Kenneth “Red” Simmons turned 100 years old this year. As the oldest living coach from the University of Michigan, he is an interesting character just through his years of experience and the things he has seen. He is also the epitome of a true and strong leader through his devotion to courage, innovation and persistence.
Innovation: In 1960, Red Simmons and his wife Betty started the Michigammes…an Ann Arbor Michigan based girls track club. At the time, it was unheard of for women to be competing. “People said it wasn’t ladylike to sweat but we said, ‘Let’s give women a chance to compete.’” The Michigammes of course went on to become powerhouses in competitive sport.
Courage: Red Simmons began his quest over 10 years before the passing of Title IX and the banning of sexual discrimination in sports programs. But he didn’t care. In large part, his courage to continue pursuing his quest may have set the stage for greater acceptance of women’s collegiate sports nationwide.
Persistence: Red simmons most famous Michigamme was also his first, Francie Kraker Goodridge. Goodridge became the first native born Michigan woman to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team. The Detroit Free Press reported Goodridge as saying, “Red can get a lot done in sensitive areas because he’d do it in a way that didn’t ruffle feathers. He never lost his temper.”
In times of struggle such as we are experiencing today, it is important to look for role models like Red Simmons. By his perseverance and vision, Coach Simmons inspired many young women to pursue careers in whatever they wanted to do…law, engineering, etc. Eventually, his team produced seven national champs and nineteen state champs. he is a successful leader and one of those we should look to for the wisdom an dlessons they’ve learned. Leaders like Red Simmons have had the experience of having a vision, facing adversity and seeing their visions come to life. They are the ones that we should emulate today…the ones who changed lives through their leadership.