As she sits at her desk in her office adjacent to Bohler Gym, Jen Greeny reminisces about an experience at another arena nearly three decades earlier.
Her perspective is forged from the role athletics played in her life, due in large part to her father and two older brothers.
“Growing up, they were my biggest role models,” Greeny (’99 Ed.) says.
“We would go to the local gym in Spokane and play basketball,” Greeny remembers. “My brother would say, ‘Stop being a girl. Jump, grab the ball, and go.’
“They didn’t treat me any differently,” Greeny continues. “They wanted me to be better and tougher. It didn’t matter I was a girl.”
Greeny, a multisport star athlete at Davenport High School near Spokane, took that foundation with her while on a recruiting trip to Notre Dame in 1994.
“I was really excited about it,” Greeny remembers. “We made it in time for a football pregame pep rally in the arena. Lou Holtz was the coach, and it was packed.
“Not two hours later was the volleyball match and there were only about 200 people there,” Greeny recalls. “I know Notre Dame is a big football school, but as a student-athlete and someone who had been around athletics all my life, there was something not quite right with that picture.”
Weeks later, Greeny found a home at Washington State on her recruiting visit.
“It was Apple Cup weekend,” Greeny says. “We played the Huskies for volleyball and Bohler Gym was absolutely packed.
“The excitement around volleyball and Cindy Fredrick’s program was something that helped make my mind up to come to school here.”
Greeny has been pivotal in developing the success of Cougar volleyball. Of the program’s 16 NCAA Tournament appearances, Greeny is a part of 12, either as a player (1995–98), assistant coach (2000-04) or, currently, as the head coach since 2011.
As she enters the 2022 season, Greeny has led the program to six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, the longest continuous run of national success for any program in WSU history.
The year also marks 50 years of Title IX, federal legislation signed into law June 23, 1972, that prohibits sex discrimination in education.
As the nation and university commemorates the anniversary, Greeny acknowledges her mentors who helped shaped her career path.
She attended a pregame function prior to the women’s basketball game in February when WSU recognized Karen (Blair) Troianello, Marcia Saneholtz, Jeanne (Eggart) Helfer, Sue Durrant, and Jo Washburn, who played a significant role in WSU’s history with Title IX, and in Greeny’s athletic career.
“I took classes in sports management as my minor and had Sue Durrant and Jo Washburn as professors,” Greeny says. “I wrote a lot of papers about Title IX and learned Washington State was a big part of that.”
In addition to the pioneers, Greeny credits Fredrick, the WSU volleyball coach from 1989 to 2004, as a major influence in her life.
“I was an elementary ed major,” Greeny says. “I knew from a young age that I wanted to coach and follow in my dad’s and brothers’ footsteps in education and coaching.
“I never thought I would coach collegiately,” Greeny explains. “I was going to teach and coach high school and did that for a little bit. Working under Cindy as an assistant coach, I witnessed day-to-day how she pushed the boundaries for our program and to raise the standard at Washington State and the Pac-12.”
Greeny hopes people use the Title IX anniversary as an opportunity to reassess the significance behind the legislation.
“I think that Title IX can sometimes be a buzzword or something that gets thrown around, ‘We have to do this because of Title IX,’ like it’s an obligation,” Greeny says.
“With the fiftieth anniversary I hope people will revisit what it means and should mean,” she adds.
That meaning was crystalized for Greeny at Notre Dame, an experience she says, “stays with me.”
“Whenever we travel and play at other arenas, especially during preseason, I’m always looking at that,” Greeny says of how other schools support female athletics.
A symbol of the support at WSU is a packed Bohler Gym, just like it was on Greeny’s recruiting visit.
“It’s really important and empowering as a volleyball student-athlete and a coach,” Greeny says. “I still have fans that see me now and say, ‘I watched you as a student-athlete and Bohler Gym has just the best atmosphere.’”
Greeny raises two daughters with her husband and volleyball associate head coach Burdette Greeny (’00 Hum.). And just as when she was competing with her brothers at the gym in Spokane, Greeny strives to raise her children, inside and outside the athletic arena, how she was raised.
“It carries over with our daughters, especially with our oldest,” Greeny says. “She plays baseball with the boys, pitches, shortstop. She’ll go up against any boy. Not only in the athletic realm, but when she will go into the workforce, it doesn’t matter that she is a girl.
“It just doesn’t matter.”
It’s 50 for Title IX (Fall 2022)
The Power of IX: Read stories of prominent women athletes and coaches at WSU, and donate to the Power of IX Excellence Fund (WSU Cougar Athletic Fund)
Summer spikes: Jen Greeny and WSU volleyball players mentor young girls (Summer 2014)