This past Saturday was a historic day for Foxcroft when we held our ribbon-cutting for our new turf fields. By saying it was historic, I do not mean that this day will go down in Foxcroft’s history as a turning point in our athletic program even though, certainly, our beautiful fields will help strengthen four of our interscholastic sports: field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and softball, and will allow us to offer a new sport, track and field.
I mean that athletics has been a part of Foxcroft’s history from the School’s inception. Long before science confirmed the positive correlation between physical fitness and learning, our founder Miss Charlotte Haxall Noland knew the benefits of exercise and competitive sports. The motto she selected, Mens sana in corpore sano, meaning a healthy mind in a healthy body, reflects her belief. During a time when most girls did not play competitive sports, Miss Charlotte formed the Fox/Hound teams and held an annual basketball tournament. Well Miss Charlotte understood that being part of a team would teach character, determination, and sportsmanship as well as be a fun tradition for her students.
Today, The Girls and Sports Impact Report, surveying more than 10,000 girls across the country, shows that sports have a positive effect on young girls and their perceptions of themselves. Girls who play sports seem to have stronger friendships with other girls. They are 10 percent more likely to say they trust other girls and 7 percent more likely to get along well with other girls. Katy Kay and Claire Shipman, co-authors of The Confidence Code, write that for girls, sports can be a major confidence builder, something that women need at all stages of their career. “Playing competitive sports embodies the experience not just of winning, but the experience of losing. The losing is almost as critical,” says Kay. “When you’re playing sports and you do badly, you have no choice but to pick yourself up and carry on. That process really builds confidence. It’s an incredibly useful proving ground for business and leadership.”
Indeed, women who have been athletes in high school generally earn more when they enter the workforce, according to research by Betsey Stevenson, former Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor and a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. Athletics may foster the development of attributes that “include the ability to communicate, the ability to work well with others, competitiveness, assertiveness, and discipline.”
An EY/espnW global study of senior women executives shows that sport is a positive determinant of leadership and achievement. The survey linked women in senior management positions to experience in sport, finding that 94% of women in the C-suite play a sport and 80% of Fortune 500 female executives played a sport in their earlier years.
Ellen Kullman, Former Chair and CEO of DuPont said, “What I think team sports do is teach you how to be a team with a very diverse group of people….Team sports really teach you how to collaborate across a broad spectrum of personalities or individual talents, and learn how to get the most out of what you have.” We certainly know this is true at Foxcroft.
We aspire to utilize these fields not only to benefit our own students’ experiences and to help them develop skills, confidence, and courage, but also to enhance the lives and opportunities of athletes in our region, particularly young girls, through making our facilities available to our community. It gave us great pleasure to welcome to campus the Hill School field hockey tournament, which included about 90 girls from five middle schools, when heavy rains made Hill’s fields unplayable a few days after these fields were completed.
Finally, I believe that these fields will be history-making because our students themselves will make history. They are young women who dare and do, and they are part of a larger Foxcroft network of women who for over a century have been trailblazers in what they accomplish in their professions, in their communities and around the world, and through their leadership. We know that their playing team sports sets them up for greater success. Now we have the facility that will allow our students to play their best game on the field and in their futures.
Girls & Sports: A Girl’s Index Impact Report, Ruling Our Experiences, 2018.
Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, The confidence code: the science and art of self-assurance — what women should know, HarperBusiness, 2014.
Where will you find your next leader?: EY and espnW explore how sport advances women at every level, EY Women Athletes Business Network and espnW, 2015.
Betsey Stevenson, Beyond the classroom: using Title IX to measure the return to high school sports, NBER Working Paper 15728, National Bureau of Economic Research, 2010.