50 Years of Women's Varsity Athletics at Yale: A Historic Retrospective

Fourth Quarter: The Future of Women's Athletics at Yale


Building towards the future

The long-term success of women's athletics ultimately depended on institutional support.  The 1990s saw the beginning of several major building renovation projects which aimed to update facilities which had struggled to accomodate women athletes equitably for over 20 years.  In 1993, Yale began major renovations to the Lapham Field House (now called the Smilow Field Center) for the first time since its construction in 1923.  

Field House images 1931 and 2021.

New facilities included expanded locker rooms and other athletics facilities.  The first of several renovations in Payne Whitney Gymnasium began in 1999.  These renovations were long overdue, as the building had been left mostly untouched since its construction in 1932.  These urgent updates to outdated athletic buildings were done with women's athletics in mind, acknowledging the systemic inequities Yale women's teams faced since their inception.


Beyond the visible changes on campus, there was also an opportunity for improved athlete support, including increased recognition of minority athletes and the formation of the first affinity groups.  The rise of these groups in the athletic community in the late 2000s and beyond built a sense of community for marginalized athletes that had not existed previously.  In 2009, "Athletes and Allies" began as a group to confront "homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia" and by 2015 evolved into "Supporting Student-Athletes at Yale" (SSAY).  

Supporting Student-Athletes at Yale logo.

"I am grateful to the queer athletes in years above and below who helped me feel not just welcome and loved but also inspired me to be a better athlete and human."

-Anonymous.  Class of 2020


"I'd say that being queer and being an athlete were/are both instrinsic parts of who I am, and it wasn't until finding queer community on my team at Yale that I felt I was able to embrace them both at the same time in a way that tied the two identities together and made me feel more capable of living out both."

-Anonymous, Class of 2019



"Yale Bulldogs for Change" formed in September 2020 and aims to foster a community where student-athletes of color feel safe while also "giving back to New Haven's communities of color".  They also strive to raise awareness about social issues in the athletic community at Yale.  This not only helps the current athletes of color at Yale feel more comfortable but also emphasizes the importance of having more people of color on an athletic team at Yale.

Yale Bulldogs for Change logo. 

"As a Black student athlete at Yale, who never had a voice or a committee like this in the past, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to pave a more accepting, inclusive, and bright future for present and future athletes at Yale."

-Angele Kelly, Class of 2022


"I hope to facilitate a welcoming experience for all people of color, allowing them to create lasting connectionswith their cultural house and fellow athletes."

-Chelsea Kung, Class of 2023

A concluding message from Vicky Chun, Director of Athletics:


As we celebrate 50 years of women’s varsity athletics at Yale, I honor all those who came before me.

Track Team, 1979

Track Team, 2011-2012

Women's Field Hockey 1976

Women's Field Hockey 2016

For thousands of years, through participation in sports, boys have honed their behaviors around goalsetting, the pursuit of excellence, and teamwork…all of which are critical for success in the workplace and in communities. With girls and women in sports, we create a more inclusive society where more people contribute at higher levels…and that benefits everyone.

Women's Basketball Team 1977

Basketball Team, 2021

I take inspiration from the remarkable women who got us here, and pledge to make more progress for future generations.