BANGOR and BRIDGTON—The Maine Basketball Hall of Fame honored its most recent class of inductees this past Sunday, Aug. 18, and among the now-immortalized names sits one everybody in the Sebago Lake region would be better for knowing: Linda Whitney.

Whitney graduated from Bridgton High School in 1961 (at the time, her name was Linda Weeman). She played basketball for the school, of course.

“We played three-on-a-side,” she says. “So we had three offensive players, with a maximum dribble of two dribbles. And you had three defensive players. And you could only go to half-court; you were designated in the offensive half, or the defensive half.”

Bridgton and Casco High Schools, Whitney recounts, along with the towns of Sebago and Naples, combined in the late ‘60s to form Lake Region High School, which opened in ’69.

Whitney moved on from Bridgton High to the University of Maine Orono. When she arrived, women’s basketball there was still nascent.

“They just had a club team, and that was the first year they allowed you to have two people that roved. So you could actually end up playing four-on-four, and two of those people could travel the whole floor.”

Soon, Whitney found her tenure at UMO interrupted by love.

“I went to Maine for a year. And then I worked while my husband attended the University of Connecticut, and when he finished his undergraduate, I went back.” (Whitney’s husband’s name is Ken.)

Whitney graduated as a UConn Husky in January of ’69. She studied at the school of education while there, with a major in physical education, health and recreation.

“At Connecticut, they again had a club team, and we played with two rovers. Because I graduated in January, I did not play on the club team at UConn in ‘69. That was the first year that they were going to allow us to go five-on-five.”

She taught a semester at Brown University for a professor on sabbatical that spring. After that, she dove into teaching girls phys. ed. and coaching girls basketball at sparkling-new LRHS.

“In the fall, when I started at Lake Region, that was the first year that girls were allowed to play five-on-five.”

Whitney taught from ’69-’92, but continued coaching through 2001. After that, she dabbled in assistant-coaching, and for the past couple years has been volunteering with the field hockey program.

“We won several League championships,” she says of her time as girls basketball coach. “We were State Champions in the Class B Division in the first year they ever had the tournament for girls in 1975. We were runner-up two years after that. We had good success – won over 300 games.”

But Whitney didn’t just coach varsity and JV basketball. She coached field hockey, too – her accomplishments there are similarly nothing to sneeze at – as well as cheerleading, track and softball in the spring and tennis.

“We had three State Championships,” she said of her days at the helm of the field hockey team, “and some runners-up.”

Whitney is quick to spread credit around. (The best coaches and athletes always are.) “[The Hall of Fame is] recognizing me, but it’s indicative of some great athletes, some great kids, some great parents, some great assistant coaches, the school being supportive. It was a great school to work at.”

Lake Region turned out to be such a supportive environment, Whitney met little resistance as she worked to even the proverbial playing field for girls’ sports.

“When I came to Lake Region in 1969, there was no Title IX,” she says. “Back then, the boys’ programs were the premier programs. They had the best fields, the best practice times, the best uniforms. They played a full schedule.”

Whitney eagerly names the names of allies, again doling credit out unselfishly. “Diane Perkins from Sacopee Valley was really instrumental in fighting for girls programs and girls, as were a number of people in Portland – Shirley Jones, Jackie Perry, Lucy Bogdanovich, Faith Littlefield at Bonny Eagle.”

The list doesn’t stop there, of course, but the point is: “You had to stand up and say, ‘If you’re doing this for the boys, then we need to do it for the girls.’”

But again, Whitney wasn’t alone in her fight for equality, and she didn’t need to hound politicians, for instance, to get the job done.

“I was very fortunate at Lake Region,” she says. “When I first came there, Ted Nutting, who had been the principal at Casco High School, he became the assistant principal and athletic director. He was very concerned about making sure the girls had equal opportunity.”

It’s fair to say, Whitney’s work has made a huge difference. Certainly girls sports have come a long way, and LRHS itself continues to field numerous strong girls programs – from, yes, basketball (still), to softball, to field hockey, to lacrosse.

Linda Whitney is an icon among Maine sports icons. Courtesy photo


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