When being a female sports standout was not the norm back in the mid 1970's, Arlington's Lori Grimm excelled on the softball diamond, the soccer field, and the basketball court.
Grimm, a 1976 Washington-Lee High graduate, who has spent her professional career as an Arlington County schools physical Education instructor and prep school coach, has always had a fervent love for athletics and competing. But as important, Grimm has always had a heart for her teammates and students and players she has taught and coached.
"Her students adore her and she's an excellent teacher, no two ways about that," said Peg Harmon, Grimm's former softball coach during her playing days at W-L. "She's just there for everybody."
Grimm, who first started playing softball as an eight-year old within Arlington County's youth sports leagues, ultimately became a three-sport athletic sensation as a teenager at Washington-Lee. She was also a Generals team captain and team MVP in all three sports she played.
As a softball pitcher and shortstop, she led the Generals to a district title during the spring season of her senior year. That team, which saw its season end with a region playoff loss to Madison, finished with an overall record of 10-2.
In basketball during the winter, Grimm played point guard for a Generals team coached by Del Norwood, who became famous in Arlington athletics for his many years as the Generals' baseball coach. A few years ago, W-L's baseball diamond, in fact, was named after the legendary Generals coach.
As a high school soccer player, Grimm played a center forward position. The Generals finished with a 5-1-1 mark during her senior year.
Barbara Reinwald was W-L's girls soccer coach at the time. Near the end of that '76 school year, both Reinwald and Harmon nominated Grimm for high school All-American honors. When those accolades became official, Grimm said she received a nifty signed plaque signed by none other than Billy Jean King, the former U.S. women's tennis superstar. The keepsake currently is showcased at Washington-Lee. She also made the renowned `Who's Who in American High School Athletics' at the time.
Grimm said recently that her terrific teammates and outstanding coaches played a huge impact in the high school success she experienced.
"Playing with better skilled players and good coaches helped me [attain] my accomplishments," she said.
Along with her head coaches at the time, Grimm said assistant W-L athletic coaches Ann Morgan (softball) and Rae Smith (softball) were also instrumental figures in her athletic development and sportsmanship values.
Grimm, as a high school athlete, was a natural on-field leader who could rally those around her.
"I worked on my skills and the [team] camaraderie needed to keep things together," said Grimm, who was named Washington-Lee's Most Outstanding Girl Athlete by the school's boosters club her senior year. "We all had our roles to play [as teammates]. We grew up playing against each other [as youth players] in Arlington."
GRIMM GREW UP PLAYING sports as a young girl in the Lyon Park neighborhood of north Arlington. She had plenty of family playmates growing up in older brothers Ronnie and Jeff, older sister Robyn, and younger brother Barry. Grimm recalls that her parents were always driving their kids to athletic games.
"I just was always a little tomboy and played hard," said Grimm, with a chuckle. "I played football in the neighborhood. It was just natural to me. It was a stepping stone."
With that sports mindset and the opportunities to play sports growing up, it's no wonder Grimm became the star high school athlete she became.
Harmon, Grimm's high school softball coach, remembers Lori's father being at all of his daughter's high school softball games.
"Her father never missed a game," said Harmon. "He was there with his folding chair. And Lori's mother followed the game."
Harmon said her pitcher truly put her team ahead of any individual accolades.
"She was a team captain but also a team leader," said Harmon. "She always thought in terms of the team and not herself. She could play any position. In the end, she stood out as a pitcher."
Grimm played the game the right way; she played hard and was not a self promoter on the field or court of play.
"She was just an outstanding all-around athlete," said Harmon. "She wasn't a showboat. She was natural and never played to the crowd. Her efforts were for the team. She was a tremendous sportswoman, very generous working with the team. She's a wonderful person and leader."
After high school, Grimm went on to play collegiate basketball at Longwood. There, she played guard on the women's basketball team for three years. She was part of a Longwood squad that captured its conference title one season. Grimm graduated from Longwood in 1980 with a degree in health and physical education/recreation.
Over the next several years, she taught at Thomas Jefferson, Kenmore and Williamsburg Middle Schools and at Wakefield High. She was Wakefield's JV softball coach from 1981-86 and the Warriors' JV girl's basketball coach from 1981 to 83. And from 1983 to 1987, she was at the helm of the Wakefield girls varsity basketball program.
GRIMM CAME TO Washington-Lee High School in 1987 and, over the years, coached the varsity softball and basketball teams from 1988 to 96.
"I've enjoyed [working with youngsters] and helping them to be active in life, trying to teach them life-long sports and activities," said Grimm, of her career as a teacher and coach. "What has stood out is hopefully teaching kids how to handle themselves on and off the court, to have fun and work hard and to represent their schools [well]."
In recent years, Grimm has stepped away from coaching but continues to teach at Washington-Lee.
For many years, Grimm has competed athletically as an adult. She was part of an adult women's softball team, the Torques, which competed at the ASA Nationals in both 1988 (Midland, Tex.) and 1989 (Meridian, Miss.). Those talented squads were under head coach Larry Underwood and assistant Max Little.
Grimm was also a player-coach for an adult coed basketball team from 1991 through 2004. Currently, she plays softball with the well-known Golden Girls program in Fairfax County. Grimm was part of a Golden Girls team that won the women's senior nationals in 2003 in Palm Springs, Calif. Team members received championship rings for that remarkable achievement. Grimm, in her seasons with the Golden Girls, has pitched and seen time at shortstop, second base and the hot corner position.
Golden Girls coach Kathy Collet said Grimm is an outstanding player and teammate.
"She brings leadership abilities, experience and skills," said Collet. "She's always willing to pitch in and help. She's a great player and she's versatile. She can hit the ball almost anywhere she wants. She's always positive, always a motivator."
Collet said the popular Grimm also brings comic relief to the team and is active with the team's commitment of helping others throughout the community. One area where the Golden Girls have given to the local community is through work at the Vienna Women's Shelter.
Collet rooms with Grimm when the softball team travels around the country to compete in tournaments.
"She's truly one of the best persons I've ever met," said Collet. "She's true to her word and exemplifies the mature woman athlete."
Added Harmon, "She just loves competing and I think she'll go on playing forever and forever."
This past June, the Better Sports Club of Arlington re-named the club's annual Female Athlete of the Year Award to the Lori Grimm Female Athlete of the Year Award. That's quite a fitting tribute to Grimm, who's high school jersey at W-L was recently retired.
"To have coached Lori four years and to have seen this girl just develop as a person, it was so rewarding," said coach Harmon, of the years when she coached Grimm. "I think she's made a tremendous contribution to Washington-Lee."
Lori Grimm is 78 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.