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Marilyn Bradley: Greenhills’ first PE teacher

Marilyn Bradley remembers the moment that changed her life. She was in seventh grade, and for the first time, she had physical education (PE) class.

“Almost the moment that I stepped into that PE class, I knew that this was what I wanted to do,” Bradley said. “I thought, ‘this is going to be me. I’m going to teach physical education and coach.’ I never really went away from that goal.”

Sure enough, after graduating from Eastern Michigan University in 1973 with a degree in Physical Education and Health, Bradley got a fortuitous opportunity. Ed Read, then the Head of School at Greenhills, called the PE and Health department at Eastern, looking for the best graduating students. Bradley got the recommendation, and soon she came in for an interview. Along with Bob Johnson, Bradley was hired as the first full-time PE teacher and four-season coach Greenhills ever had.

Even during her interview, Bradley was excited about the job. Everything about Greenhills seemed exciting, from the athletic fields to the all-school forum. What she didn’t realize, though, was how excited Greenhills was to have her. Some of the happiest people to see her, in fact, were the faculty. Previously, they’d rotated through gym duty. Now, finally, they had someone who would do the job full-time — and more than that, someone who was excited about it.

When Bradley got to Greenhills, the school was offering four team sports for girls: field hockey, basketball, volleyball, and softball. Bradley coached…all of them.

“It was a lot,” she said, “but I was enthusiastic.”

Bradley spent seven years at Greenhills, arriving in 1973 and departing in 1980. She eventually did cut back slightly, dropping basketball and later volleyball to focus on her other two sports, but she never lost her enthusiasm for promoting women’s sports. She remembers all sorts of moments from early in Greenhills’ athletic history. Women’s sports were already rapidly advancing. One year, Bradley remembered, the softball team was setting out for its annual trip to a Tigers game. The team showed up wearing their new varsity jackets. They’d only recently secured them; previously, Bradley remembered, they’d gone only to boys teams. The best part, though, was that they’d brought Bradley her own varsity jacket as well.

One year, she went to a clinic on how to teach softball players to slide. It was too cold to practice on the field, so the players practiced on the gym floor. They all wore sweatpants and socks; on the floor, there was nothing but a base, a blanket, and flour. Sliding practice turned out to be so much fun that Bradley introduced it as a regular PE activity.

Then one day, in a PE softball game, Bradley watched as Heather Herbertson rounded third, sprinted towards home plate, and scored with a flawless slide.

“I was as shocked as everyone else, she just did it so naturally,” Bradley said. “She did get a little scraped up, but to me that was just really fun — to see the level of play really starting to change, girls having fun and getting stronger and stronger.”

Saturday, April 24
Open to anyone ages 16 and up. Limited quantities available.
Greenhills is closed for mid-winter break and will return on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

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