Since the 1980’s, the landscape in athletics throughout Newton has changed dramatically. In the past, most women played two “field” sports, field hockey and softball. With soccer and lacrosse increasing in popularity among female athletes, Newton now has over 1,500 female youth athletes playing these sports (based on data from Newton Parks, Recreation and Culture). These teams require “multi-purpose” fields. Fields that look like rectangles.
What has Newton done to accommodate this surge in female athletes over the decades? Not much. There are not enough rectangle fields that support the sports women play the most, and many of them are shared with baseball or softball, making them unavailable in the Spring.
Using Google maps and the Newton website, I’ve been able to complete a thorough analysis of all of the fields in Newton that are safe for play. There are only seven full sized, dedicated (not shared with another field) “rectangle” fields for the youth athletes that need them. The other seven multi-purpose fields are shared with either softball or baseball, so they are only available in the Fall. The result is that women’s teams are “crammed in” to insufficient field space every year, which reduces practice quality (in some cases three teams share a field) and causes grass fields to be overused, degrading their quality.
It has been almost 50 years since Title Nine (of the Education Amendments Act of 1972) was passed to grant women equal access to athletics and athletic facilities. Why isn’t Newton addressing these challenges?
A common excuse is that “we don’t have the budget” for this. That is not true. There are a number of solutions that Newton can pursue.
- Commit Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds. These funds are designed to be used for a number of focus areas that include athletic fields (including lights and construction of new fields). They have been used sparingly for athletics. According to Newton’s CPC reports, there is over $10M in the CPA reserve waiting to be utilized.
- Charge market-rate rental fees and direct them to field maintenance. Newton’s fee structure falls below every surrounding community.
- Be more supportive of new funding models. For example, Newton has long restricted recognizing “sponsors” for our fields even when there are other cities that have been able to do this tastefully.
It’s time for Newton to “get on the field” and address gender inequity in athletics.
Justin Traxler, President, Newton Girls Soccer, Newton’s largest all female athletic program
Justin has coached both of his daughters’ soccer teams and is an avid soccer player. He has lived in Newton for over 20 years and has been the president of Newton Girls Soccer since 2017. Most recently, Justin founded the Newton Athletic Fields Foundation, a new organization focused on Newton’s Athletic Fields.
Note: This article has also been published as an opinion piece in the Newton Tab. I received permission from Justin to post it here as well. Paul Levy.