on the girls team.
“Kim worked up from the bottom with this team,” Boland said. “She has been very successful starting with a program at the lowest level and working up. Now, we have a consistent program doing well at both the varsity and junior varsity level.”
Like Redman and Chestelson, Boland sees a great value in girls athletics. He recalled, like the women coaches, the program beginning in the late seventies.
“It’s not really a long time since women did not have a chance to participate in athletics at school,” Boland noted. “Women’s athletics have come a long way in a short period of time. It’s a very positive thing.”
If coaching a basketball team, teaching and raising a family aren’t enough, Redman became the school’s athletic director in 2007. She is currently the only woman athletic director in the Ridge and Valley Conference.
“Being the athletic director is a very tough and demanding job,” Boland noted.
Redman said she took on the athletic director position “by default because no one else wanted to do it.”
What would Kim Redman’s life be like if there hadn’t been a high school girls athletic program?
“I guess I never thought about it that way,” Redman replied. “I grew up in a neighborhood with the boys playing football and basketball. I suppose I would’ve tried to play boys basketball. I just love the sport. What would my life be like? It would be different, that’s for sure.”
Perhaps Kim Redman, star high school basketball player, highly successful basketball coach and respected school athletic director, makes the best case for the women’s athletic programs created in the late seventies by a federal law called Title Nine. As it turns out, it probably would’ve been different for lots of people, if Kim Redman had never played high school basketball.