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Xavier Prep's Sister Lynn: There's still work to be done - FlagSpin

Xavier Prep’s Sister Lynn: There’s still work to be done

Sister Lynn Winsor (far left) celebrates one of her national record 37 golf titles during her 47-year career. Photo by Mark Jones/maxpreps.

Sister Lynn Winsor returned to her alma mater in 1974 as a physical education instructor and coach.

In return, she opened the doors of opportunity for high school female athletes.

Coincidently, she did so as Title IX, the landmark federal civil rights law, and her evolved.

Title IX turns 50 next year. To commemorate the golden anniversary of the law, will feature throughout the 2021-22 school year Arizona high school sports trailblazers from past and present. Up first is Sister Lynn, Xavier College Preparatory’s beloved athletic director and legendary golf coach who recently received the Title IX Trailblazer of the Year for Arizona by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Now in her 47th year at the all-girl private Phoenix high school, there’s no stopping Sister Lynn. The pandemic decreased activity for athletes but didn’t keep Xavier’s AD from boosting morale and advancing the participation of girls in athletics.

With some of Xavier’s student athletes attending school online during the last school year, Sister Lynn requested fewer roster cuts from her programs during this school year.

“We have to get kids involved,” she said. “They’ve been at home. The more involved the more friends they make and more leadership skills they develop. And the more we can empower young women the more they can use that for the rest of their lives. It’s something that we emphasize.”

Getting involved is in Sister Lynn’s nature, a trait her mom Gerry, who held a PhD in social work, instilled in her daughter.

Sister Lynn grew up a baseball fan and called plays during her softball days as a catcher, but her calling was elsewhere. The extrovert listened to her inner voice and wound up entering the convent in 1967, she said.

She did so after graduating from Arizona State, where she tutored ASU athletes, including Olympic gold medalist Ulis Williams, and finishing her tour with the City of Phoenix Parks and Rec department. Her grandmother bet Sister Lynn $400 that she’d leave the convent after a couple of months.

Sister Lynn doesn’t lose often. But winning the bet (She wasn’t allowed to take money to the convent.) wasn’t her motivation.

“Caring for others,” said Sister Lynn, who belongs to the religious order The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “That’s what coaches and athletic directors do. It blends so easy. That’s the inspiration every day. I pray to the good Lord that I can help and empower other people. Service. That’s what it’s all about. The love for Christ and God manifests in how you serve others.”

The order empowered her to pursue her sports ambitions, advocating for gender equity at the athletic and administrative levels while becoming a golf coaching giant in the process.

Armed with a masters in physical education from the University of Iowa, an abundance of energy and gentle persuasiveness, Sister Lynn launched her Arizona high school career at the campus that’s within walking distance of where she was raised, Xavier Prep. In 1974, the school only offered basketball, golf, softball, the sports Sister Lynn first started coaching, and archery.

Golf wasn’t in her wheelhouse at first. An ASU roommate helped pique Sister Lynn’s interest in the sport first and it expanded when she took a golf class at ASU and played with classmates in Iowa.

At Xavier, Sister Lynn also surrounded herself with top-flight assistants, former Xavier English teacher Olivia Benson and now one of the best golfers and teachers in the state, Tui Selvaratnam, Xavier’s associate AD. Xavier golf reached more greener pastures when former pro and National High School Hall of Famer Heather Farr enrolled at Xavier in the late 1970s. With the leadership and players in place, Xavier became the most dominant high school girls golf program in the nation.

It’s won a national record 37 team titles so far and reeled off 16 in a row at one point, a national high school record for girls golf also. Titles aside, Sister Lynn helped lay the groundwork for the Arizona Interscholastic Association to adopt more sports for girls and fought for equal financial backing for female programs as well.

She did so while being a founding member of the AIA’s Girls Equity and Sports Committee and the Arizona Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

“Sister Lynn is a true pioneer, a leader in women’s equity in sports,” said AIA assistant associate director Joe Paddock, who served with Sister Lynn when the Girls Equity and Sports Committee was formed. “Her leadership and contributions, especially with the AIA’s Equity Committee, is unparalleled not just here in Arizona, but across the nation.”

Sister Lynn hasn’t done it alone.

Men such as Paddock and more female trailblazers also worked alongside Sister Lynn to help Arizona become a leader in championing female high school athletics. Xavier’s beach volleyball coach Tim McHale and Sister Lynn got the ball rolling in allowing the Grand Canyon state to become the first state to offer beach volleyball, which saw 86 AIA teams participate last year with more on the way.

She also helped girls soccer get off the ground, becoming an official AIA sport in 1990. On the administrative side, Sister Lynn was joined by a group of female administrators who barnstormed the state, ensuring equal backing for female athletes. They affectionately called themselves the AWADAs, the Arizona Women Athletic Directors Association. That group of groundbreakers included Sheila Baize (Tucson Unified), Wendy Blair (Glendale Union), Sheryl Ingram (Tolleson Union) and Cindy McMannon (AIA).

At Xavier, Sister Lynn also belongs to the Ninjas, another group of ladies you don’t want to mess with. We’re kidding.

But Sister Lynn, athletic supervisor Sue Contreras, athletic secretary Ronna Layne and Selvaratnam—AKA the Ninjas, according to Xavier’s student body—manage the state’s preeminent program for girls in the Arizona. Sister Joan Fitzgerald, Xavier’s president, has also worked tirelessly to push forward the plans Sister Lynn presents.

‘The Xavier Prep Ninjas’: (L-R) Sister Lynn Winsor, Tui Selvaratnam, Susan Contreras and Ronna Layne. Photo courtesy of Xavier Prep. Xavier Prep now offers 12 AIA sports, a handful of activities and other club-type sports such as crew, lacrosse, shooting club, archery and mountain biking.

“Girls want to belong,” Sister Lynn said. “They want to be part of something and become leaders. That was my mission. But from the very beginning I’ve always had a group of people show a lot of great support.

“Oh my goodness. How things have changed.”

There’s been a lot of success stories but also heartbreaking losses off campus that still affect Sister Lynn.

Former Xavier Prep athletes Farr, Emily Ell and Kylie Rodgers died at a young age. Farr fought cancer courageously.

Ell, who kept practicing until eventually making Xavier’s golf team, died on prom night in 1999 after a drunk driver crashed into the car she was in. Rodgers, a 2019 softball alum, also fought cancer valiantly.

Sister Lynn, Xavier Prep’s community and loved ones relied on each other for comfort and strength.

“When you lose a child there is nothing more tragic or traumatic, but we do help each other,” Sister Lynn said. “We rallied around the Ells, the Farrs and the Rodgers.”

Sister Lynn, the longest serving AD in the state, isn’t done watching over her students, their families and programs.

The mental health of athletes, a topic professional athletes are bringing to the forefront, opioid use, hazing, transgender athletes, equity, diversity, and competing during the pandemic are some of the issues Sister Lynn is working on. She’s still pushing for more avenues to compete for girls—flag football, e-sports being two of the biggest options.

“I still enjoy working with the students, especially young women,” said the 78 year old about being a coach and athletic director. “I can’t anticipate retiring.

“As long as I enjoy it and I am able to do things for other people, I will continue coaching and being an athletic director. I love my job, working with student athletes and coaches, and serving on committees locally and nationally to advance girls sports.”

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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