Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams

By the time Ashlee Wong ’18 finishes basketball practice, it’s already dark outside. Even after a two-hour-long practice, Wong’s night is just beginning. She still has a full schedule of homework and studying to finish before school the next day. It’s worse for some of her teammates. Wong lives only 15 minutes from campus, while some players live more than half an hour away. Wong said that stress over post-practice obligations often affect players, preventing them from getting the most out of practice.
Because of the limited space currently available at the upper school campus, some practices do not begin until as late as 7:00 p.m., but after the school announced its purchase of Weddington Golf & Tennis, located less than a mile from the upper school campus, athletes expressed hope that the expansion of athletic facilities would allow them to achieve more balance.

The school plans to build a community athletics center on the new property. Designs for the new facilities have not yet started and will most likely take up to two years, President Rick Commons said.

The field hockey and football teams currently share Ted Slavin Field during the fall season. During the late fall, winter teams begin their training seasons; the girls’ volleyball team shares Taper Gym with the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams while the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams begin practicing on Ted Slavin Field. The fencing team and drumline currently share a small room located behind Hamilton Gym.

“It’s difficult to share the field with football because neither team is able to have 100 percent intensity,” field hockey player Mia Reilly ’18 said. “We are both worried about hitting balls onto the other team’s side of the field or being too distracting.”

Additionally, the baseball and softball teams practice and play home games at the Mid Valley complex in Encino, 7.8 miles away from the Upper School. O’Malley Family Field, the baseball program’s home venue located on the complex, opened in 2010. The Los Angeles Times reported that the facility cost $700,000.

The boys’ and girls’ golf programs currently practice and play at the Encino Golf Course, 7.5 miles away from campus.

In the Chronicle’s November poll, 85 percent of 191 athletes said they were in favor of the school’s plans to convert the Weddington property into a sports facility. 79 percent of athletes said they think the school needs more practice space.

The desire for more facilities for teams to conduct simultaneous practices and games was a common theme among athletes. Girls’ basketball player Melanie Hirsch ’18 said that she hopes girls’ sports in particular would have earlier practice slots, instead of scheduling practice after boys’ sports.

Multiple members of the cheer team said that they were dissatisfied with their current practice arrangements. Last year, an evening cheerleading practice was cancelled after noise complaints from neighbors.

“I wish we had a facility that had mats so we could practice our stunting,” cheerleader Anneliese Breidsprecher ’18 said. “We practice in Hamilton [gym] but we get kicked out as soon as another team that has greater priority needs it, which sucks because we have just as much priority as them.”

Volleyball player Eve Baxter ’19 suggested using the new space to expand the current program.

“There’s definitely been talk recently about building beach volleyball courts, which would be amazing,” Baxter said. “The program hasn’t really developed a ton recently because, in itself, beach volleyball isn’t huge, but it’s coming up right now and growing a lot. I think by the time that structure is done, if there were to be a beach volleyball court there that would be great.”

Other teams currently practice in small facilities. Fencer David Ahn ’18 said that upgrading to a bigger space would benefit his team.

“The biggest benefit for us moving to a new facility would probably be everyone being able to actually practice simultaneously,” Ahn said. “It would be really great for all of us to have space to practice. Most of us just have people just standing around waiting for a strip to open up, so there aren’t enough [practice] strips.”

While the administration said they plan to repurpose the golf course, exact plans on the extent of the renovations have yet to be determined.

“Having a driving range at Weddington would absolutely be a help to the golf team,” golfer Josie Baker ’18 said. “Having a practice facility so close to the campus would be a huge improvement from having to drive to a range half an hour away. That being said, I’m not sure if a driving range is necessarily the best use of the space, as not everyone in the community plays golf and it takes up a good portion of the land.”

The Tribull Family recently sponsored a refurbishment for courts at the Los Angeles Valley College, where the girls tennis team currently plays home games.
The team recently took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at LAVC, where it currently plays home games. School president Rick Commons and Head of Athletics Terry Barnum attended the ceremony.

Tennis player Lara Mikhail ’18 said that while she is grateful for the renovations at LAVC, playing at Weddington would be much more convenient.

“I still think it’s a great thing that the Tribull family did, to fix up those courts and make them all nice,” Grace Swift ’19 said. “They built the courts because they wanted to continue the tradition of excellent tennis. I think that having nice courts in the valley is a nice thing to have, no matter if we’re using them or not.”

When asked to comment, Barnum and Athletic Director Jason Kelly directed all inquiries to Commons.

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