By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
As an athlete and a coach, Maggie King loved the chance to compete in a variety of sports.
But her greatest athletic challenges did not come in actual games. Instead they were the obstacles she faced a half-century ago as she sought to promote and expand the opportunities for girls in school sports.
“She was an advocate, and she was advocating for equity and opportunity,” said Terri McMahan, who was coached by King at Mountlake Terrace High School in the early 1970s. “She didn’t mince any words. It was very clear to us (as students) that what was going on at the time wasn’t right.”
King, who died on January 17 at age 84, worked in Whitefish, Mont., and Marysville before arriving in Mountlake Terrace in 1961. She taught physical education and coached volleyball, basketball, tennis and track and field at the high school until her retirement in 1985.
The last decade of her career in education saw the arrival of girls varsity sports as they are known today. But in the preceding years King worked tirelessly to provide girls the same chances to compete as boys.
In the 1960s, McMahan said, girls sports were like a club activity. There were periodic games and matches, often more recreational than competitive, and they were usually followed by refreshments. Or what King used to call “a punch and cookies program.”
But King wanted more. She thought girls should have fully funded varsity programs like the boys, and she kept hammering that message for as long as it took attitudes to change among elected officials and administrators.
“It was clear she drove the establishment crazy,” said McMahan, who went on to become the athletic director for the Edmonds School District and today has the same position in the Highline School District. “Maggie bugged people to death and she didn’t back down.”
“She was a trailblazer in women’s sports and for getting girls athletics at the high school level,” said Julie Stroncek, a 1984 Mountlake Terrace graduate who played basketball for King and is today the Edmonds School District AD. “She was so passionate about what she did, and at least at that point her career she did it in a very unassuming and humble way.”
King was also a very successful coach, and it was largely because she set a high standard for her athletes in terms of hard work and commitment.
“For the first time in my life, I ran into somebody who was serious about competing and about fundamentals,” McMahan said. “To me she was 10 or 15 years ahead of her time. We had a serious program. … She was the complete and consummate coach for a whole group of girls who were hungry to soak it all up.”
“She was somebody you enjoyed playing for, both in practices and in games,” Stroncek said. “She was fair and she was good. She knew the game, she knew how to teach the game … and she touched a lot of people’s lives.”
For McMahan, Stroncek and many more girls, King also helped them see doors of opportunity to future careers in sports. As McMahan pointed out, “she changed my life, and you can see that from the line of work I’m in today. It was not even on my radar (as a younger girl) to think that I could have a career in athletics.
“I can’t thank her enough for the lessons she taught us and the opportunities she gave us. She made it a lot easier for kids like me, and I’ll have gratitude to her forever.”