After 21 seasons as Head Coach of the Andover Girls Hockey team, Martha Fenton ’83 has transformed the program into a perennially fierce competitor in the New England Preparatory School Athletic Conference (NEPSAC). Currently in the midst of her 22nd season, Fenton stands at the helm of a 5-0-3 team that clinched the Championship title at the Patsy K. Odden Invitational Tournament at Taft in December.
Fenton uses her extensive background as a player to effectively manage her team. Her chief priority, she said, is to motivate and support her players, both on and off the ice.
“Sports are ultimately about the relationships that are formed and life lessons that are learned, so I hope to be able to provide the girls with a challenging, fun and positive environment and then give them the space to do the rest,” said Fenton.
Fenton’s extensive background with hockey began at Andover, where she also played field hockey and lacrosse. She then proceeded to play all three sports at the collegiate level at Bowdoin College.
After graduating from Bowdoin, Fenton started her coaching career at Phillips Exeter Academy. After her three-year stint at Exeter, Fenton began coaching at Andover. Throughout the past 22 years, Fenton has been an Assistant Coach for Andover Field Hockey and a Head Coach for Andover Girls Hockey and Andover Girls Lacrosse.
Like all coaches, Fenton hopes her team will win every time it steps on the ice. She does not, however, solely judge a season based on the team’s record. Rather, she is more concerned with the development of her players.
Fenton said, “I hope that we will use every practice and game to improve, both individually and as a team. [The team’s] work ethic has been really impressive so far.”
Players stated that Fenton has played a huge role in the team’s improvement over the past couple of years, largely because of her experienced guidance.
Co-Captain Kasey Welch ’16 said, “Coach Fenton is a great presence both on and off the ice. She has vastly helped my game over the past four years, giving me tips after every drill during practice and in between shifts during the games.”
To constantly push her team to new limits, Fenton said she makes an effort to conduct intense, focused practices. Her honesty and discipline force the team to work hard every time it steps on the ice. Most importantly, Fenton does not want her players to avoid confronting their errors.
Welch said, “Coach Fenton’s experience allows her to easily see where players need certain improvement, and she really makes an effort to work with girls to correct their mistakes. She guides the team towards improvement by always giving us the motivation and honesty when we need it, even when that honesty is hard to hear.”
Kaitlin Hoang ’17 said, “Coach Fenton knows the game really well, and she always pushes me to make smarter plays on the puck. She is the kind of leader that doesn’t need to say many words for her message to get across.”
Regarding player development, Fenton emphasizes the importance of mental toughness and physical fitness. Before or after every practice, the team goes running or completes strength-training sessions in order to improve its fitness.
Hoang said, “All of the games at the Taft tournament went into overtime, and although it is very stressful to play in these moments, Coach Fenton helped me to calm down and play well.”
Welch said, “During practices, [Coach Fenton] puts a lot of emphasis on physical fitness, but also on collaboration as a team and figuring out which players play well together. She is very invested in the team’s success. Additionally, she truly acts as a motivator for the team, whether it’s leading after-practice workouts or making sure we get a good meal after games, she truly values the well-being of the team.”
Although she values her team’s performance in games, Fenton stresses that the most important thing to do as a team is to support each other. She interacts personally with each player and makes sure that everyone knows how significant their impact is on the team. Fenton also stresses the importance of putting the team before individual needs.
“[Fenton] is a very strong leader. Specifically, her leadership is intensified by her ability to be an amazing role model. She puts the team first over individual players and always knows what the team needs to succeed both on and off the ice… She goes to any lengths to do whatever is the best for the team,” said Welch.
Under Fenton’s veteran leadership, Andover Girls Hockey looks to continue its winning streak over the course of the season and ultimately mount a successful postseason.