Judy Sherman shined in an era when women lacked myriad opportunities in sports

Judy Sherman is something of an unusual case.

She does not own any Forest Grove High School records, all-league or all-state honors. She never guided a Vikings team to a league championship or a state playoff run — as an athlete or a coach.

Yet, there is no doubt she belongs in her school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

A 1960 Forest Grove graduate, Sherman grew up during a time of limited opportunity for women in sports. But she made the most of her chances, went on to play five sports at Oregon State, and became a renowned coach and athletics administrator.

In recognition of her achievements, Sherman will be inducted into the FGHS Athletic Hall of Fame in a ceremony slated for Saturday, Sept. 28 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.

“First of all, I was proud that they had selected me and very exciting to be acknowledged by my hometown people,” Sherman said. “But it was also very exciting because they’re not only, I feel, honoring me, but they’re also honoring Title IX and the growth of girls and women in sports.

“When I was in school, there weren’t teams, and so I’m kind of a different candidate.”

Sherman, whose maiden name is Larkins, graduated from Forest Grove 12 years before the passage of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational settings.

“Everybody talks about Title IX and all this that went on, and I actually lived it,” Sherman said.

Sports were a part of Sherman’s life from an early age. As she remembered it, she and her sister were the only girls in their Forest Grove neighborhood, so they played a variety of sports — 500, softball and wall ball — with the boys.

“I always had a love to play, and I was lucky enough that my parents were as supportive of the girls and their interest as they were of the boys and their interest,” Sherman recalled. “I just loved to play, whatever kind of game it was, if there were other people around, if I went out by myself and shot baskets or played one-person wall ball, I loved to be outside and I loved to play.”

When Sherman was a girl, she wanted to play youth baseball but was not allowed to try out because of her gender. But she took advantage of the opportunities available to her at the time, participating in “play days,” in which girls from area schools would gather together to play on teams, and “sports days,” in which girls would play on school-based teams against other schools.

In high school, she would play pickup basketball at noon with the boys, recalled Tim Schauermann, who was a couple years behind her at Forest Grove and nominated her for the hall.

“I guarantee you, she was the only girl who bothered to try or wanted to, and she could hold her own,” Schauermann said. “The boys might have been a little bigger, maybe a little stronger, but she was good enough to play and not have people say, ‘What are you doing here? You’re not good enough to play with us.’”

Outside of school, starting at age 11, Sherman played on a Forest Grove women’s softball team for several years. And when she was a teenager, Sherman received the chance to shine in a more organized setting, thanks in no small part to her father, Ellerd Larkins. The owner of Larkins Lumber Company, the elder Larkins sponsored the Forest Grove Meadowlarks, a women’s softball team that played in the Pacific Coast League.

“He was beyond his time as far as that kind of thing,” Sherman noted. “As soon as the dads started to get involved and ... (realized) that their daughters deserved that kind of an opportunity, that’s when I started to see more involvement with girls in sport, and my dad was just ahead of his time.”

Sherman was a lanky and athletic center fielder on the team, which drew players from throughout the area and took on other squads located on the West Coast. One year, the Meadowlarks won the league and qualified for the Women’s Major Softball national tournament in Stratford, Conn. Playing a 22-inning game along the way, the team eventually placed third, the highest finish while Sherman was on the squad.

“They were playing teams that were of a national caliber,” said Schauermann, who frequently watched the Meadowlarks play. “And Judy stood out. She was a very, very good player at that stage.”

After graduating from Forest Grove, Sherman enrolled at OSU, which did offer women’s intercollegiate teams. She competed in softball, field hockey, volleyball, basketball and track and field before earning her degree in physical education in 1964.

One statistic Sherman does remember from her time as a Beaver is that she jumped 5 feet, 6 inches in the high jump as a freshman. That mark would still be respectable today, and Sherman did it using the western roll technique. (Dick Fosbury, who popularized the Fosbury Flop, had yet to enroll at OSU and was still working on his revolutionary technique in high school during Sherman’s time in Corvallis.)

Bob Larkins is Sherman’s younger brother by 10 years. He characterized his sister, during her athletic career, as a tall woman with long legs who could run and jump. She had great reflexes, he said, she played both ways in basketball (during an era where some players only played on one side of the court), and she guarded opponents’ top offensive threats in basketball.

A few short years later, Sherman was back in Forest Grove, starting a career at Pacific University that would span more than five decades and includes too many accomplishments to list. Among them, Sherman coached teams in five different sports, most notably softball, her favorite sport and her passion. She coached the Boxers in that sport for 28 years, amassing 418 wins along the way. Her diamond teams won six consecutive league titles in the 1980s, and her 1985 squad took third place at the NAIA national tournament.

Sherman also served as Pacific’s athletic director for 12 years starting in the early 1990s, and she served on the selection committee that chose every U.S. Olympic softball team from 1996 through 2012. She has been inducted into several halls of fame, including the NAIA and NAIA District II halls, both in 1988. She entered the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1992 and Pacific’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005. She was awarded the Oregon Sports Awards’ DNA Award in 2012, and Sherman/Larkins Stadium in Lincoln Park is named for her and her family.

Though Sherman is technically retired, she still works in game management for Pacific. She also still calls Forest Grove home, and she is the mother of two children and the grandmother of three.

She has put together quite the career and a life full of accomplishments and memories.

“I’m really excited. She is a real good person,” Bob Larkins said. “It’s kind of like the John Wooden story — you know, they don’t call him Mr. Wooden. When they see him, they just call him Coach.

“And you can’t believe all of the places they go, and Judy’s had all these girls come up to her. It’s not, ‘Hi, Judy,’ ... it’s ‘Hi, Coach.’ Wherever she goes, it’s ‘Hi, Coach.’”

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