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Fay Magazine: Fall-Winter 2021

Leveling the Playing Field: India Shay ’15

India Shay’s final field hockey season at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, included valuable lessons in advocacy as she and her teammates pressed for adequate facilities and a Title IX review.
For the first time since 1998, Trinity’s field hockey team advanced to the NCAA Division III final four, an accomplishment that should have been all the sweeter as Trinity was tapped to host the final four championships this year. However, the Trinity team’s season-long campaign to secure a final four berth was waged in tandem with an off-the-field struggle for adequate facilities and calls for a Title IX review.
Since freshman year, India had heard rumblings from fellow female athletes about the disparity between the facilities provided for male and female athletes. While the baseball team enjoyed a new stadium, friends on the softball team complained about spectator seating and the lack of a functioning clock or scoreboard on their field. However, the situation looked brighter for the field hockey program. In the fall of 2019, the athletic department gathered the team to announce a significant upgrade to their facilities. Sheppard Field, the women’s field hockey and lacrosse field, is directly next to Miller Field, the home of Trinity’s football and men’s lacrosse programs. The team was shown a Powerpoint with renderings of a plan to build up permanent stadium seating surrounded by brick with the Trinity logo for both fields. Underneath the seating, there would be warming rooms for the teams to use. “When they announced that construction would be done in time for us to host the final four, that got us really excited,” recalls India.
Although the 2020 tournament was canceled due to the pandemic and construction was delayed, the team was told last winter that the project would be completed by the time they returned to school this fall. When players arrived for preseason, they found that while the football stadium was nearing completion, nothing had happened on Sheppard Field. Drew Galbraith, the Trinity Athletic Director, met with the team. He blamed supply chain delays and promised that everything would be ready in time for their first home game. “None of that happened,” says India. “One day, we came out, and there were five rows of portable metal bleachers on the field.” Not only was it nothing like the permanent stadium seating design they had been shown, but it was also less seating than they had previously, and nowhere near the 1,000 spectator seats required by the NCAA to host the tournament. “Nobody said anything. We were looking at each other, trying to read expressions. Because I’m a captain, I broke the silence.” Everyone agreed that this was not right. India and the other captains called another meeting with Athletic Director Drew Galbraith and asked him about the designs they had been shown. “He said that the architect had gotten carried away and that it was never the plan for our field to look like that,” recalls India, even though they had shown the same plans to donors to the project (including to India’s dad, Jim Shay ’78), and the plans were still posted on the school’s website. “We all left that meeting with a bad taste in our mouths,” says India. The field hockey team reached out to other women’s teams, and they formed a group called TrinWAL, the Trinity College Women’s Athletics League. They wrote a petition calling for an end to gender inequity in Trinity College athletics and a review of the school’s compliance with Title IX. The petition currently has over 2,000 signatures. The Hartford Courant picked up the story, and India and her dad were both interviewed.
Meanwhile, the team was also showing what they were made of on the field. “We have a very young team, and we all knew that we could have the opportunity to play in the final four at home,” says India. “It was a pipe dream because the NESCAC is so competitive, but we decided to shoot for it.” As the Trinity Bantams racked up the wins, the stands (small as they were) started filling each week with more fans. “More people were coming, and the stands were full on a regular basis,” says India. “We were getting the respect we were looking for from the community.” The Trinity team made it to the final four and played against Johns Hopkins on their home field, with fans cheering them on from temporary bleachers brought in for the event. Although they lost 1-0 in the semi-final game, “it was a crazy fairytale, and it was so nice to have the support of everyone,” says India.
India is hoping to pursue a career in sports public relations. While she may not be at Trinity to see how this movement for gender equity in athletics plays out, she will take a new perspective with her when she graduates. India and her team could have accepted the school’s broken promises and inferior treatment but instead chose to call it out and make the school do better. “The biggest lesson learned,” says India, “has been that when people don’t understand or make a connection, it’s up to you to show them what they are missing.”

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