Since the Abbot and Phillips Academies merged in 1973, there have been only three female players in Andover’s football program. This year, Addie Allen ’21 and Lizzie Glazer ’21 became the second and third girls to play for the JV Boys Football team. Makenna Marshall ’18 was the first to compete on the JV football team in the 2015-2016 school year.
According to Athletic Director Lisa Joel, there are no strict rules regarding gender roles for sports teams, and all genders are welcome to participate in any sport if there is no corresponding team for the opposite gender.
Joel said, “Anyone is welcome to tryout for football and if they can compete in that program, then they will have the opportunity. There is no [different] process, nor should there be. First of all, the way our policies go is that if there is not a corresponding gender team— so right now, sports are absolutely gendered. There are girls teams and there are boys teams and then there are co-ed teams. If there is not a corresponding team for a gender, than the opposite gender or gender non-binary students can play.”
According to Marshall, although she was on the team, being in a male-dominant sport made it difficult to connect with her teammates.
Marshall said, “It was mostly a sort of social isolation, because of the physical thing that I am a girl, so I wasn’t going into the locker room with the guys. I wasn’t bonding. I didn’t really make friends through the team, because I wasn’t really asked as the only girl to hang out afterwards or get dinner.”
Four years later, Allen and Glazer have had different experiences. They feel supported and included by their teammates. Although Glazer fractured her back and was unable to play this season, she was still able to notice the evident team unity during the beginning of the year.
“I was nervous about it. I was definitely a little bit intimidated at first, but I found the guys to be incredibly supportive. Overall, I’m really new to the sport obviously, and they’re really helpful in taking the time to teach me or help me when I’m struggling,” Allen said.
Glazer said, “I was really disappointed that I couldn’t play, because I was really excited to be with Addie on the team, but I am proud that she could experience this. I think the team is really close, and so it is less about how well they’re doing, but more about the team dynamics and how well they are performing together rather than just the scores.”
Marshall decided to play football and go against gender norms because she wanted to make a difference in the Andover community.
Marshall said, “It was more like I was trying to make a mark on the campus in all honesty. I had just gotten there. Sometimes as a student of color at Andover, you kind of feel like you are only there because of affirmative action, like [you] need to prove that you belong, so I decided to do things to stand out.”
Allen and Glazer also decided to play football in their Upper years to push for gender role changes in football, but also due to their love for the sport.
“Simply put, I just love to play football. I’ve loved the game since I was younger and I was just talking about how cool it would be to actually play for a team and I decided to give it a shot,” said Allen.
Glazer added, “For Addie and I, when we first decided that we wanted to play football, it was more just because we really enjoyed playing the sport and less about pushing gender boundaries and things like that. I really believe that football shouldn’t just be a sport for guys but rather it should be for those who want to play. I think anyone should be able to play any sport including football.”
According to Joel, in the professional sports world, fluidity between genders in sports is being questioned and challenged by many athletes.
Joel said, “In sports right now, the questions being asked are: What is the purpose of boys versus girls teams? What does it mean for teams not to have gender boundaries to them? I would love for our athletes to keep pushing us to think about what does it [mean] to be a competitive athlete, what places do you want a certain team, and how could we challenge norms that have been around for a long time.”
Allen hopes in the future football can become more of a gender fluid sport where all genders can express their common interest.
Allen said, “I was writing an article for Andover’s Boss Magazine, and I said that I just wanted the opportunity to step on the field as a football player that is a girl, not a girl trying to play football. It should be that the women can be out there throwing the ball, tackling, and really being all in.”
Joel believes that more women will participate in male-dominated sports if people continue to challenge current societal and athletic norms.
Joel said, “There are women coaching. The direction only goes with…women being involved in male sports. I think increasingly you see women coaching NBA men’s basketball teams, you see women coaching on the sidelines of NFL football games and female [referees]. The more that happens, the more we begin to understand that it’s about skill sets, not about gender.”