The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

December 14, 2012

Transgender college hoops player keeps head high

(Continued)

"I got exactly what I always wanted, just to fit in and be normal like everyone else," Ludwig said.

The story of how she ended up in a basketball uniform again would inspire comparisons to "The Natural" or other tales of middle-aged redemption were it not for gender. Introduced to the sport as an impressively tall 7th grade boy, she played on her high school team as Robert John Ludwig, then one season at a community college on Long Island in New York. After she dropped out, her court appearances were limited to pickup games.

The basketball bug returned 12 years ago, when her daughter from her second marriage, then 7, started playing youth basketball and Ludwig signed on as her coach. Ludwig kept coaching other people's children when her daughter moved on to high school and still works with hundreds of middle school girls every year.

Her transition from a male coach to a female coach five years ago raised questions, but parents generally accepted her decision warmly, she said. So did the women she played with in a couple of intramural leagues.

What the naysayers do not know, she said, is that Ludwig is not the same player she was as a 24-year-old male. She has less muscle and height, because of female hormones she takes. And at her age, she has to work to keep up.

"Yeah, I hit with a little more punch down low, but that's because I weigh 220 pounds, but I am not the only 220 woman out there," she said. "It's different now. My body has changed, my strength has changed, my attitude has changed."

While coaching a youth game on the Mission court last year she met Cafferata. They kept in touch, and when Ludwig half-jokingly asked if he had a spot for her, he said he might.

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