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Andover Founds New Athletic League With Four Peer Prep Schools

Andover has joined Choate, Deerfield, Northfield Mount Hermon and Phillips Exeter Academy to form the Five Schools League (FSL), a new athletic league, in which five schools will compete for a championship in all interscholastic sports. The new league will not affect Andover’s status as a member of the New England Preparatory School Athletic Conference (NEPSAC).

“The main goal is for us to have a series of like-minded schools who play one another at a very high level of competition, but where we’re joined by a set of common principles that allow for great competition,” said Head of School John Palfrey.

At its core, the FSL was designed to quell the hypercompetitiveness between its member schools while simultaneously recognizing the importance of athletics in students’ lives, said Leon Modeste, Athletic Director.

“What we’re hoping is that we can lead the way for other prep schools to understand that it’s not just about hanging a banner. It’s about the regular season and how you do against like-minded competition. That’s what’s driving us,” said Modeste.

“It’s part of [Andover’s] philosophy. We want to have competitive athletic teams, but we’re not going to let that drive who we are. We’re not going to go out and become a powerhouse in some sport just to win games,” he continued.

To achieve this, athletes and retiring coaches in the FSL will be recognized at the end of the season for outstanding character and sportsmanship.

“We know that these five schools have the same philosophy on the importance of sports in an academic setting… It’s not a high-intensity thing, and we don’t want it to be. Competitive, but not crazy,” he continued.

The league also aims to end aggressive recruiting tactics adopted by other prep schools. All schools in the FSL discourage the act of high school coaches reaching out to student athletes before the students have begun the application process, Modeste said. One of the main tenets of the FSL is that academics come before athletics.

“[A member school] can’t be a school that thinks, ‘We’re going to admit these ten guys so we can win a basketball championship.’ They can’t do that… None of these schools do that. Do they want to win? Sure. But they’re not going to compromise their academic integrity just to win games,” said Modeste.

All sports will be a part of the FSL, which will name one school as the overall champion in recognition of having the strongest athletic program each year. Wins for all teams will count the same toward the year-end tally (for instance, a victory for Varsity Soccer would be worth the same amount of points for the winning school as a victory for Junior Varsity Soccer).

“We get our kids, and we try to make them the best student athletes that we can make them, with our coaches. These other four schools feel the same way. These are schools that we have had longstanding relationships with,” said Modeste.

The headmasters of the participating schools have been discussing the formation of the FSL since 1998. Being part of the FSL will not result in any schedule changes for teams, nor will there be any playoffs for the league.

“From my end, I’m extremely excited about this. It’s something I’ve wanted to set up since I got here, and I’m thrilled that another four schools have joined us in this,” said Palfrey.

Further, the FSL will allow any school with the same goals to join the league, said Modeste.

“It’d be great if there are schools out there that could join this [league], as long as they have the same academic and athletic philosophy,” he added.