Carolyn Reitz: The untold story of fighting for women’s athletics


Photo Courtesy of Wakefield High School's Yearbook committee

Carolyn Reitz (right) stands with the 2016 women’s golf team for Wakefield High School’s yearbook. Reitz is a reason most of these women were able to go to college for golf.

Nic Cazin and Sophia Fisher

Women’s sports are a staple in high schools around the Triangle, from basketball to volleyball. Yet not even 30 years ago, this wasn’t the case. In the mid-1990s, Wakefield’s golf coach Carolyn Reitz took the initiative to bring athletics to high school girls throughout North Carolina. Having grown frustrated with the lack of opportunities available, Reitz put her heart and soul into creating the athletic programs in North Carolina that still help female athletes shine. 

Reitz started this fight with all-female field days that gave high school women the chance to explore many sports such as basketball and soccer. Throughout the years, she’s taught at many different schools, bringing these field days with her, and working alongside principals to give young girls a place to actually practice their various sports. One of the problems she encountered was a lack of practice space. 

“We could use the gym facilities [for basketball practices] as long as the boys weren’t using them,” Reitz said.

However, Reitz wanted her female athletes to receive the same prioritization as their male counterparts. She heard about a high school volleyball team in a school outside of the county and volunteered to referee for their tournaments. As she learned how they had developed that program, she began petitioning the principals she worked with to give her the opportunity to create similar programs in Wake County. 

I said, ‘you mean to tell me that we’re going to start getting paid? Well hallelujah!’

— Reitz

 “The principal that I had was fantastic,” Reitz said. “He allowed a lot of freedom which developed into me beginning to bring other schools around that had the same problem we had.”

Despite the fact that they didn’t yet have their own space to practice, Reitz hoped to follow in the footsteps of other states around the country, and establish equal opportunities for both high school-aged men and women in sports under Title IX law.

“I have to give credit to a coach out in Texas and some of the other places pushing for Title IX,” Reitz said. “It wasn’t done so much here, but the fact that we were beginning to play and I knew we could play [gave me hope].”

Reitz was particularly interested in developing women’s golf programs when she first began advocating for these opportunities. However, the golf programs in the county were small and she had her work cut out for her. 

The 2002 women’s golf team at Wakefield High School. To the right stands head coach Jack Rogers, a friend of Reitz. (Photo Courtesy of Wakefield High School’s Yearbook Committee )

“I would coach [men’s] tennis and then I would leave and meet the girls over at Wildwood Green. I checked in constantly [with Sanderson’s principal] until he said we could start a women’s golf team,” Reitz said. “I began calling schools, even over in Burlington; I called around the county to ask if schools with a girls’ team wanted to play golf [with us].”

Reitz was able to build a women’s golf team at her own school because of her husband, a golf professional. This gave her access to the greens necessary for practices and she began to develop stable golf teams for women in most Wake County schools. As her programs expanded, schools around the state began to notice and reach out to her for advice. 

“We began to get phone calls from Garner and East Chapel Hill asking how I got the team started,” Reitz said. “I [told them] ‘get your boy’s teams’ golf bags and take them to the athletic director and tell them that we’ll find them a place to play if [the school will] support the teams.’”

Reitz began to rally people together to start a conference so these girls could have the multitude of opportunities offered to the men who played a sport in high school at the time. While she was unable to hear the good news firsthand due to accepting an award, she found out the night of a fall banquet that her hard work paid off. 

“[Someone] came in and told us, ‘you’re not going to believe this but we’re going to form a conference.’ I said, ‘you mean to tell me that we’re going to start getting paid? Well hallelujah,’” Reitz said.

Carolyn Reitz (middle) stands with Terra Schmit (left), ranked number 42 in the NC Girl’s Tarheel Youth Golf Association, and Abby Weaver (right), another well-rounded Wakefield Golfer. (Photo Courtesy of Carolyn Reitz)

Ever since then, she’s worked diligently to support her girls and provide them with as many opportunities as possible to kickstart their athletic careers. Wakefield High School has a women’s golf team since its first five years as a school, and it’s only continued to grow. Terra Schmitt is one of the women on this team, and has worked alongside Reitz. 

“I have a golf scholarship to play at Barton College,” Schmitt said. “[Reitz] encourages me to try my best, never give up and be kind.”

Additionally, Reitz has greatly inspired her fellow staff members with her story. Cynthia Terrell is one of her longtime friends and colleagues, who has been a proponent for women’s athletics and advocates for Reitz’s story. 

“I nominated her for an award for the state and she won, and she helped organize triangular golf with her husband,” Terrell said. “[Today,] she still coordinates women’s golf, she’s the state director for golf out of Pine Hearst, she’s taken her teams to numerous state playoffs and she’s been conference coach of the year about six times. She’s won three state golf championships – two women’s and one men’s – which is unheard of for women.”

Reitz has helped many North Carolinian women, past and present, to become strong, passionate leaders and Reitz has so much to show for it. She still continues to do crucial work for women’s sports today.

“She doesn’t ask for anything, she just does it and that’s to be commended in this day and age,” Terrell said. “She’s just a phenomenal woman to work with and be around and she’s taught me a lot.”