When Billie Navojosky went up for a layup at one-hundred year old Mather Gym in the late 60's and early 70s, she wasn't thinking about her opponent fast approaching from behind or kissing the ball off the top of the painted block on the backboard. Navojosky was thinking about her foot work, and not in basketball terms.
"The basket in Mather Gym was right at the end against the wall and you had to kick off it when you did a layup," laughed Navojosky. "With all the physical obstacles, it was like playing gladiator or bumper ball. It wasn't until my senior year that we were able to move over to Adelbert Gymnasium and actually play a couple of our games there. That was a big deal."
Real Mather uniforms, unlike the men's soccer or field hockey uniforms Navojosky and her teammates had to don, will be on the modern day Case Western Reserve University women's team this weekend as part of the Athletic Department's third annual Throwback Weekend. The Spartans face Washington University Friday night at 6 p.m. and the University of Chicago on Sunday at 2 p.m. in historic Adelbert Gymnasium.
Navojosky was a three-sport athlete for Mather College, playing basketball, volleyball and tennis. The team captain received the Emily Andrews and the Dorothy L. Hoza Awards for outstanding leadership and athleticism. In her final season, which was the first as a varsity team for Case Western Reserve, the Spartans finished 5-4. This year's women's basketball team has a 25-game schedule.
"Women played sports back then for the sake of playing sports," said Navojosky, who grew up in Leetonia, Ohio [near Youngstown]. "You didn't play for the glory and you didn't play for the notoriety. You played because it was something you really liked to do and going to Case, you spent so much time studying and in the labs, it was a nice physical and healthy outlet."
Every athlete has a favorite moment or two in their career. For Navojosky, it was her sophomore year when they played at Kent State University in front of a large crowd.
"We went out on the court and a few Kent players were making fun of our uniforms," explained Navojosky. "Not having official uniforms at the time, we were forced to wear field hockey skirts [kilts], but we played our hearts out and proved to them winning wasn't everything."
Navojosky certainly has a big heart. After receiving her undergraduate degree in psychology [premed] from Mather in 1972, she earned a master's in psychology from Cleveland State University in 1977 and a Ph.D. in psychology and early childhood development from Kent State University in 1990. All along, Navojosky has dedicated her life to working with families of young children in crises, including speaking and training people around the country on how to work with families in turning very challenging and serious situations around.
"I spent 32 years doing it," Navojosky said. "My sophomore year we visited a place at the time called Apple Creek Mental Institution. I saw kids with severe problems that parents turned over to the state because they struggled with how to deal with them. That was the turning point for me. I thought there has to be something I can do by working with families."
Navojosky did a little coaching and a lot of refereeing during her post-playing career. She was an assistant basketball coach at Cleveland State in 1976 and 1977 and a softball coach at the school in 1977. Navojosky was also a collegiate official for over 25 years.
As a chairman of the Flora Stone Mather College physical education department for over twenty years [1936-1957], Emily Andrews instituted and promoted many innovative programs. She was one of the creators of the field of Danish Gymnastics and Body Mechanics and was key in creating the recreational program at Squire Valleevue Farm establishing the tradition of various student activities at that site. She founded the modern dance program and served as an important part of Case Western Reserve's Theater Department. The Athletic Department currently hands out an award, which was established in 1958, in her name to the outstanding senior female student-athlete.
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