Release coutesy of the GVSU Sports Information Department (Some contents of this release contributed by the Sports Department of the Lanthorn student newspaper.)
ALLENDALE, Mich. - All that one group of female Grand Valley State University students wanted was an opportunity to compete in athletics. Yet, never in women’s athletic pioneer Joan Boand’s wildest dreams would women’s athletics become what it is today — 44 years later.
In 2009, when it was just three years removed from winning national championships in women’s volleyball and women’s basketball, GVSU celebrated the 40th year of women’s athletics. The Lakers then went on to win national championships in women’s soccer (2010 & 2011), women’s cross country (2010), women’s indoor track & field (2011 & 2012) and women’s outdoor track & field (2011 & 2012).
It all began in 1968, when a group of GVSU students approached Boand, a physical education instructor at GVSU at the time, about a chance to play against other schools in the area.
“In the beginning that’s the only thing that I wanted to do — give them the opportunities that they desired,” she said. “Just to provide an arena for them to be able to play and do the things they wanted — to play against some of their friends at other schools.”
Boand said the only objective in the beginning was to provide a chance for the student athletes to play sports competitively — merely an opportunity. Nevertheless, as things progressed, she said she began to get a vision of what women’s athletics could become.
“All things that women have achieved, whether it is a national championship, or just the opportunity to play, have all made it sweet,” she said. “The fact that women could eventually take part in a national championship and win one at Grand Valley, just makes (the anniversary) so very nice — that all those opportunities are present for women, when  years ago they weren’t.”
Boand, along with Pat Baker, one of the students and eventual coach of GVSU women’s basketball, are widely considered the pioneers of GVSU women’s athletics. Boand held GVSU head coaching positions in basketball, volleyball, softball and track & field. She amassed more than 700 total wins, and her GVSU teams won 10 GLIAC Championships during her coaching career.
The women’s volleyball program just totaled 1,000 program wins much in part to Boand. When Boand retired in 1994, she had recorded 545 victories, six GLIAC championships, and a school-record 42 wins in 1986. She was named the GLIAC Coach of the Year twice and her 545 wins still ranks 20th in Division II history.
She blazed a trail in women’s basketball, leading the Lakers to a 132-48 (.733) record and four straight GLIAC titles (74-77).
As an advocate for women’s athletics, Joan served on countless conference, regional and national NCAA committees in various capacities for more than 25 years. Boand also served as the GVSU Associate Athletic Director and was instrumental in GVSU being selected to host the 1997 NCAA DII/DIII Women’s Golf National Championships.
Today, women’s athletics at GVSU are thriving, with continued conference success and appearances by many Laker teams in the NCAA tournament.
And while the desired end result is to win a national championship, how these women athletes got the opportunity to play at the varsity level in the first place is just as important.