The days of wearing garnet and black on the field or on the courts may be over, but a handful of former South Carolina student-athletes aren’t done making a difference for the Gamecocks. Cindy Bradshaw (tennis, 1972-74), Ashley Bruner (basketball, 2009-2013), Rhody Williams Edwards (athletics, 1993-1997) Sisi Routh (softball, 1975) and Shannon (Williams) Orth (beach volleyball, 2016-2019) serve on the board of directors University of South Carolina Men of Letters Association, a fee-paying association for former student-athletes. Everyone has their own reason for wanting to get involved.
“It’s a great way to stay involved with all the teams and my university that I love,” said Routh, who serves as the organization’s treasurer and has worked in banking most of her life. “I graduated in 1977, but a few years later I got a letter asking me to join the Lettermen’s Association, so I did. In the mid-1990s, I was asked to do I was on the board and later elected treasurer I’ve been treasurer for about 20 years now I love athletics.
“We care a lot about college and athletics and it’s a great way to stay involved and be involved in the community,” said Orth, who earned a degree in risk management and insurance. and works in property management in Columbia for a company. she and her husband, former South Carolina football student-athlete Perry Orth, started. “I help with social media. The more we try to connect former athletes, it’s a great way to keep the culture and the community alive. You come to school for four years, and it’s always a part of you. We want to create a community that lasts, whether it’s creating events to keep people coming back or acknowledging geographies where there are tons of old literati, you’re trying to create things the low.”
“I think it’s a great way to keep the alumna involved,” said Bruner, who earned a degree in theater before playing professionally in Europe for seven years and now coaches high school basketball. . “We love our alma mater. And knowing that we can go back and help our current student-athletes is definitely a great feeling.”
“For the past 18 years, I’ve been a mother and a wife, so that’s my identity,” said Edwards, who earned a degree in criminal justice and is a federal contractor and background check for security clearances. . “I thought I should step out of my comfort zone a bit. I’ve lost the connection to college a bit, so as my kids started growing I’m trying to bridge that gap with Carolina and come back there. . I’m trying to develop.”
“When they first approached me to get involved, I didn’t have time because of my career and my family life,” said Bradshaw, who is now president-elect. “I was still playing competitive tennis, teaching and coaching. After retiring from teaching, I had more free time. I became more active over the years. It’s great to going back to where you graduated and being able to give of my time and financial support is very rewarding.
As South Carolina Athletics celebrates 50and Title IX anniversary, each is happy with the opportunities she has had and looks forward to the continued growth of women in sport at their alma mater and nationally.
“Laws are great, but they don’t really make that much sense until people’s hearts and minds change.”
-Rody Williams Edwards
“I was here when they passed Title IX, and it took us a while to figure it out,” Bradshaw said. “When I was playing tennis at Carolina, we had a graduate physical education assistant working on her mastery, who was our coach. I’ve seen women’s sports go from that to full-time coaches. It went from it was funded entirely by scholarships and travel and everything.You watch the women’s basketball team play at the Carolina Coliseum for the first time in the 1980s.You watch now and they are full for all games at Colonial Life Arena. I go inside Tennis Center now, and our stands are full there. Our fans support men and women. We grow every day. A thing that crosses all decades for all sport is camaraderie, integrity and the desire to win gracefully.”
“Title ix means the world to me and to millions of girls like me,” Bruner said. “The fact that we needed Title IX is wrong because everyone should have the same opportunities without regulation. But my whole life trajectory would have been completely different if I hadn’t had basketball to take me all over the world. I’m not sure what life would be like for me.”
“We still have a ways to go, but it’s gotten so much better,” Edwards said. “It means the world to me to see the South Carolina women’s teams be so successful. It means I stood on the women’s shoulders, and they stood on ours and mine. It’s amazing. Laws are great, but they don’t really mean that much until people’s hearts and minds change It’s amazing to talk to male athletes now, and they have such recognition of women’s sports and to how great they are. People’s hearts and minds are changing now.
“In my playing time, I never saw a moment where I had no opportunity,” Orth said. “As a woman, I think it means a lot that not only can women play a sport in college, but the sport continues to grow for women. I think I came here as a third year volleyball player. beach as a collegiate sport. I feel grateful that the sport continues to evolve and continues to provide opportunities for women to perform at the highest level possible.”
“I loved my four years there. I have never felt less valued. All the coaches and coaches here give us the great opportunity to succeed. The University values women’s sports and gives us access to coaches and strength and conditioning coaches and tries to give us the best experience possible.”
“When I played, we didn’t play a 50-game schedule,” Routh said. “We played about 20 games and played mostly state teams. One of my best memories was traveling to Mississippi to play a tournament. It was a really great bonding time. We drove two little vans. Not as fancy as them. get it now! One of my teammates, Nona Kerr, was one of the first women to receive a scholarship.”
With the motto “Athletes Helping Athletes”, the Association of Lettermen not only connects current and former Gamecocks through events and fundraisers, but also provides the opportunity to network and pass on advice to all these generations. .
“Not everyone will play professionally, but you can still be great in life,” Bruner said. “One day at a time. Some people don’t know exactly what they want to do or what they’re good at, but trust your process. Greatness comes in the midst of hard work. Be your best- same and see how many doors open for you.”
“My commitment is to student-athletes because when I graduated, we didn’t have that reach that we have today,” Edwards said. “We didn’t have a lot of people telling us to come back and keep us engaged. I think the University benefits when we stay in touch with the athletes. We have to let them know that Carolina always appreciates the commitment and the sacrifice to the University, whatever the time, I want to bring student-athletes back and keep them engaged.
“I want to be a mentor. When I graduated, I was a fish out of water. I didn’t know what to do when applying for jobs.”
“I love college and sports and the opportunity I’ve had to play,” said Routh, who earned a degree in early childhood education. “I would like to be a bit of a mentor to them if they need someone with an older perspective. Our mission with the Lettermen’s Association is for athletes to help athletes. We do what we can to help them. “
“What makes me most proud is the acceptance of men to support us,” Bradshaw said. “If they didn’t support us, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Sports Director Ray Tanner realizes the importance of female student-athletes. He sees how important it is. I’m proud of how Carolina embraced him and I’m proud to do so. We are growing in our diversity, and that is what is important to me. We accept everyone’s culture.
“It unites us as one. It’s really the spirit of ‘we’.”