Although sports have been an integral part of her life since childhood, Head Coach Martha Fenton ’83 only picked up hockey in her Senior year at Andover when she managed to convince her mother to get her equipment.
Coach Fenton was able to quickly transition her athleticism onto the ice but struggled to perfect her skating.
Coach Fenton said, “I had skated, and I had played pond hockey, but I had never played hockey, so it was a pretty steep learning curve in terms of the skating piece of it. The game came pretty naturally, but the skating took some time.”
After she graduated from Andover, Coach Fenton played collegiate level hockey for four years at Bowdoin College. During her time in college, Women’s Hockey made the transition from being a club sport to a varsity sport.
“I think that being a part of that first women’s inaugural team was definitely pretty special. I played with a bunch of really great friends at Bowdoin, and we probably weren’t that good but we had a ball,” said Coach Fenton. “I think for me, some of it was sort of being on the front end of being a female athlete in that sport, but I felt like Andover and Bowdoin did a really tremendous job when they started their programs of really going all in with it. I think I was lucky enough to not have challenges. I was afforded incredible opportunities at those two schools to play.”
After graduating from Bowdoin, Coach Fenton took a year abroad before becoming the assistant coach at Phillips Exeter Academy. Following her three years in New Hampshire, Coach Fenton returned to the Andover coaching staff as an Andover Girls Hockey assistant coach. Coach Fenton took over as head coach after assisting Mr. Stableford for two years and has maintained her position for the last 24 years.
Coach Fenton’s coaching philosophies are based around her dedication to building a strong team dynamic. She believes that even the strongest group of individual players may not necessarily make the best team if they do not play cohesively and communicate.
Olivia Nolan ’20 said, “I think she makes it really clear that the team should be like your family, and the team comes first, not any individual scheme or anything like…I think that’s something that I carry with [me], not only at Andover but elsewhere, that teamwork is the most important, and you will never get anywhere if you don’t bring every member of the team with you.”
In order to build a strong team dynamic, Coach Fenton encourages team bonding by hosting team dinners at her house. According to Tookie Wilson ’18, one of the highlights of the season is “Martha’s Cheesy Pasta,” a dish that Coach Fenton is famous for.
According to Wilson, Coach Fenton is also extremely adept at reading the energy of the team and making practice enjoyable.
Wilson said, “In practice if were having a beat week, and she sees that, she will bring out a ball, like a blow up bouncy ball, onto the ice, and we will play rugby-hockey. We will put our sticks away and skate around with the ball and try to hit it.”
Coach Fenton additionally helps motivate and maintain high energy levels among the players by reminding them of their potential and reaffirming her faith in them, according to Wilson.
Wilson said, “She’s always telling us, even in practice when were feeling really low, she can always see the glimpse of all of our potential. I think that is something really special that she can see such bright futures for all of us… Her never ending faith in all of us and in our ability [is also a strong motivator]. She’s always telling us how great we can be and how great we are. That’s something that never fails to inspire.”
Furthermore, Coach Fenton teaches the players to always work their hardest always in order to see the best results, according to Linda Bibeau ’20.
“I would say Martha is a big believer in hard work and dedication, which is something that all coaches try to preach but Martha really emphasizes. She gives everyone a shot in practices and drills and really shows that hard work will pay off in the games and the practices especially,” said Bibeau, “She leads by example even though she’s the coach, and most coaches observe practice rather than actually taking part in it. She leads through her hard work and constant dedication.”
Coach Fenton also poses as a strong example for the team to follow, leading with her dedication to hockey and to overall fitness, according to Wilson.
Wilson said, “She’s a freaking beast. She still does crossfit like every morning. We all say that she is in better shape than all of us — easily. To see that athletics and hockey can be a part of your life for as long as you want it to be is a really great motivator and inspiration.”