training rules (2009)

No drinking.
No drugs.
No lesbians.

Well, what’s the point?  And that’s what Training Rules seeks to uncover.  Yes, faggots.  It is not just fun and games here in Ohio.  Not normally a fan of the documentary form, I took it upon myself to give this one a look after a hard-hitting spin class got me all fired up and ready to go.  This film clocks in at just over and hour and paints a fairly dismal portrait of women’s lives in sports, focusing on the story of Jen Harris, a hotshot college basketball player whose career was cut tragically short by the homophobia she encountered as a student-athlete at Penn State.  We don’t get to hear a hell of a lot from Harris for legal reasons, but her parents contribute a great deal to the narrative and it’s pretty heartbreaking.  Other testimonials are provided by ex-Penn players (the Gulas twins are particularly cute), the awesomely dykey softball coach Sue Rankin and a variety of other sports activists.  I didn’t even know there was a National Center for Lesbian Rights!

The one glaring and most unfortunate absence is any comment from the coach in question, Rene Portland. – the woman who joylessly coined the 3 No’s.  She’s apparently an icon at the college level and ultimately resigned her position at Penn after Harris’s case was settled and a slew of other ladies stepped forward to speak out.  Since this shit went down, millions have been paid in reparations to scorned ex-players across the country, which makes this pic a rousing David versus Goliath tale, but there’s no court documenation and no real interviews with anyone taking Portland’s side.  So there ain’t a hell of a lot of “dramatic tension.”

The big question for me: is ol’ Rene a closet case?  Portland dismissed a ton of exceptionally talented women from her squad, perhaps even to the detriment of the team’s success.  Then there’s the creepy-ass excerpts of her visiting the Vatican.  And back in the day she looked like a foxy carpet-muncher, for whatever that’s worth.  (The archival game footage is great … jocks of the fairer sex had the best haircuts in the seventies and eighties.)  I don’t know about you, but I smell an embittered rat in Lady Speedstick.

Watch and decide for yourself.

  1. I watched this doc because of you and it made me want to:

    a) coach the Penn State Lady Lions
    b) sport some corn rows
    c) murder dummies
    d) all of the above
    e) none of the above
    f) all of the above


  2. Jess Barbagallo said:

    Finally – an endorsement for the relevance of our service smack dab on the site! Maybe you can play Jen Harris in the indie musical of this story I’m Penn-ing.

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