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Looking Back: Athletics at Grier

Like Grier School itself, athletics at Grier have evolved over the years, always supporting Grier’s motto Sana Mens In Corpore Sano (a Sound Mind in a Sound Body) and providing Grier girls with opportunities to strengthen their self-confidence, maintain a healthy lifestyle, foster a competitive spirit, and more. Glancing through yearbooks of the past reveals the rich history of the school’s athletics and spirit.
Although the history of Grier School dates back to 1853, when it was the Birmingham School for Girls, it is in the early twentieth century that Grier has photographic documentation of sports. In the 1917 yearbook, a group of Grier girls pose for a Field Hockey team photo. They wear white blouses adorned with a school-girl kerchief, full knee-length skirts, tights, and surprisingly athletic-looking shoes. At this time, Grier did not have an official mascot of any kind, so the Grier girls of over a century ago adopted faculty child Sumner Moulton as their mascot and dedicated an entire page of their yearbook to this little boy.

A detailed article in the 1945 yearbook provides insight to the Athletic Association, something unfamiliar to today’s Grier student body. The article states that “the Athletic Association, more commonly known as the A.A., is one of the oldest and most influential organizations at Grier, for athletics certainly form a dominating part of our life at school.” The article continues to describe the organization of the club, which included the usual officer positions such as President and Secretary, but also a “Coke Manager,” whose job, presumably, was related to stocking the school coke machine, “the main source of income” of the A.A. Green and Gold Praefects also played an important role at this time. In an era when interscholastic athletic options for females were limited, establishing two school teams of Green and Gold to compete against each other was Grier’s solution. Evidently, Grier even had a song titled, “Green Team and Gold Team Are Playing Today.” In this post-war year, Soccer was also established as a fall sport, and, in response to a dearth of competitive options in the spring, Grier’s A.A. also inaugurated softball. 1945 also saw the establishment of a Ski Club, due to an abundance of snow, which ramped up participation in the program. The school’s Physical Education Director, Solveig Grier, was said to be an “excellent skier” and “took the members of the club on many cross country jaunts, which they enjoyed immensely.”

Images in the 1956 yearbook shows how Grier’s facilities have grown and changed. One image shows girls playing basketball, wearing skirted jumpers in a brick gymnasium space that is now the home to Grier’s beautiful, wood-paneled library. Another page has photographs of two cheerleading squads: the Green Team Cheerleaders and the Gold Team Cheerleaders, which is evidence that cheerleading was a popular part of athletics in the 1950s and that competition between Green and Gold teams was fierce. Here too, is a photo of the indoor swimming pool, which is now empty beneath the floorboards of a modern fitness center that features a suite of circuit training equipment, cardio machines, and free weights. The tennis courts of the 1950s appear to be dusty rectangles on the hillside and not the modern blue and green surfaces now present at Grier.

The 1957 yearbook is remarkable because it is here that Grier first introduces two important individuals: Shiboon and Aristotle. Anybody that attended Grier from 1957 through sometime in the 1980s knows this famous pair. Shiboon is a monkey and mascot to the Green team, while Aristotle the elephant is the Gold Team’s mascot. For many years, stuffed animal versions of Shiboon and Aristotle appear in photos with the Athletic Association and the Green and Gold teams. It is clear that these two fellows are of enormous importance to the intra-school competitive spirt, as they receive an entire page in more than one yearbook. First seen in the 1957 yearbook, the jacketed Green and Gold Team Praefects each hold their stuffed mascot in the courtyard for a full-page yearbook photo. The 1965 yearbook shows a more casual take, with sweat suit clad members of the Athletic Association holding the two while posing for a club photo on the steps of Old Main. Shiboon and Aristotle now each sport a tiny varsity sweater. In another full-page photo of the pair in 1974, clearly much-loved, they are showing their age a little. They have now each accumulated an entire wardrobe of clothing, it would seem. They each have hats and buttons. Aristotle has pants, Shiboon wears shoes. Having served to embody school spirit and encourage athletic involvement for about two decades at this point, these two clearly hold a special place in the hearts of many a Grier girl. By 1986, the beloved stuffed figures are absent from team photos; however, their legacy remains in the form of cartoon drawings. Maybe the actual stuffed mascots, literally loved to tatters at this point, have been retired, perhaps placed behind glass for safe-keeping.

Meanwhile, as Shiboon and Aristotle were becoming entrenched as icons of Grier Athletics, Grier was developing its sports facilities, notably with a new gymnasium building in the early 1980s. This new building allowed the old gym to transform into a dance studio, giving Grier’s dance program space to grow. The dance program grew so much, in fact, that Grier constructed a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the performing arts in the mid-2000s. With the 8,000 square foot Harlequin sprung Marley floor and 275-seat theater featuring professional-level lighting and sound system, Grier has attracted many talented student-dancers to its thriving signature program, as well as, a long list of guest artists and companies that are happy to partner with Grier Dance.

In 1972, Congress enacted Title IX of the Education Amendments, prohibiting sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving any type of federal financial aid. While Grier, a private institution, was not directly affected by the passage of this law, it had the effect of revolutionizing women’s athletics nationwide. Increasingly, schools began funding all-female teams for competitive sports. Girls were learning that competitive sports were a real option. Recognizing the demand and the importance of competitive sports for its female students, Grier began competition with other area schools. Doing so meant that the intra-scholastic teams of Green and Gold no longer had the same significance as in the past.

No longer competing as a divided Green versus Gold, Grier competed as the united entity of Grier. In this time of growth, Grier improved the soccer fields, resurfaced the tennis courts, added an outdoor pool, constructed massive new riding structures, and more. Around 2006, Mrs. Cherie Gates was hired to be Grier’s Athletic Director, a position she retains to this day. During Mrs. Cherie’s tenure, Grier redeveloped its indoor pool, which had become increasingly difficult to maintain, into a modern fitness center. Grier established a yoga studio inside Maple House, a campus residence constructed in the 2010s. Mrs. Cherie also initiated the Annual Athletic Banquet as a means to give recognition to varsity student athletes.

As the number of competitive varsity teams increased, students began inquiring about a school mascot. Those familiar with the Shiboon and Aristotle tradition realized that Grier could not possibly choose only one of the pair. On the other hand, keeping two mascots in place was confusing. The Head of School let the students vote in favor or against a new mascot.

In the end, the fox won as Grier School mascot. This was in an era when foxes were appearing on garments, stationary, home décor and more. Foxes were definitely having a moment, so it makes sense that the fox won the election; however, beyond its transitory moment of chicness, the fox is a great symbol for Grier. Foxes are forest animals, so they evoke Grier’s woodland setting. Foxes are fast. Foxes are agile. Foxes are also notoriously intelligent and excellent problem solvers, like Grier girls. Also just like our student body, foxes live on every continent except Antarctica, so they are globally recognized and symbolize Grier’s international reach. From cute to sly, foxes are versatile. Practically speaking, a red-orange fox against a Grier-green background looks great visually. Rather than be the Vixens, a term some might agree has less-than-empowering connotations, Grier teams are the “Lady Foxes,” or, simply, “Foxes.”

Christened “Foxes,” Grier’s Athletic Department acquired a full-body mascot costume, which the girls immediately referred endearingly to as “Foxy.” Art teacher, Mrs. Laurie Cave bedecked the fox with long eyelashes and sparkly rhinestones to give Foxy a feminine look and make her uniquely Grier. A welcome addition to Grier Athletics, Foxy appeared alongside Grier cheerleaders, rallying the student body and drumming up school spirit.

In the era of “Strong is the New Pretty,” Grier athletics continues to grow stronger, offering a great variety of recreational and varsity sports. Currently, at the varsity level, Grier offers: Archery, Basketball, Cross Country, Dance, Fencing, IEA Horseback Riding, Soccer, Tennis, and Volleyball. Recreational sports include Archery, Badminton, Basketball, Body Sculpting, Boot Camp, Creative Sport, Dance, Fitness Walking, Golf, Karate/Self-Defense, Personal Fitness, Riding, Running, Skiing, Snowboarding, Soccer, Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball, Yoga, and Zumba.

Just as it has done for over a century, Grier Athletics will continue to evolve and change in the years to come. Recently, Mrs. Cherie mentioned the possibility of establishing a Pep Squad and holding try-outs for the honor of wearing the Foxy costume. Whatever exciting new sports are on the horizon, Grier Athletics helps Grier girls develop healthy habits, encourages long-lasting friendships, and builds self-confidence. Go Green! Go Gold! Go Grier!


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by R.Woolfrey
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Grier School

2522 Grier School Rd. | P.O. Box 308; Birmingham, PA 16686-0308
Phone: 814-684-3000 | Fax: 814-684-2177