After an undefeated 2018 season, the junior varsity (JV) soccer team (2-1) welcomed two new members to its team— female athletes Lauren Hickey ’20 and Gabrielle Maffezzoli ’20.
Hickey and Maffezzoli have played soccer their whole lives. Maffezzoli played on the Bowdoin women’s varsity soccer team as a first year, but quit the team after that season. For the two women, soccer has been an integral part of their lives at Bowdoin.
“Soccer has honestly provided me with some of my highlights [at] Bowdoin,” said Hickey.
However, the soccer scene at Bowdoin exhibits a strict gender divide. That divide exists most obviously in the distinction between the men’s and women’s varsity teams, but also in more subtle ways within the soccer community.
Intramural soccer, a system of leagues that anyone can register teams within and play against each other, is the most popular way to play recreationally on campus. Within Bowdoin intramural soccer there are three leagues: A-league being the highest skill level, B-league a step down from that, and C-league, which currently has two teams that both fall under the six players per team minimum.
While the B-league teams have a fairly even balance of men and women, there is only one team out of seven in the A-league that has a single woman registered on its roster. There are 47 men registered on A-league teams. There are two women.
That being said, there are plenty of women on campus looking to play soccer at a highly competitive level. Sofia Trogu ’19 started a women’s JV soccer team during her sophomore year and was able to gather 35 students within a week who expressed interest in joining the team, and she enlisted the help of the Bowdoin Athletics Department to organize the team as an official JV program that played other colleges.
However, due to the administrative burden of founding a team, the women were only able to schedule a few scrimmages among themselves. When Trogu attempted the next year to convert the team to a club team rather than JV, Student Activities told her that there was not enough field space for them to play, and the Athletic Department “[did not] advocate for [the team]”
Hickey tried to play on the women’s JV team before it folded and expressed disillusionment with the Bowdoin administration concerning its handling of the team. Since both athletes were still interested in playing soccer at a competitive level at Bowdoin, Maffezzoli and Hickey got involved with the Bowdoin Pick-up Organization Of Soccer (B-POOS) in lieu of an organized team.
Even joining B-POOS, a similarly male-dominated space, took chutzpah, said Maffezzoli.
“What Lauren and I are doing, to come to B-POOS as a woman, does require that extra,” Maffezzoli paused. “I don’t know if it’s confidence or if it’s just like, ‘I don’t give a crap.’”
Through B-POOS, Maffezzoli played against most of the men on the men’s JV team. She jokingly expressed her interest in joining the team but was surprised when she was met with support from the men on the team.
“Some of them were like, ‘Gabs, you should totally do it.’ I was like, ‘Good one.’ Then junior year I decided ‘why the heck not,’ especially considering there’s no women’s JV team,” said Maffezzoli.
Maffezzoli in turn reached out to Hickey, knowing she would be interested in joining the team given their mutual involvement with B-POOS. Hickey was similarly a little hesitant before agreeing to join but eventually decided to go for it.
Hickey and Maffezzoli feel wholly included by their teammates, but they acknowledged that they were fully aware of their gender while being on a men’s team. Maffezzoli mentioned how the psychological “stereotype threat” comes into play.
“The men on the team might … bump into us and be like, ‘Oh my god, are you okay?’ They think we’re really fragile … We run into each other and they think that they’ve killed us. Like, no, I’m fine,” said Hickey.
Despite the dynamics that come with being a woman playing on a predominantly male team, both Hickey and Maffezzoli expressed their happiness with the situation.
“I’m grateful to all our new teammates—the men on the JV team—because definitely, [joining the team] was intimidating and also exciting … I do not feel animosity or any difference in treatment. So I’m just grateful,” said Maffezzoli.