Female Athletes Discuss Support for Girls’ Teams


Graphic: Quinn Patwardhan ’24.

Last year, female athletes at Sidwell won state championships, Independent School League titles and competed at the national level. One team that embodies the hard work and dedication put forth by female athletes is the Girls’ Varsity Basketball Team. These women made national headlines after a perfect regular season, a state championship and success in the inaugural State Champions Invitational and a national championship.

Andrea Keklak, head coach of the Girls’ Track and Field and Cross-Country teams, believes equity is essential in generating an environment that is less fixated on systemic gender divisions in sports.

“Although we all do come from different backgrounds, there is something unifying about all pursuing that same path together,” she said. “We all feel the same pain when we run, we all put in effort when we run, we all have to develop that skill of mental toughness,” she added.

Keklak continued, describing how being mindful of sports’ many participants can help people find a sense of identity — all athletes face setbacks no matter what backgrounds they come from.

This past year, many Sidwell athletes have reported their teams being founded in equitable environments. The cross-country team is a group that exemplifies equity, as the teams often practice in groups determined by skill level.

There are some actions each member of the community can take throughout the year to create a more equitable athletic environment.

A member of the Women’s Varsity Basketball Team applauded the progress made last season in the representation of female athletes at Sidwell but also pointed out some disparities she noticed. Sidwell’s F.A.N. social media account, @sidwell_fan, for example, pushes content that focuses equally on men’s and women’s teams. However, the disparity between the attendance of women’s and men’s sports games remains notable.

Although we all do come from different backgrounds, there is something unifying about all pursuing that same path together.

— Andrea Keklak

The Women in Sports Club (WISC), a group which aims to spur support for Sidwell’s women’s teams, also recognizes that attendance is a vital way to uplift and support women’s sports at Sidwell.

“One key issue our club would like to solve is increasing attendance for the girls’ sports teams,” junior Jordan Mathewson, a WISC co-head, said.

Another way the Sidwell community can provide support to the girls’ teams is by connecting with Sidwell alumni who pursued athletics in college or at the professional level. Meeting established and accomplished female athletes and viewing them as role models can motivate younger athletes to continue their pursuits regardless of initial uncertainty, Keklak shared.

“I remember when I was in high school, meeting some of these world-class female runners, who were from the home state I was from, and who had then gone on to run in the Olympics, was incredibly inspiring,” she said. “That was probably one of the most meaningful things to me, because I could feel that they were paving a way in the sport,” she added.

To preserve momentum for girls’ sports, the Sidwell administration could organize discussions, panels and podcasts to host accomplished alumni athletes or sports-affiliated alumni. Through continued action, Sidwell can provide an even more inclusive environment for female athletes.

“I think that a lot of girls’ teams will have success this year. We have such a talented group of female student athletes at Sidwell,” Mathewson said.