by Jay Feinstein
Four autumns from now, when the football team is trudging on the turf, the cross country team is racing on the outdoor track and the volleyball team is playing in the SOA, the deck of this school’s pool may be dry. There may not be any girls practicing in the pool. There may not be a girls’ swim team.
A Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) subcommittee recently introduced a proposal to phase out the current girls’ fall swimming and diving postseason competition by the 2015-2016 school year. The lack of a postseason means that the girls’ fall swim team will no longer exist, according to coach Kirsten Tuohy. This measure has sparked some opposition in this school’s girls’ swimming community, she said.
With the proposal, the MIAA, which currently offers a boys’ postseason in winter and a girls’ postseason in both winter and fall, would continue to offer the girls’ and boys’ winter postseasons, according to Tuohy.
If the proposal passed, this school would be forced to either combine its boys’ and girls’ swim teams or to have two teams that share pool space, Tuohy said. “It would have a significant impact on us,” Tuohy said.
Currently, there are three swim teams in this school that practice during the winter: Newton Swim Team, this school’s boys’ swim team and South’s co-ed swim team. With the addition of the girls’ swim team, there would be a fourth.
If boys’ and girls’ teams were to practice together, both teams would have to cut up to half of their team members due to limited pool space, according to Tuohy. There are currently between 45 and 50 members of girls’ swimming, and she said she would have to cut 25 or more to accommodate sharing the pool with boys’ swim.
“The girls don’t have to worry about what boys are thinking and saying. Girls go through a lot of changes in high school, and being on a single sex team enables them be comfortable in their own skin.”
An all-female team gives students a place to grow, Tuohy said.
“It’s empowering for girls to compete with and against other girls,” she said. “The all-female experience is important because it gives girls a place and time to work out social and emotional issues that many people inflict upon themselves. People can really be themselves.”
Many other members of the State’s athletic community are outraged by the proposal, Tuohy said. “All coaches in the fall are not for it, even coaches of teams with boys, because they don’t want to lose what they currently have.”
According to senior Hunter Hedenberg, who was a captain with senior Veronica Ingham this fall, the change would negatively affect the team.
“Putting boys and girls together while wearing bathing suits everyday is definitely going to change the group dynamic of both teams,” Hedenberg said. “Because there are both boys and girls on the teams that compete, the teams as a whole are bigger, which can make competition more intimidating and stressful, and it can make the meets longer.”
Many would-be members who enjoy winter sports could also be lost from the team, Hedenberg said. Many divers are also gymnasts, and would have to choose between diving and gymnastics, she said.
To limit competition between boys and girls, without spending the extra money needed to hold a boys’ fall postseason, the MIAA will discontinue its girls’ fall postseason, Tuohy said.
“The MIAA would have to rent pool time to run two more tournament meets for boys in fall,” she said. “They would be running eight instead of four.”
According to the proposal, there will be a boys’ fall postseason for the next three years, but after that, there would not be a fall postseason for boys or for girls.
“I’ve been involved in MIAA swim since ’92, and it has been in the fall for all 20 of those years,” Tuohy said. “A change would be something to get used to.”
Boys’ swim coach Ryan Rich declined to express his opinion on the issue. “I’m confident the MIAA representatives for Newton North will ensure that a decision is made in the best interest of the school and the state association.”