What sports remain? Girls sports at the Gregory School seemed to be thriving at the beginning of the year. Not only did girls volleyball have enough players to fill JV and varsity rosters, they also had a very successful season. They went into the state tournament as the #5 seed but unfortunately lost in the first round to #12 Valley Lutheran. Even with four players graduating this year, they will still have plenty of interest to form a varsity team next year.
Girls golf was the first sport to be cancelled this year since they only expected to have one player, senior Heather MacQuarrie. Instead of having a one woman team, she decided that she wanted to play with the boys team instead. Macquarrie is disappointed but not surprised that there was not enough interest to have a complete girls golf team. This spring, MacQuarrie along with two other freshmen are expected to join the boys golf team.
As the winter sports season rolled around, it seemed evident that neither girls basketball nor girls soccer would be able to match the interest that helped girls volleyball thrive. Of the fourteen volleyball players, half of them planned on playing winter sports. Seniors Alyssa Metcalf, Grace Herrick, and Riley Matulewic put forth a strong recruiting effort which ultimately resulted in more than enough players to have a soccer team.
The problem was that some of the girls that they convinced to play soccer were originally planning on playing basketball. Freshman Elena Acuña said, “I figured I would get out my interest of doing something else freshman year, so that way I could be more committed to basketball for the rest of high school.”
The result of this was that the girls basketball program was left with only five girls which is only enough to fill a starting lineup. Instead of not allowing the girls to play this season, they were absorbed into the boys team. Chiara Gloesslein, My Lam, Chloe Gardner, and Elaine Wright all play on the JV team, whereas Taylor Thompson plays on both JV and varsity.
Coach Michelle Berry is not discouraged by the minimal interest in basketball this year. “As these players get older and mature more, they will be more capable of generating some interest, but I don’t see any problem with getting interest. Two of the girls (from soccer) will come back and play basketball next year, and I think that it’ll be really positive,” said Berry.
Where basketball seems to be showing increasing commitment with time, the opposite is evident for girls soccer. Illness and injuries both contributed to their dwindling numbers, but lack of commitment/passion also led to the cancellation of the remainder of the season. Senior Riley Matulewic said, “I do think that the lack of passion was one reason that soccer was cancelled. The first meeting the team had about it, the lack of passion was the main reason.”
Girls soccer was not the only sport that was cancelled for Matulewic this year. Only four girls were healthy and committed to playing softball. Instead of scrambling to drum up interest, they just decided to cancel the season.
Girls golf, soccer, basketball and softball were all cut this year. Other teams like girls cross country, swim and track had teams, but they did not have enough players to participate in the state tournament as a team. This leaves girls volleyball and tennis as the only complete teams for the 2014-15 school year.
Riley Matulewic thinks that the cancellations reflect poorly on the school. “With the ropes course gone, the decrease in clubs, the decrease in school spirit, and now the lack of sports, there are not really distinguishing factors for the school besides the academics,” said Matulewic.
Lisa Matulewic was disappointed when her daughters, Riley and Remy, were not able to finish the soccer season or even begin the softball season. She is not pleased with how girls are told to generate interest for their sports on their own. “Then the support for them is minimal, and the girls are threatened with cancellation numerous times prior to and during the season. It is hard to have strong programs under those conditions,” she said.
Alyssa Metcalf’s mother, Erin Moore, feels the same as Lisa Matulewic. She credits her excellent experience with The Gregory School to the athletics almost as much as the academics. Due to this, Moore finds it concerning that so many sports were cancelled this year. She suggests either offering fewer sports or getting an adult to recruit students to participate in athletics.
This trend of apathy in girls sports at the Gregory School is troubling to Coach Berry, even though she is pleased with the commitment of her own team. “I think that we see in that case tremendous commitment, but then I see in these other programs a lack of interest, a lack of commitment, a lack of understanding of what it means to be part of a team, and that’s incredibly disturbing to me,” said Berry.
Berry feels that this issue extends beyond the small scale of the Gregory School and is affecting much of the nation. Participation in certain sports varies depending on gender. A 2013-14 survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) showed that participation in high school girls basketball and girls volleyball are almost identical. Nationwide, about 430,000 girls play each of these sports while 364,000 play softball.
If participation at the national level is almost equal between volleyball and basketball, this raises the question as to why there was significantly more interest this year in volleyball. Even girls tennis has twice as many players as they need to field a team when only 184,000 girls play high school tennis nationally.
Athletic Director Vic Acuña feels as though private club sports are one of the biggest inhibitors on both our girls and boys sport programs. Acuña said, “Historically, we’ve had girls here who have participated in volleyball, basketball, and softball for example, and many of them now don’t participate in basketball or softball because they’re full time volleyball players.”
Students participate in club sports at most schools, but it has a greater impact at The Gregory School because of the small size.
Berry is concerned that girls are not receiving the physical, mental, and social benefits that sports provide. “I think sports, and especially team sports, are one of the primary ways that girls can learn self-confidence, and that they can get to have a healthy relationship with their bodies,” said Berry, “They create long lasting friendships, and they become really wonderful collaborators and learn how to run a team.”
Going into next year, all eyes are going to be tracking the participation in girls sports. The plan, according to Acuña, is always going to be to increase participation for a sport. “The question now is what sports do we focus on moving forward, and what sports are the best ones to offer for our population in terms of interest, in terms of ability levels, and in terms of lifelong fitness skills,” said Acuña.
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