During my Junior year on JV1 soccer, practice was peppered with mumbled grievances about the cuts that had been made from the Varsity roster. While many of my teammates were upset that they hadn’t made the team, and although not all of the complaints aired were necessarily valid or productive, I found one recurring comment particularly concerning: the Varsity team had not gained any Uppers or Seniors, but instead, accepted five Juniors and a Lower — all but one of whom were day students or local boarders.
At the time, I chalked it up to coincidence. Those underclassmen were indeed skilled players, and had undeniably showcased their skills to earn their spots on Varsity. The majority of them just happened to be from the Andover area. What I hadn’t realized at the time was that of those six underclassmen, five were from Massachusetts, and all of them played club soccer. As time progressed, I heard of similar patterns occurring in other sports, and eventually uncovered that Varsity sports are not equally accessible to all students.
There is a trend in the relationship between Varsity rosters and their JV counterparts. According to the rosters on Andover Athletics, the overall ratio of Massachusetts students to non-Massachusetts students on girls Varsity teams that make cuts is 48 percent higher than those ratios on their JV counterparts. With the exception of Girls Varsity Volleyball, the ratio is between 34 and 79 percent higher on Varsity than JV teams.
While this serves only as a snapshot of this year’s teams, and some discrepancies might be explained by the regional popularity of a sport, it is highly unlikely that this pattern is coincidentally occurring across almost every sport. I believe that this disproportionate number of day students and local boarding students on girls Varsity teams is a result of those students having increased access to club sports. If this disparity is because of club sports, there are probably only a certain amount of students who can afford to play on these teams, indicating a potential socioeconomic divide.
Though there is no uniform way to track which students participate in club sports, it makes sense that day students and local boarders are more likely to participate in them, for example, means of transportation. Many of them already play for a club team in the area, so they could simply continue after arriving at Andover. Unlike day students, boarding students have to follow day excuse procedures and sign-in rules that might conflict with club practices.
If day students and local boarders do indeed participate in club sports at higher rates than their peers, it makes perfect sense that they would make Varsity teams at higher rates as well. Consistent practice at a competitive or travel level is sure to improve any athlete’s skills. If a day student who has been playing for a club hockey team all year were to face off against a boarding student from California who hadn’t skated in months, I know who I’d be placing my bets on. Though our Varsity teams should be comprised of the most skilled athletes who try out, we should not ignore the fact that certain students have a greater accessibility to resources.
There is no way to change the intrinsic privileges that certain students have, but there are ways to help minimize disparities between students. In the same way that the school’s peer tutoring program supports all students, not just those who can afford to pay for private tutoring, providing assistance for students on financial aid to pursue club sports could be an avenue to help those students who might not have the financial means to participate in club sports. Creating Andover athletics programs for off-season training is another approach — some of these programs, like the winter erging program, are already well-established, but simply not recognized by the school as official athletic commitments.
My argument is not intended to disrespect student athletes who play club sports. I admire many of my peers who are able to handle the many demands of life at Andover while also shouldering the commitments of a club team. Their hard work, however, does not justify whatever inequity might exist between those with access to club sports and those without. This not only means a disparity between local students and their peers, but a disparity between those with the socioeconomic privilege to afford club fees and the students without that privilege. As a school that preaches equity, students should be receiving equal opportunities not only in the classroom, but also on the field.
Tessa Conrardy is a three-year Upper from Pittsburgh, Pa. and a Layout Editor and an Illustration Editor for The Phillipian. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.