Yale Athletics

Elizabeth Felix ’19 and Emma Lower ’19 decided last semester to create a new organization that “aims to empower women athletes in both varsity and club sports.” This organization — the Yale Women’s Athletic Council — held its inaugural gathering on Jan. 29 and has since met once more.

This is the first organization on campus created solely for female athletes. “We felt that there are resources for women and resources for athletes, but there is nothing that addresses our unique needs as female athletes,” said Felix, who is on the women’s swimming team.

The Women’s Athletic Council plans to discuss a wide range of issues that directly affect female athletes, such as body image and mental health. It also wants to focus on encouraging community service, with the aim of encouraging and supporting middle and high school-aged female athletes.

In addition, the group plans to bring in expert speakers, as well as women who play a significant role in the athletics community. The group also wants to organize a gala to celebrate women in sports.

Brian Tompkins — the former Yale men’s soccer coach who is now the senior associate athletic director of student services — has helped coordinate the project. Both Felix and Lower approached him separately with the same idea, and he put them together to facilitate the creation of the organization.

The council meets twice a month at the Center for Learning and Teaching in Sterling Memorial Library and is open to all club and varsity female athletes. Felix and Lower, who is on the track and field team, kept the agenda flexible at the first meeting, leaving the floor open to participants to brainstorm possible directions for the group.

“Most recently we had a great discussion about body image and how we can create cultures of body positivity,” Lower said. “It’s actually so inspiring to see so much enthusiasm for the meetings being generated so quickly and to hear about people’s ideas of what they want to do with YWAC.”

The establishment of the council came during the same semester that the Yale Athletic Department announced the appointment of its first female athletic director, Vicky Chun, who will join the Bulldogs from Colgate this summer. She will replace outgoing Tom Beckett, who has been in charge for 24 years.

“I was thrilled to hear that the new athletic director is a woman,” Lower said. “Vicky Chun has an incredible track record at Colgate, and I think YWAC’s mission aligns really well with her priorities. I think we’ll have a lot of support for YWAC and women’s empowerment.”

Billy Gallagher | william.gallagher@yale.edu