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Wonder Woman: Norma Carr retires as SLCC AD after years of fighting for student-athletes

Published: Monday, July 7 2014 8:35 p.m. MDT

Athletic director Norma Carr, who is retiring after 25 years of service, poses for a portrait at the Lifetime Activities Center at Salt Lake Community College, Tuesday, June 17, 2014.

Michelle Tessier, Deseret News

TAYLORSVILLE — Norma Carr has always been a fighter.

Throughout her 45-year career as a teacher, coach and administrator, she has built a reputation of being fierce and steadfast.

She bucked systems, broke down walls, forced hands and fought every step of the way for her student-athletes — both male and female, athletically and academically, in high school and college and across decades of a drastically changing landscape.

On July 31, Carr will officially retire.

She is stepping away from her current post as athletic director of Salt Lake Community College to experience life outside the gymnasium. She is leaving a position she has held for 25 years, a position she entered into as the first woman to ever oversee both men's and women's athletic programs inside the state of Utah.

Still, without her there, the facilities she built and the programs she fought for will continue on in her honor.

"One of the best moves of my career was to come to Salt Lake Community College," Carr said at her retirement party in June. She was speaking, and clearing her throat to muffle the emotion in her voice, from a podium placed in the middle of the basketball court at the Lifetime Activities Center at the SLCC Redwood Campus. It is a beautiful building, it houses numerous championship banners, and Carr built it.

"I remember the first game (in the Lifetime Activities Center); I was stressing," she said. "You could hear people underneath the bleachers putting in the last nuts and bolts as we were warming up and throwing the ball up and the game was starting.

"It's been a tremendous journey."

No sports for girls

Carr first showed signs of going against the grain as a child when she stepped in to coach her younger sister's team. In the pre-Title IX era of the 1960s, girls rarely had any opportunities to play sports, let alone receive actual coaching. But Carr taught what she knew, and she enjoyed it.

Her desire to be involved in athletics grew when she reached college. She participated in five different sports — softball, basketball, volleyball, tennis and archery — before graduating from BYU in 1969. The scenery surrounding women's collegiate sports at that time was entirely different from what it is today.

"We would travel on a bus and sometimes we would pick up the University of Utah and Weber State," Carr said. "We would go and play all in one weekend on what we called ‘play days.’ ”

The school paid some of the athletes' expenses, like transportation and hotel bills, but the players covered everything else. On top of that, they not only played but refereed the events as well.

"Everybody took refereeing classes and got rated," Carr said. She carried that skill with her and ultimately became the first woman to officiate boys varsity high school basketball games.

Carr ultimately graduated from BYU with her teaching degree and entered into her career at Davis High. While there, she taught physical education, physiology and health while serving as adviser over the pep club and cheerleaders.

There were no sports for girls.

Carr began to fight again.

"Some of us got together in the Davis District and were going to play a play day in volleyball," she said. "The day before the play day, we got slips of paper in our box."

The note reminded Carr of the opportunities girls had to participate: "Girls can be cheerleaders, they can do pep club, they can play intramurals, they can be D-ettes (dance), but they cannot play an interscholastic sport."

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