Former Lovington Schools Superintendent Jimmy Derrick is credited with breaking the gender barrier in high school girls' athletics in New Mexico.
For that effort, the 64-year-old Lovington man was this year's inductee into New Mexico Activities Association's Hall of Fame during the boy's and girl's state basketball tournaments at the Pit last week.
His honor earned Derrick the right to sport a NMAA ring -- which he jokingly calls his Super Bowl ring.
"It's really caps off 42-year career and it's always nice to be recognized by your peers at the end of your career ... it really was an honor," Derrick said.
His induction into the NMAA Hall of Fame is his proudest professional achievement in his four decade career as an educator and administrator, Derrick said.
"This recognizes the impact that I was able to have personally on students statewide," he said. "That's why you're in this profession -- to benefit students -- and whenever you can impact on a statewide level then that makes it an even greater accomplishment."
In 1973 high school girls in New Mexico got to play in their first state championship title game at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, thanks to Derrick's efforts in improving girls athletics in the state. Prior to that, girls involved in high school basketball in the state only competed during play days or league times.
Dexter Schools participated in a Mountain/Plains Athletic League when Derrick, age 26, was the principal -- and the youngest high school principal in New Mexico -- of Dexter High School.
Each year when the league's tournament ended, that was the end of the competition for the girls, Derrick recalled. After the 1971 basketball tournament in Ruidoso, he and Dub Williams, now a state representative, decided to do something about getting a girls playoff system started.
In February 1972 he mailed a questionnaire about starting a statewide girls playoff to New Mexico high school principals, Derrick said. Of the 86 districts responding, 50 were in favor of a state championship and 36 opposed. Those responding also indicated 40 were involved in girls interscholastic sports in some form and 46 were not.
After he'd made the results known to the NMAA and State Board of Education, the New Mexico Girls Athletics committee was formed and he served at its first chairman, a position he remained in until 1977, Derrick said.
"It just saw the inequity that was there and Title 9 and the federal government hadn't done anything about it yet," said the man with three daughters and one son and nine grandchildren. "I just felt that girls needed equal opportunity to the boys in athletic competitions."
"Jimmy Derrick deserves the thanks of women in New Mexico for his vision, fair-mindedness, determination and hours of hard work on behalf of girls' athletics," 2005 New Mexico High School Hall of Famer and former Dexter girls coach when Derrick was principal, Pam Allen, said in an e-mail. "Because of his efforts, thousands of girls have had the wonderful experience that only athletic participation affords. ... Jimmy Derrick has impacted in a profound way the lives of generations of women across New Mexico for generations to come."
"It makes me proud for myself because I've been able to be exposed to someone who makes you a better person by seeing they way they make a difference in their life," said Patricia Parsons, Dexter Schools Superintendent and Derrick's former student and colleague. "I also feel really proud of our little town because he let Dexter be the school that really promoted girls athletics, got it started, and that's huge."
Seven years after girls started playing in the state basketball tournament, Derrick took the Dexter girl's team to the state basketball tournament for three consecutive years. The Dexter Lady Demons won the Class AA state championship in 1980.
"That was unbelievable," he said of his experience. "Here I thought it was important enough to start a (girls) program and to be able to coach a state championship team in that tournament ... I was elated."
After finishing college at Western New Mexico University, Derrick, a native New Mexican, started as his career as an educator and football coach in Silver City. He coached boys basketball and football and was a math teacher in Dexter. He was the high school principal in Dexter for five years.
He was also the principal in Weed, N.M., for one year and then returned to Dexter High School, where he coached basketball and track and taught math for about 12 years. He served as principal at Dexter High School again for two years before becoming the superintendent of schools there for four years.
Derrick came out of retirement to work at the Southeastern New Mexico Education Resource Center in Carlsbad for seven years. He was also coordinator for vocational programs for Carlsbad Schools for two years prior to coming to serve as superintendent for Lovington Schools.
He was superintendent for Lovington Schools for four years. After retiring from that position last summer, he's served as director of the Southeast New Mexico Educational Resource Center.