by Marisa MacDonald, Sports Reporter
According to the Newton South website, of the 36 sports programs offered at South, only eight are coached by women; moreover, while nine of the 16 girls teams have a male head coach, none of the 12 boys teams have any female coaches.
Head coach of the girls lacrosse team Britney Wuoiro said that particularly since coaching is a male-dominated field, she encourages her girls to make their voices heard.
“There are so many male coaches at South, and they’re really nice, but the women definitely stand our ground in meetings,” she said. “It’s really powerful for our girls to understand that even in places with mostly men, they can still do anything guys can do.”
For varsity field hockey coach Jennifer Dirga, female athleticism has always been uplifted. Growing up in a family of female field hockey players, Dirga said that she was inspired by her mother’s leadership on the field.
“She was truly a phenomenal player, and went on to have great success in college and professionally,” she said. “She went on to have an incredible coaching career, and I really only hope to be half the coach that she was.”
Michelle Cueroni, head coach of the dance team, joined the program because she works as a teacher at a local studio, so coaching came easily. Cueroni said that she loves to see the team embrace the chance to showcase their abilities.
“It’s rare they get to compete, so when they get the opportunity, it’s really exciting because they get super amped up, and you can feel the energy and the excitement,” she said.
Dirga said that in addition to witnessing group synergy, there is a similar thrill in watching her high school athletes’ careers blossom.
“The same girls who didn’t know what end of the stick to hit with as freshmen, if they choose to continue, end up getting really good and reaching varsity,” she said. “Seeing their hard work pay off over the years is really special.”
Since becoming a coach fresh out of college, girls soccer assistant coach and science teacher Ashley Vollaro said that integrating into the school community has been encouraged by being a part of a sports team’s dynamic environment.
“Becoming an educator came with being a student-athlete. When I became a teacher, it made sense to keep coaching,” Vollaro said. “I love it because it connects me to the school.”
Just as their backgrounds in athletics allow coaches to understand the student-athlete experience, Wuorio said that she values her role as a mentor during such a formative time for teenagers.
“It’s really important, especially for girls in high school, to be able to have an adult figure who is someone they look up to, respect and feel comfortable with,” she said. “I still talk to a lot of the girls who were there my first year and are now seniors in college. I love seeing them as players and people grow.”
The connections made between a female coach and a female athlete can be made on a deeper level than with their male counterparts, Wuorio said.
“I can understand more about what girls are going through, especially in high school,” she said. “Female coaches have been there, and the men haven’t.”
Cross country captain Amanda Gordon said that she feels more connected to her female coach due to their shared experiences.
“It’s easier to connect with female coaches on things like cramps,” she said. “Obviously Steve, the head coach, is great, but sometimes people only feel comfortable talking about things like that with a female coach.”
As her athletes move on from high school, Wuorio said that she is confident with how they have grown outside of having a faster mile time or better ball skills.
“The one really big thing that is important about coaching is just teaching the girls how to be better people,” she said. “I’m just as interested in life lessons than I am about winning.”