By Joseph Staszewski
Women’s athletics wouldn’t be where it is today without people like Jane Modry.
The former coach and administrator at Bishop Reilly and St. Francis Prep died in her sleep at the age of 70 Sept. 8. She left behind a legacy of innovation and dedication when it came to growing women’s sports in New York City. The Jackson Heights native was one of the founding members of the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens girls’ league, which began in September 1971. It came at a time when many administrators didn’t think it was needed.
Modry and a few others thought otherwise and let people know.
“She said if men had leagues and played for a purpose, then why can’t the women play for a purpose instead of just going out there to play ball just to play ball,” said close friend and St. Francis Prep’s first girls’ basketball JV Coach JoAnn Wagner.
Wagner, who has known Modry since she was a student in her gym class at Bishop Reilly, said many coaches at the time were content with the way things were. Women did not play five-on-five, full-court games until 1971. The women’s team didn’t even play games on the school’s main court.
Title IX, which made equality opportunity in sports for women federal law, was passed in 1972. Modry kept pushing for those improvements.
“She was never content to just leave something as it was and do it as a job,” Wagner said. “She always tried to make it better and make the people involved in it better for having been part of it.”
Modry coached basketball, volleyball, softball and track at St. Francis Prep. She is a member of the league’s Hall of Fame and served a term as GCHSAA league president. Modry was instrumental in the league’s involvement in the state federation tournament and organization of city championship and crossover games between Brooklyn/Queens and the Archdiocese.
Long-time Cardinal Spellman girls’ basketball Coach Jane Morris said people were always amazed with how many people and contacts Modry had.
“She’s just a great lady,” Morris said. “She had a really good sense of humor. She was a very straightforward type of person. She told you what she thought in a nice way, but she really understood what was happening.”
Modry makes innovations and improvements in whatever job she held during her 38 years in Catholic education. She started the basketball and volleyball programs at St. Francis Prep. During her time as athletic director, SFP was the first Brooklyn/Queens school to have a girls’ soccer team in 1983.
Modry eventually stepped down and made the intramural programs at SFP something students flocked to and thoroughly enjoyed because of her passion and organization.
“She loved working with kids,” Terriers Athletic Director Sal Fischetti said. “Prep was her life. Everything she did in her daily life was around the school.”
By doing so, Modry played a major role in the berth of girls’ sports in the CHSAA. It’s because of people like her across the country at the time that women’s athletics are where they are today.
“Where would the WNBA have come from if it wasn’t for people pushing from the bottom up,” GCHSAA President Denis Hillig said. “I’m sure she had a hand in that — in our league she did.”