The Athletic Advisory Board (AAB) is a group of Andover Varsity captains from all seasons who come together biweekly to discuss important issues in sports, such as inclusivity, mental health, and team culture. Each meeting, Athletic Director Lisa Joel and the board’s two elected student representatives, Trey Wolfe ’23 and Dagny Bingham ’23, hold conversations for captains to improve their role as leaders on their respective teams.
Joel compared being a captain to other leadership roles on campus. Just like proctors, prefects, and day student mentors, Joel believes that Varsity Captains need tailored training in order to effectively lead their teams.
“We understand across the campus, students hold different leadership positions… It’s really good to have sounding boards and conversations so that everyone can be their best selves in those spaces. Just because someone is elected a captain doesn’t assume that they’re going to have all the skillsets we might want our leaders to have or be involved and engaged in conversation… captaining a team has some unique challenges and opportunities. We benefit from a space to discuss those and share best practices and so on,” said Joel.
Ashley Song ’23 believes being an athlete is not only about playing the sport; it’s also about supporting fellow athletes and being a part of a community. Song highlighted the contributions each individual team can make to the greater athletic community.
“[The AAB brings] everyone together so we can all focus our conversations on the various intersectionalities that are involved in sports. I think I’ve learned this over time now, athletics isn’t just about competing and doing the sport and working out and being a part of your team, but also being a part of athletics as a part of the greater community, and understanding where you fall in the community and what role you play in sports. Our identities as sports teams and in athletics, are a lot more nuanced than we think [they are],” said Song.
So far, the AAB has discussed team culture and inclusivity, alongside topics of mental health.
The group recently revolved its discussions around Morgan’s Message, a nonprofit organization that “strives to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health within the student-athlete community and equalize the treatment of physical and mental health in athletics,” according to their website.
Joel emphasized the value she places on full group sharing so that different voices from all teams can be heard.
“We do a lot of cross-sharing because the thing that the swim [team] might do, might be very different from what the volleyball team might do. We like captains to talk across the different groups. We talk about team culture, team building, we talk about inclusivity… We talk about mental health in sports, which I think is an incredibly important topic for adolescence in general, but then again certain aspects of being an athlete exacerbate that at times,” said Joel.
The AAB is not the only group at Andover that discusses inclusivity in sports. In May 2021, four athletes from the girls lacrosse team took a stand against racism, classism, and homophobia in athletics at Andover, which initiated a campus-wide Blackout, a student demonstration where people dress black, for other students to stand in solidarity. In response, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Board (DEI) was put in place to give a voice to more members of the athletic community and not solely the Varsity captains. This year’s DEI representatives from the AAB board are Song and Abbie Cheng ’23.
“The DEI Board was formed in response to [the May 2021 Blackout], to begin addressing and also normalizing conversations surrounding issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in athletics. Conversation and talking about these intersectional issues is just something we don’t really do in athletics, and it’s something that’s not really normalized. The issue itself is kind of rooted in this, and that’s what we’re focused on,” said Song.
Looking ahead, AAB leaders Wolfe and Bingham strive to incorporate a greater Non Sibi spirit into Andover’s teams. With Varsity captains facing intense competition and pressure on a weekly basis, they believe captains should better reflect qualities of compassion and respect, in and out of one’s sport.
“I think our goal is we want Andover Athletics to be the best that we can possibly be, and that doesn’t mean winning games, it means on and off the field we’re a representation of Andover’s Non Sibi mentality where we’re good sportsmen, we work hard, we care about each other… [Andover Athletics] is not just a group of athletes, it’s a group of Andover students,” said Wolfe.
At the next meeting, the Athletic Advisory Board will meet with Andover Students in Medicine to discuss substance abuse.
Editor’s Note: Ashley Song and Abbie Cheng are Illustration Editors for The Phillipian.