Commentary

Tina Sloan Green, passionate pioneer

Updated: February 3, 2010, 6:34 PM ET
By Donald Hunt

When you think about the real trailblazers for black women in sports, Tina Sloan Green is at the top of the list. Sloan Green is the first black head coach in women's college lacrosse history.

She was the head coach of the Temple women's lacrosse program from 1975 to 1992. Like many African-Americans who were opening doors and breaking ground for people of color, Sloan Green not only wanted to get her foot in the door -- she wanted to be successful.

In 1982, Sloan Green won her first national crown, leading Temple to the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) title. Two years later, she won her first of three NCAA championships. Her best season, however, came in 1988, when she carried the Owls to a 19-0 record, capped off with a huge win over Penn State for the NCAA crown.

"It's really tough to win a national championship. Everything has to fit into place at the right time," said Sloan Green. Winning it three times? "Well, that's really something," she laughed.

Sloan Green put Temple on the national map as the premier team in women's college lacrosse. She compiled an impressive 207-62-4 record, retiring after 18 seasons on North Broad Street. Needless to say, she was successful and more.

"When I came to Temple, they were re-emphasizing sports and Title IX was in the forefront," said Sloan Green, who also coached field hockey at Temple. "When I got there, lacrosse and field hockey were at a club level. I had to go around to the sororities and beg girls to come out and play. The program started to turn around after I got a few scholarships."

With a good support system, Sloan Green was able to find women with the same drive and determination she prided herself on. "When I go into something," she explained, "I want to be the best. I try to produce excellence."

Excellence was never a very foreign concept for Sloan Green. She grew up in the Eastwick section of Philadelphia and graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls, an educational institution that was -- and still is -- one of the best high schools in the city. Girls High is where Sloan Green first started playing field hockey, and she was a terrific player.

After a fine scholastic career, she decided to go to West Chester State College, now known as West Chester University. It was the first time she was given the opportunity to add lacrosse to her athletic repertoire. And in the mid-1960s, she was one of only a handful of black women playing the sport.

"For me to play against somebody black was rare. I remember Eloise Coker. She went to Temple. She was a year ahead of me. Kitty Cox played for Queens College in New York. I remember hearing about her too."

Sloan Green is a big part of black history, a real pioneer for African-American women in sports. With that label comes a lot of responsibility, but she was able to handle the situation without putting too much pressure on herself.

"I was young. I was out there having fun," Sloan Green explains. "But you know, reflecting on it at times, it was lonely … Sometimes you're misunderstood as a pioneer.

"When you're the first, there's a sense of pride. You know that if you mess up it's going to be bad for everybody coming behind you. You have to represent."

After graduating from West Chester University, Sloan Green made the U.S. women's field hockey team. In 1969, she became the first African-American named to the national women's lacrosse team. She played on the touring team for four years. During those years, she also taught physical education and coached field hockey and basketball on the scholastic level.

In 1973, she became the head basketball and cheerleading coach at Lincoln University, a historically black college in Chester County on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Sloan Green was able to gain some valuable experience coaching at the collegiate level.

"It was great for me," Sloan Green said. "Lincoln is a great HBCU with a lot of history. I remember working for Manny Rivero and Robert Gardner. They were in the athletic administration. I coached basketball and cheerleading, but they allowed me to develop a lacrosse program. That served as a good foundation for me."

When you talk about foundations, Sloan Green has quite the legacy. As a longtime colleague of Sloan Green, Nikki Franke, Temple's head fencing coach, is quite familiar with her stellar coaching exploits. Moreover, Franke has admired her work in the Black Women in Sport Foundation. Sloan Green is a co-founder and president of the nonprofit organization, her involvement stemming back to 1992. The organization encourages black women and girls to participate in all areas of sports including playing, coaching and administration.

The foundation even put together a video narrated by Robin Roberts, host of ABC's "Good Morning America." The documentary highlights the achievements of Althea Gibson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Wilma Rudolph, among others.

"Tina is a unique individual," said Franke, who is in her 38th season as the Owls' head fencing coach. "She had some great lacrosse teams at Temple … [and is] very committed to helping others and producing opportunities for women of color in sports. She's done a great job with the Black Women in Sport Foundation. She's helped to open the doors for other people."

Sports have been a big part of Sloan Green's family life as well. Her husband, Frank Green, has been involved with youth tennis programs in Philly for many years. He hosted Richard Williams and his daughters Venus and Serena at the Arthur Ashe Center before they became major stars in 1993.

Frank and Tina have two children, Traci and Frank Jr. Both kids were magnificent tennis players. Frank played tennis at Florida A&M and in 2006, received Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors. Now he coaches tennis at the Upper Dublin Sports Center in suburban Philadelphia.

Traci was an All-American tennis player at the University of Florida. She is now the head women's tennis coach at Harvard. She took over the Crimson program in 2007, and led Harvard to a 13-8 overall mark and a 6-1 Ivy League record in her second season. She also helped the Crimson win their 18th league championship.

"I'm really thankful to have both my parents guiding me throughout my childhood and leading me in the right direction," Traci said. "They always provided a healthy balance of education and athletics. They really helped me realize the value sports can play in the life of a young person."

The impact of Sloan Green's talents hasn't gone unnoticed. She has been inducted into the Temple and West Chester University halls of fame, along with the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Last year, she was also presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators.

"I've been around some great people in my life," Sloan Green said. "It's nice that people recognize what you do. I'm just happy to be alive and able to appreciate it."