Nearly every day after school, senior Maia Sutton piles into a car with her teammates for the drive to Larz Anderson Park. Sutton, varsity field hockey captain, is one of dozens of field hockey players who depends on upperclassmen or parents for a ride to to Larz Anderson for practices and games.
“In the beginning of the season after the teams are decided we have to organize carpools,” Sutton said. “Some of the seniors have cars, so it’s not an issue, but when I was an underclassman, the parents would have to organize who could drive the kids on what days.”
Field hockey is not alone. Of the 10 varsity sports that the high school offers in the fall, only half of them practice at the high school. The only varsity fall teams that compete at the high school are girls volleyball and girls swim and dive. Boys junior varsity soccer also practices and competes at the high school.
The boys and girls varsity soccer teams have the longest trek, a drive to Skyline Park in Chestnut Hill that exceeds three miles. Senior Gabe Sultan plays boys varsity soccer, which has a similar system as field hockey does for traveling to practice.
“It’s the seniors’ responsibility to drive people, but it puts a lot of pressure on people to really be able to coordinate really well because we have very limited practice time,” Sultan said. “Especially on game days, we don’t get to bus up there on game days, so if for some reason one person doesn’t have a car that day then it creates a serious problem.”
These long distances to practice exist because Brookline High School is more urban than other Bay State Conference teams. The Schluntz Gymnasium, the Evelyn Kirrane Aquatics Center, the Tappan Gymnasium, and Cypress Field are the facilities available at the high school itself.
Distant facilities can create problems for teams that need to travel. Varsity football, for instance, loses practice time because of the walk to Downes Field.
“The time it takes us to get to practice, that fifteen minutes, that’s losing an hour of practice a week that other teams are getting over us. That’s a lot,” varsity football head coach Keith Thomas said.
Location is not the only important aspect of school athletics facilities. Quality also plays a huge role.
“I’d much rather have to deal with going to Skyline every day than having to play on Cypress where the field is just not in great condition,” Sultan said.
The two varsity soccer teams, which practice and play at Skyline, both qualified for the playoffs this year.
Field hockey, however, is 3-11-1 so far this season, according to Boston.com. All three levels of Field hockey practice and play at Larz Anderson rather than Downes Field, except when football has games or is using the weight room. Larz Anderson has grass, rather than synthetic turf, which Sutton said causes issues.
“All the great teams have a turf field that they practice on every day, they play games on,” Sutton said. “It’s a totally different game, grass versus turf.”
Sutton credited the team’s weak record to practicing at Larz Anderson.
“Because we can’t practice at Downes all the time, we’re a slower team than all the other teams and that’s why we lose a lot of our games,” Sutton said.
In 2014, the fall high school teams that do not practice at the high school won an average of 43.4% of their games, according to records provided by the athletics department. Teams that do practice at the high school won an average of 74.3% of their games.
The synthetic turf facilities in Brookline are limited to Downes Field, Skyline Park, and a small area at Lower Soule Field designated for recreational athletics. According to Director of Parks and Open Space Erin Gallentine, all three facilities received funding from private donations.
The town is renovating Fisher Hill reservoir and creating a new athletic field there. This field will be natural grass, and will be smaller than regulation soccer size, according to assistant athletic director Kyle Williams. Brookline Recreation Assistant Director Melissa Battite said that Fisher Hill’s use has not yet been determined.
“We’re still waiting to see when that field will go live, and then once it’s live, I think we’re going to have to see what other fields are down, because everything gets moved around in a domino effect,” Battite said. “It could be something that the high school requests, or uses once in a while, or uses just in a pinch when other fields are under construction.”
Even with the additional field at Fisher Hill, however, the high school will continue to search for a solution to the facility issue.
“If we had a field right here on school grounds, that would be the only solution,” Thomas offered as a possibility for the football team. “And I think that would help our numbers too. Because I think if kids end up seeing us every day out there, maybe they might get excited about playing or knowing that they don’t have to walk fifteen minutes to get there.”
Unless Cypress Field turns into synthetic turf, that is not a possibility. Even if football did practice at the high school, Soccer and Field Hockey would likely compete for the right to play at Downes.
According to Sutton, Brookline’s facilities struggle to accommodate the high school’s teams.
“I think there’s a whole field problem in Brookline. We just don’t have a lot of fields,” Sutton said. “I think we should have more turf fields because I think that if we have the chance to learn to play the game on turf, when we play teams that always play the game on turf, we’ll have a better chance of beating them or performing better.”