Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: Player

Everly High School, high scorer, 1968 state competitor with Denise and Cindy Long.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: When and where did you play six on six basketball?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: I played at Everly Community Schools.  I played in junior high and high school and used to practice in the summer. I was very impressed with Peg Peterson; she was my idol. There was one time that she practiced with me and I was just thrilled about that. In our community, girls basketball was a big thing and had quite a tradition. We'd gone to state eight years and a row, and so it just kind of indoctrinated in young girls.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Describe Everly to me.  What was the town like?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: It's a small community and everybody knows everybody else. They're very supportive of youth. It was always fun to have our gyms filled with supporting fans and a lot of relatives, just a very nice place to grow up and to raise children.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What players were your idols and inspiration?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: Peg Peterson was my idol, and of course she was an excellent forward.  Another one would have been Jody Whimmer, she was a guard, and didn't live too far away from us on the farm, and she always had a good sense of honor and she was an excellent guard and I enjoyed here.  Of course there was Jill Schaberg and Sharon Walton were always people that I admired, and I got to play with them my freshman year.  So those are just a few; I could name several others. I'm sorry if I'm leaving anybody out, but those are just few of the ones that I really admire.  

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Did your family have a history of basketball?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: My older sister played, she played as a guard, and I have an uncle that played college basketball in Nevada at the university; he also was a baseball player there as well.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Everly's history with six on six.  What was like to be part of school that had such a tradition when it came to six on six basketball?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: There was a really high expectation.  You were expected to do well and perform well.  Mr. Haines and Mr. Johnson used to have in the off-season, in the spring, we would have our little tournaments.  Little teams within the school would have several games after the season was over with. I think that really helped to a certain extent. There were some years, for example, that when we were finished I could not play forward, I had to play guard. Some of the guards had to be forwards, and so that was a good appreciation. It was fun to do something a little different than what you had been doing during the regular year.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: I would think that would be really good.

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: It was good, because we had the junior high girls were included in that and the high school girls, and the coaches didn't stack the teams.  Obviously they tried to get the talent evenly distributed, and it was just a good learning experience, especially for younger kids to play with older, experienced young ladies that knew what they were doing. You could pick up a lot.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What was it like being at the state tournament?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: It was really a thrilling experience.  It's a lifetime dream, and to get to go all four years is something that I hold very dear to my heart and enjoyed tremendously.  I have excellent memories of people that I played against.  I made some very good friendships and such and just had a really neat time.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What was the atmosphere like?  Final game or what was it like at Vets, especially for a young girl coming from a small community like Everly?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: I can remember the first time I stepped on the floor was when on my freshman year. There was a coaches clinic down there and we were playing a half a game. I had been in Vets before, but not on the floor playing, and I can remember my coach coming up and saying to me, nah it's just ten foot just like it is in Everly, just forget everything else and just concentrate on that. It is a little bit intimidating when you go in there, because it's nothing like it is in your little school, and so it takes a while to get used to bouncing the ball on the floor.  There are a few dead spots on there that you find, but it was really a nice place to play.  One thing that I appreciate about that is that you could block everything out, because the seats were a little distance from the playing floor and you could just concentrate on what was going on the floor and nothing else.

I can remember playing in the finals and how the Vets was just packed with people and the roar of the crowd. But after the game got started you didn't focus on that, you focused on what was going on the floor.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What was Everly's record at the state like the four years that you went and before you?  

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: Well, there were four years before we went to state, and so it was eight total. So it was a tradition that we just wanted to carry on.  You didn't want to be the team that lost and didn't go, and so you just learned a lot by going to watch the games, like when Peg was playing or when Jill and Sharon were playing. You could pick up a lot of good experience just by observing.  

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: During the time that you played it was the time of the high scorers. What did you do to become a great scorer and what did it take for you to become that?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: I used to practice an hour a day. People used to say: oh no, you didn't. Yes, I did. On the farm we had a slab of cement, and I used to practice on that. Cement is not too forgiving on your legs.  So, my dad and mom let me come in, and they'd let me shoot at the high school. I made really good friends with the custodian, and he would let me come in during the summer and let me shoot, and also on Saturdays and Sundays he'd give me the keys and let me come in. I never abused the privilege. So it was excellent, and I got some really good shooting time in.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Take me back to the night against Denise Long and what was that night like?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: It was filled with excitement. Of course we thought we could win and we knew it was going to be very difficult, it was going to be a real challenge.  Especially with Denise and her excellent players on their team. We had practiced in the afternoon.  We stayed at one of the hotels there and they let us use one of their formal rooms with this nice chandelier, and we were practicing different offenses and different defenses.  Just walking through, basically, and the coach was afraid that I was going to be double teamed and so they were practicing lofting the ball.  I had fairly good vertical jump so that I could jump up and get possession of the ball, and I hit the chandelier, which is kind of funny, and so I said: that's enough. I think we better go now.

But as far as the atmosphere, I was really nervous, but once I hit the floor I was fine.  It's just waiting around for the anticipation, and there was so much hype on it that you just wanted to get out on the floor and just play. That was the fun part of it, on the floor.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What was your coach's strategy on that final game in '58?  Take me through the game or key moments.

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: I think the strategy was to double-team Denise, which they did, and then they left her cousin wide open. That was from all the scouting reports and from other teams that had played, they thought that this would the right approach. And of course the cousin came through big time with I think 40-some points which really helped. We had some really good defensive people that tried to do their best.  I think at the end of the game Suzie Morfit came in and she intercepted some passes, which was very key to tying up the game. As far as our offense, we ran our regular offense, and it just didn't turn out like we wanted it to anyway.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: How did you play that night?  Was it hard to let go of the emotion of it all?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: I tried to be as cool and not get involved in the hype.  Just to be pretty methodical about it. My job was to put it in.  I have to thank my teammates, though.  It is a team sport, and if weren't for the wonderful efforts of our guards and the other two efforts of our forwards… I can't do it by myself.  It was a team effort, and they did an excellent job and they didn't get the recognition that they deserved. I think when you have someone who scores a lot of points, people need to remember that it is a team sport, and those people work just as much perhaps during the season as you do, and they deserve the credit as well.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: How the guards were forgotten. Rarely a guard is mentioned...

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: And that's unfortunate, because they provided the valuable service of staying between the girl and the ball, blocking the shots, bringing it up court.  They just didn't get the recognition that they probably should have.  I think that probably switched a little bit with Mediapolis.  They had the second Wishmeyer girl; I can't remember her name.

I think it is Barb.  I think that changed, when she kind of would go from one to the other, or one year she played guard, one year she played forward, and so I think that was a positive thing.

Yeah, I think she is maybe one of the first ones. I was always impressed with that; I thought: good for you.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Were there certain things that you were known for as a forward?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: I had a variety of shots, but the one that I really liked the best was the jump shot, and I had good vertical jump.  I could get above the defense and I had practiced that a lot.  I also practiced free-throws a lot. We were pretty good at free-throwing. And of course the lay-ups, I didn't get that many lay-ups.  Early in my career I did, but I just didn't later on.

And so my jump shot was probably my bread and butter shot.

I had brothers; that helped.  I had an older brother and a younger brother, and I would practice with them occasionally, too, and of course as brothers, they are not going to give you an inch, and so that was really good training.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Were you aware at the time of what a big moment is was especially when you played and then after all four years of your career and that final game, were you aware of how big it was in girls six on six history?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: Not really.  All I wanted was another championship.  We had one in '66, and I wanted to go out on a winning note and have this perfect season and we almost did it, but not quite. But I didn't realize it at the time. You know?

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: In '66 when you won state, who did you play and what was that game like?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: Lake City we played. And that was just… it was exciting, and being a sophomore, a little nervous but again once you got on the floor, you just tuned it all out. They really gave us a run for our money, and had an excellent forward on the other side.  Her name was McClintock, her maiden name I believe, and had one of the better guards of the guard courts that we had had, and I feel fortunate that we won that year.  What a thrill. And our fans, just to look over at our fans, it was just kind of reassuring. The sea of red and white that we had and how supportive they were. I can remember them just flooding out onto the floor after we won. Just a wonderful feeling.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: The community of Everly and how they reacted to your success. What were games like here during the week?  What kind of support did you get?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: Our fans were very supportive.  The local people would turn out very well.  They would pretty much pack the gym. Just very, very supportive.  I can't say enough nice things about them. Anytime you'd see them on the street, they would give you encouragement and would look forward to the next game. Just a very supportive community.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: A lot of women have talked about what it was like when you came back from state and the welcome home.

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: Oh, it was just something else.  I can remember each year they would welcome us back and they'd have a caravan that would escort us in to town. Again, the gym was packed, and they would always send lovely corsages, flowers arrangements, what have you, even telegrams. Just a neat time.  

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: We were talking about the support of the community.  Small rural towns were playing this game for decades and generations of women could have played.  Why do you think it was important to a town like Everly or what did it mean to the town, to you?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: I think it brought the town together as far as the focal point of the community and supporting their youth.  I think smaller towns did an excellent job, and that was one way that they could do that, was to show this support for their youth, and to promote healthy, good activity. Again the townspeople I think went out of their way to make sure that this is a healthy good activity.  They want you to keep doing this basketball, or whatever the activity was, and to be the best that you can be in something that's productive in a healthy lifestyle way.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What are some of your fondest memories of playing six on six?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: I have lots of fond memories of six on six.  Some of them are on the farm with my Dad when we would be playing and he would be guarding me. And of course being the farmer that he was,  he'd use cattle calls to when to try to disrupt my attention.  My brothers as well.  Playing with a cousin, Linda Knapp, on the team and the summers coming in and playing, shooting it around with Jeanette Schaberg or the Schaberg twins, Joe and Jan.  Those are all fond memories, especially the state tournaments were always great and just the thrill of making it to state.  To being one of the best in the state or being the third best or the second best or being the state champs.

Those were all really defining moments.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: How did you feel when you heard that six on six was ending?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: I had mixed emotions about that.  Six on six I think is a wonderful game and my second daughter was playing six on six, and she enjoyed that. Her junior year, they went to the five on five, and so she was kind of interested in playing that and enjoyed that.  I think we have our love of that game and you're never going to change anybody that's played six on six that they think that's the greatest game. Today, I see the gals that play the five on five, and they think that their game is just as wonderful. That's as it should be as well.  It just has a very wonderful place in my heart because of the experiences that I've had. I'm sure it has a great, a wonderful place in the five on five who have made it down to the state tournament and they think that is probably the only way to play and good for them.  It's nice that they enjoy it so much.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Do you think maybe though with six on six no longer being a part of Iowa and it leading the nation for a while in athletics, especially at your time.  Do you think the state's lost something with that game gone?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: It's different, it really is.  It probably needed to progress -- not that we are training young ladies to play in college, but in order to have some of those opportunities, I think it is probably an advantage if you play five on five.  So that you can play the defense.  So that you do the offense.  So that you're able to make that transition in a smooth and orderly fashion.  I think the people that graduated in my time that went on to play had it probably an easier time of making that transition than perhaps a guard that had not done a lot of shooting, and to be thrown in that situation and all of the sudden you're supposed to shoot when you haven't for how many years, that's a little difficult to all the sudden have that particular skill.

But as far as forwards, I think, we had excellent mechanics as far as shooting ability -- not that people don't now.  I'm not saying that, but I think we really could develop our talent with a lot of precision, and the guards I think did an excellent job, again, with the precision that they could execute in defense as well.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What are some things that you really focused on as a team?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: We had shooting drills.  We had passing drills.  We had defensive drills.  Both in the offensive court and the defensive court with the ball. For example, if you missed, obviously you had to get on defense and try to intercept.  A lot of three on three, one on one, two on two like game type situations.  We had a lot of plays, numerous plays and numerous offenses that we ran through, and sometimes we wouldn't even use any of the offense at all when it went to the game.  You look at the situation, you see where the players are, and you go from there.  And so, just good fundamentals on defense, offense, and it was just drilled into us time and time and time again.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What was your ultimate goal of all those years that you practiced?  What was it you really wanted?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: The ultimate goal when I was in high school and junior high was to make it to the state tournament.  When I got to my senior year, then I started thinking: oh, maybe I'd like to play, continue on, and play college ball.  It would be a different type game, but that would be fine, but I didn't get distracted from that. But my major goal in junior high and high school was making it to the state tournament.  

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Did you play ball after high school?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: Yes, I played for John F. Kennedy at Wahoo, Nebraska, and we played second in the nation in the AAU tournament.  We placed fourth in the collegiate tournament, but the collegiate tournament was not the biggie back then.  It was the AAU Tournament, and I made all-tournament team in the collegiate tournament, and I was national free-throw champion in the AAU Tournament and was honorable mention all-American.

And then I tried out for the US Team. We were supposed to go to South America or Latin America, and I had a very severe knee injury. Two days before we were supposed to go I was not able to, and ended up having to go back to Iowa. I had surgery on my knee, and I tried to play again and I re-injured it again.  I had more surgery. Unfortunately, there's time where you have to move on, and that was the time. I needed to move on and concentrate on my career and that was getting my diploma and going into teaching.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Not the way you want to go out-

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: No, not a way you'd like to go out.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What made six on six so unique or different?  

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: I think the opportunity to do a lot of passing or not doing a lot of dribbling, with two dribbles, obviously.  Which is always interesting - to have a good passing game.  Also I think the ability to have a good scoring game was always there.  It was exciting, because there was a lot of action as far as scoring was concerned.  A person could play the devil's advocate and say: well, it could be all a defensive game and dependent on the ability of the players, but there's an opportunity for a lot of passing, a lot of scoring. It was very quick, fast-paced.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: When you think back on six on six, what comes to mind?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: The people that I played with and the people that I met.  Making the friendships like with Connie Cry, who was a player for Holstein. They made it to the state when I was a freshman, and I always admired her. I thought she was a neat lady. I got to meet her at the Sacajawea tournament that they had in Sioux City the last year, and we kind of re-acquainted ourselves, and so that was kind of neat.  I remember Sharrol Wishmeyer from John F. Kennedy and what a neat lady she was.  What a neat person she was and what an excellent ball player she was. Just the friendships and the people, the coaches.  Especially the coaches. I like to give Larry Johnson kind of a hard time, the amount of money that they paid him way back when to do that was probably a piddly amount.

And for what coaches have to go through and endure sometimes - he probably thought: oh my goodness, why am I doing this?  But we do appreciate them - probably not at the time that we had him as a coach, but as you look back and you think: oh, he did make some real sacrifices with his time as well.

Down at the state tournament, we were playing one game. It was really close, and I can't even remember if it was my junior or senior year, but there was a whistle that was blown and it was in the guard court. One of our guards was bringing the ball up and she thought she heard a whistle. So she threw it to the official and the official let it go out of bounds, and she couldn't figure out why he did that. He did not blow the whistle; it was blown in the stands. She felt so bad, and so she was really upset, because she knew she'd screwed up. Not entirely her fault, obviously, and so the next play she stole it back and we got the ball.

And our coach stood up and took his hand, and I thought he was going to call for time-out. He didn’t call for time-out, but it looked like he was.  So I called time-out for our team, and we had already used all of our times outs.  So obviously it's a technical foul, so they get a freebie at the basket. So I'm now feeling terrible. We were talking to each other, and I was telling Linda, we had a time-out before when she had made the error of throwing it out of bounds.  I said it's okay, we'll get it back. She knew that she had made a mistake, and so we come back and we've got another time out, and I'm just feeling just horrid, because I really screwed up. You just don't make those blatant errors at that stage of the game, anyway, and especially at a state tournament.  You just don't do that.

And so here she's telling me: it's okay.  It's okay, we'll get it back. We did get it back, and then I shot some free--throws and we won, but just little quirks like that, like what was I thinking?

Also, at the state tournament, some of the other things that were kind of neat.  They had a breakfast for the teams.  All the teams at Younkers at the tea room at that time, and that was always special.  They had the governor come and some other diplomats, and so that was kind of neat.  And just to enjoy that type atmosphere was special as well.

Back when I was a sophomore, we were the scrubs.  We were not supposed to make it to state tournament. I had missed five games because of a knee injury early in the season, and I came back and my knee was fine. We had played Hartley.  And Hartley had beat us, trounced us really bad. That's when Silvia G. was a guard.  She went to a national 4-H conference and I was out with a knee injury, and so we played them again.  We played fairly close, but they came out on top. Then here we are in the districts to go to state and they were very confident that they were going to beat us again, because this was what, the fourth time?  Not a problem. I can remember we went into a scoring stall with four minutes and something to go, and we had a little lead.  And I looked over at their bench just for a little bit, and they were laughing and their coach is laughing. I thought: okay, you go ahead and laugh. They were not laughing at the end, because we did beat them. So that was kind of sweet revenge and such. It was just a mob of people on the basketball floor.  They were so confident that they were going to win.

And I guess that was a good lesson. No matter how good you are, and they were rated fairly high, and they were a good team, not to take anything away from them.  They were a good team, but arrogance does not pay.

Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Was that a lesson that you learned?

Jeanette (Olson) Lietz: That would be a big one right there.  Because no matter how big a lead you think you have or what have you, you just don't act that way.  When I saw that, and the other girls on the team noticed it, too. They thought: let them laugh.

Determination, hard work, a good work ethic does pay off, and if you just persevere, keep trying, no matter what your odds are, you're not always going to come out on top. But again, a good work ethic, good team playing. To be quite honest, there's some team members my sophomore year that maybe we weren't all that close, but boy, when you stepped out on that court, all your differences, they disappear.  You're on there and you are a team and you play as a team, and that's a good lesson to learn.  Because not in life are you going to like everybody that you meet, and so you have to get some good lifetime skills and learn to get along with those people some way or another, and you make adjustments.