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All-American Red Heads

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All-American Red Heads

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The All-American Red Heads were one of the first professional women's basketball teams. In 1936, almost 50 years after women's basketball began, C. M. "Ole" Olson(who also founded Oson's Terrible Swedes) started a barnstorming team which would play around the country until 1986. The name of the team came from Olson's wife, who owned a number of beauty salons in the south. They played by men's rules and were a smash success with the audience.


From Remembering All American Red Heads, traveling women's basketball team MOBERLY, MO (KCTV) -

Women's basketball has come a long way over the years.

Up until the 1930s, women weren't allowed to play because doctors said it was bad for their body. But one traveling women's team changed all that, and it began in Missouri.

They were called the All American Red Heads, and for 50 years, they entertained basketball fans in all 50 states.

This all-girls traveling team was started way back in 1936 in Cassville, MO. The team played thousands of games over that 50-year span and suited up nearly 330 players. They were good, really good - one traveling team once won 96 games in 96 days.

"We were just like sisters," Brenda O'Bryan Koester said.

Koester was fresh out of high school when she joined the All American Red Heads, a traveling professional women's basketball team, and she played with them from 1970 through 1973.

"We traveled seven nights a week and we played seven nights a week for seven months," she said.

The Red Heads quickly became known for their trick shots and incredible basketball skills. They also went toe-to-toe against male teams, shocking some and proving that women could play the sport.

"The Red Heads need to be remembered as the trailblazers of the game because we showed that women could play ball," Koester said.

"Women really weren't supposed to run up and down the floor and play the game like against men," said Kay O'Bryan Burk, who played with the Red Heads from 1972 through 1976.

But they did play against men and played very well. Most games were played in front of sold out crowds.

"I loved going in and talking to the people, especially the kids. And we stayed and signed autographs after each game," Burk said.

But it was the popularity of the sport that ultimately ended their run. Women's basketball blew up in the 70s and 80s, and the Red Heads played their final game in 1986.

The team was revisited in September of last year, when the Red Heads were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. A new book about the team is about to be released and there are even talks about a movie in the works. But the question every one really wants to know is - were they all really redheads?

"You had to be a redhead one way or another, and only our hair dresser knew for sure," Koester said.

Despite the hair color, one thing was for sure - the All American Red Heads could play.

The Red Heads' original traveling car as well as several uniforms are permanently on display in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, TN.

Go to for more information on the women's team.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.)  All rights reserved.

Awards and honors

From Wikipedia

  • In February 2010, the team was honored at part of National Girls and Women in Sports Day in Minnesota.[8]
  • In July 2010, the All-American Red Heads were honored at the Senior Pan-American games in Eugene, Oregon. They also had a reunion there. It was at this tournament that players laced up their sneakers one more time and played alumni from the NBA Portland Trail Blazers.
  • The team was honored by the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame for their contributions to the game. The team was recognized in a display entitled "Trailblazers of the Game" at the 2011 Induction Ceremony on June 11, 2011.[9][10]
  • On April 2, 2012, the team was announced as a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction class of 2012. The Red Heads were formally enshrined on September 7.[11]

The teams


All American Red Heads 1936-86

Most successful women's barnstorming team ever. Their bright red hair was their calling card In 2012, they became the first women's basketball team ever inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Helen Stephens Olympic Co-Eds 38-43

Olympic gold medalist would create her own barnstorming team, a year after she played a single season with the All American Red Heads.

Grover Cleveland Alexander All Stars

A famous major league pitcher for 20 years created this barnstorming team and would have Globetrotter owner, Abe Saperstein handle the booking.

Ozark Hill Billies 38-43

A second team created by Red Heads owner, Ole Olson. They would dress in "hill billy' outfits and then remove them to reveal their game uniforms.

Arkansas Travelers (48-67)

All American Hazel Walker traded her amateur status to d create, coach and play on her own team.

Texas Cow Girls 49-77

The second longest women's barnstorming team to ever take the court. The team started in Chicago.

Shooting Stars/ Arkansas Lassies (62-73)

2 professional players Elvera "Peps" Neuman and Linda Yearby would become partners for their own teams.

Royal Maids (71-72)

2 business men out of Kansas City saw the opportunity of barnstorming and dollar signs. The team lasted 1 season.

Arkansas Gems 73-88

Peps Neuman would go on her own and create the Gems. This "Arkansas" team was actually based out of Minnesota.

Arkansas Lassies (73-76)

Linda Yearby would end up with the "Lassies" name and continue to travel until 1976. Team based out of Ionia, Michigan.

Southern Belles (67-71)

Ben Overman, coach for the All American Red Heads, would part with the team to start his own. Based out of Caraway Arkansas, like the Red Heads.

The Pink Panthers 1974-75

A team that wanted to take barnstorming to the next level with an actual league. Played 1 exhibition game and barnstormed for several months.

WBL - Women's Basketball League (78-81)

The first professional league to ever finish an entire season. Would feature some of the greatest players in the world


While Title IX passed 1972, the NCAA wouldnt govern the women's game until the 1980s. However, a woman would end up playing in the NCAA in 1974

extracts from the timeline of women's basketball

From Wikipedia

  • 1891 - James Naismith, born in Almonte, Ontario, invents basketball while teaching at a school now known as Springfield College[2]
  • 1892 - Senda Berenson reads about Dr. Naismith's new game, and with modified rules, introduces the game to Smith College students.[3][4]
  • 1892 - First inter-institutional game between the University of California, Berkeley and Miss Head's School.[5]
  • 1893 - Clara Gregory Baer introduces basket-ball (as it was written at the time) to Sophie Newcomb College (now part of Tulane University)[6]
  • 1895 - Clara Gregory Baer writes the first book of rules for women's basketball.[8][9]
  • 1899 - Senda Berenson publishes the first issue of Basketball Guide for Women, which she would edit and update for eighteen years. These rules, with minor modifications, would remain in use until the 1960s.[4]
  • 1906 - Women's basketball featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
  • 1932 - FIBA, the International Basketball Federation, is formed in Geneva.[15]
  • 1936 - The All American Red Heads Team a barnstorming professional team was formed. They would go on to tour the country for 50 years, playing men's team using men's rules.(Miller, p. 31)(Grundy, pp. 104–105)