October 8, 2007 - by
Champions In Life

Oct. 8, 2007

“You worked hard, you played hard and your success is very evident today.  It is very important for you to remember the women who came before to pave the way.  Imagine the pride we have in you.  Please remember that it’s not always about winning, but it’s always about how you play the game, not just in sports but in life.”  – Mollie Carroll Cardamone, 2007 Champions Beyond The Game honoree.


The annual “Champions Beyond the Game” Brunch, presented by Seminole Boosters, Inc., and the Florida State Department of Athletics, is an opportunity to honor the accomplishments of past Seminoles but also serves as a platform for these successful women to open the eyes of the women who don the Garnet and Gold today by educating them on their own experiences as student-athletes and beyond.


As 2007 “Champions Beyond the Game” honorees Mollie Carroll Cardamone, of the pre-scholarship era, and Jaime Kaplan, of the scholarship era, addressed the coaches, student-athletes and donors at the Sunday morning brunch, it was clear these women were making an impact by the words they shared.


“We could really call ourselves pioneers as the name changed from Florida State College for Women to Florida State University and the new co-ed environment that occurred in the late 40s and we immediately followed in the 50s,” Cardamone said.


Cardamone came to Florida State from Sarasota and earned her a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education in 1958.  While at FSU, she was a member of Tarpon Club, F Club, Garnet Key and Mortified.


“Many of us came to FSU having been involved in very high level of high school sports only to find no interscholastic program for women, no conferences, no NCAA championships,” Cardamone said.  “All we had was a very good intramural program, with dorms and sororities actively engaged.  We had lots of fun, but it was not as satisfying as it could or should have been.”


Following graduation in 1958, Mollie married Ronald Cardamone, her husband of nearly 50 years, and later had two sons and now two grandchildren. They returned to Sarasota where Mollie taught school for a number of years.  In 1964, she and her husband opened a retail business (Children World) that they operated for 37 years in Sarasota and 19 years in Bradenton.  Mollie became a neighborhood activist and was a founder of the Coalition of City Neighborhoods Association and served as President for the first two years.  As a result of her civic interest she ran for Sarasota City Commission in 1993 and was re-elected in 1997.  She served eight years as a commissioner and two years as Mayor of the City of Sarasota. 


“Without hesitation, I can say FSU is the place I grew up to become, what some would call, a successful wife of almost 50 years this coming January, a teacher and a coach for eight years, a mother forever, a business women for 37 years, a community activist all my life and an elected politician in office for eight years,” Cardamone said.  “The spirit of competition and the learning of how to win and lose is a very important part of my persona and my life.”


As Kaplan, class of 1983 and the first player in the history of FSU Tennis to qualify for NCAA’s, moved to the podium to begin her address, she was quickly interrupted by a ring from her cell phone.  She politely took the call and it was from her friend “opportunity.”


“A life around sports has made it possible for opportunity to call me a lot,” Kaplan said.  “When I was nine years old and started playing tennis, I started hanging out with opportunities’ friends.  So “discipline” and I would go to the tennis courts everyday, sometimes for nine hours ago.  We worked hard and when we thought we had enough, we did some more. 


“Because tennis is a sport where you are mostly your own referee, I met “integrity.”  So I had been hanging out with “discipline, courage, tenacity and teamwork” for a pretty long time and guess what, “opportunity” called me for the first time, a full scholarship to college.  Now I didn’t get the college right the first time, but two years later, I knew I needed more to become a professional tennis player. “Opportunity” called again and soon I was a Lady Seminole.”


Kaplan, a native to Macon, Ga., attended the University of Georgia from 1979-81 and then attended Florida State University from 1981-83.  While attending FSU, she ranked #1 in tennis singles and doubles for two consecutive years.  In 1983, she participated in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships.


“Full scholarship – what amazing two words,” Kaplan said.  “Because of my full scholarship, I had no financial worries during school.  I could focus all of my time on extra work on the court, in the gym, on the track and in the library.”


Following her collegiate career, Jaime went on to play in five Wimbledons, four U.S. Opens, four French Opens, one Australian Open and won five doubles’ titles and also held a World Singles ranking of #252 and a World Doubles ranking of # 91. 


After an outstanding professional career, Jaime then became the founder and event manager of the Association for Retarded Citizens and Macon Rescue Mission and has raised over $1,410,000 in 18 years.  In 1996, she was selected by the United Way to be the Olympic Torch Relay torchbearer.  That same year, she was named among the “Top Ten Influential Sports Figures of the Decade,” by the Macon Telegraph and the following year, was honored on the list of “Top Ten All-Time Female Athletes.”  The honors have not stopped for Kaplan, who in 2005, was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, which includes athletes from all sports. In 2006, she was inducted into the Georgia Tennis Hall of Fame.


“Through sports I’ve met so many people, made so many contacts, and broadened my knowledge of the world,” Kaplan said.  “So many things, but mostly sports, have enhanced my life.  I’m able to touch so many lives, be able to raise money for charity, teaching the great game of tennis to a beginner, being a hero or role model to someone.  I try not to just teach tennis to the kids I teach, I try to introduce them to discipline, integrity, flexibility, patience, organization, teamwork, tenacity, leadership, dedication, excellence and courage.”


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