The subject line on the email read: Bringing the Fun Back.
Joe and Meghan McGowan, whose daughter Margaret is on the III — or “thirds” — girls soccer team, had come to a game and just had to write coach Koby Osei-Mensah thanking him for doing a great job with the team and for making Margaret’s experience so enjoyable.
Wrote Joe, a 1987 graduate who played three sports at Loomis Chaffee: “At a time where sports have gotten so crazy and out of hand, it was refreshing to see girls playing for fun and having so much fun! It was nice to hear honesty and acceptance among the girls, hearing things like, ‘Oh my left foot just isn’t working today’ followed by teammates laughing with no judgment.”
Playing for a III team does not mean the athletes are any less committed than a varsity or junior varsity player. But these players may have never before played the game, at least not competitively in years. Or they might not have played the position before.
A III team is an independent school tradition that gives students a chance to play a sport they otherwise might not have an opportunity to play.
“Often times in the huddle or in practice I tell them, remind them, of how special they all are — individually and as a team,” said Ali Murphy, coach of the girls lacrosse III team. “Most come with little or no experience. They just need to show up and commit to an hour or so of exercise, basic skills and to have fun. How incredible is it to have teammates from Afghanistan, Ukraine, California, Connecticut, etc.? It’s important to experience what it’s like to work as a team, knowing where you can contribute and to get out of your comfort zone.”
Ask any coach of these teams and they will echo Ali’s sentiments.
“By the end of the season, all of the players are very aware of how far they have come skill-wise, and I love to see the fire in their belly when they are in a tight game,” Ali said.
Koby said he and assistant coach Julie Hinchman strive for a balance of students growing as athletes but also developing friendships that hopefully last long after their playing days end.
“We want the girls to thrive, have fun, connect with one another, not just on the soccer team but around campus,” Koby said.
About 30 percent of the girls III soccer team this season either were new to the game or had not played competitively for years. Koby said it is always “phenomenal” to see the growth that happens over the course of the season.
Koby also said there is something special about being on a team, playing together, traveling together. Thirds allows that opportunity at a school where students must meet minimum annual requirements for team activities and physical exertion activities. Students can participate in life fitness activities, but some of the choices are more independent than team-oriented.
“We love being out there; we have fun, and each day we got better,” Angela Adu-Boateng, senior captain of the girls III soccer teams, said. “It has been a wonderful last season for me. And [junior] Izzy [Heflin], our other captain, has done a wonderful job of being another leader.”
Angela called playing III a stress reliever. “You can forget about things for the time you’re out on the field,” she said.
But it’s hard to forget about this team’s record: 6-0 with one goal allowed.
Allison Beason has coached varsity, junior varsity, and now III volleyball.
“We see a lot of skill development since often our players are new to the game or have limited experience playing the game,” Allison said. “That huge progression in growing skills, in understanding the game, and in development of effective offensive or defensive strategies is exciting to be part of as a coach. As this progression happens on an individual and team level, players become more confident and work better together. That is rewarding and fun.”
Allison said she also enjoys being part of the students’ entry to the school since so many on a III team are freshmen.
“We often are helping students navigate the challenges of opening days, helping them adjust to a new school, and guiding them to be successful student-athletes at Loomis Chaffee,” Allison said.
Brenna Jubrey ’16, now an IT support specialist at the school, was a captain of the girls soccer III team in her junior and senior years. Brenna had played since she was 10. She said she could have been on the JV team as a junior but chose III.
“Being able to be captain for III for those who had not played before was a mentorship and a better experience for me at the time,” Brenna said.
She enjoyed the camaraderie. And the games.
“We went all out every time,” Brenna said.
The school goes all out, too.
“Our athletic department does a great job of treating our III teams with the same attention and regard given to JV or varsity,” Allison said. “We are well supported in all aspects: equipment, maintenance of gym, and concern for personal growth of players.”
Ali has coached numerous III teams in her time at Loomis and said the players keep her young.
“I am constantly laughing every single day at practice and really enjoy my time with them,” Ali said. “And my one goal is that one day, a III player will make it to play on varsity by the time they graduate. I totally believe it will happen.”