Carved in Stone: The Story of an Advocate
Issue   |   Fri, 05/23/2014 - 12:22
Photo courtesy of Office of Public Affairs
Stone (18) and teammates after the women's hockey team's annual Pink in the Rink game, which helps raise funds for breast cancer research.

When questioned about her plans for the future, Amherst women’s ice hockey player Avery Stone offered, “I want to help other people convey their stories in a way that resonates with people no matter what the subject.”

As an English major, collegiate athlete and advocate for the LGBT community, Stone’s story is one that certainly resonates with people. Her advocacy for gay and women’s rights has had an impact both on and off the college’s campus, serving as an impetus for change, equality and respect. The fearless ice hockey senior is one voice — albeit a powerful one — among many athletes, including Jason Collins, Michael Sam and, most recently, UMass basketball player Derrick Gordon, speaking up in an effort to bridge the divide between the LGBT community and athletics. While Stone has been unafraid to be herself and share her story with others, her advocacy has entailed its fair share of challenges, making her story all the more compelling.

Adolescence

A native of Providence, R.I., Stone grew up blocks away from Brown University’s campus. She began playing hockey in Providence at age six and joined a local team. After developing a passion for the sport at a young age, she decided to dedicate herself to the ice, traveling two hours every week to play for Aspit Valley, a competitive club hockey team. Coincidentally, many of her teammates at Amherst were also members of the Aspit Valley team.

In my interview with the Amherst senior, she explained: “That was really when I started playing the sport seriously. It was an intense travel team with a demanding schedule.”

As her skills on the ice and her intelligence for the game began to develop, she decided to commit herself further to the sport and began to attend United States Women’s Hockey national camps. While Stone’s identity as an athlete was firmly cemented, she began to question her sexual identity at a young age.

“That was around the time I figured out that I was gay. I began to see the connection between that identity and not being fully accepted on my club team. That was an interesting juxtaposition.”

Despite the challenges of navigating her identities as a middle school student, youth athlete and gay person, Avery developed a love of hockey, a competitive drive and a courageous spirit that carried her through her careers at Phillips Andover and Amherst.

Andover

Stone described her time at Phillips Andover Academy as life-changing, both personally and athletically. During our conversation, she reiterated several times how fortunate she feels to have attended such a diverse and accepting high school where she was exposed to a breadth of opinions and people from all around the world. The environment at Andover granted the Amherst senior with the confidence to come out to her family, friends and teammates as a high school junior.
In a recent interview with the National Hockey League, Stone explained, “The people I met in Andover were just really nice. It was clear that it wasn’t just tolerated, but accepted to be different. That’s where I found my footing.”

Stone further honed her talents as a female ice hockey player, playing for the team at Andover for four years. In addition to her career as an ice hockey player, Stone played field hockey and lacrosse and was a member of Azure, an a capella group at Andover. Her coaches, teachers and classmates at the prestigious boarding school surely took notice of her talents, as she was named captain of both the varsity field hockey and ice hockey her junior and senior years. In addition to being praised for her athletic talents, Stone was admired for her leadership and character. She was awarded the Wells Prize, an honor granted to a first-year who possesses loyalty, perseverance and sterling character. Additionally, she was the recipient of the Ayars Prize, an award given to a senior in a position of respect and admiration in the school community.

While Stone participated in a number of teams, clubs and activities at Andover, she was reticent about being an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community.

“I wasn’t really involved in any sort of LGBT activism at all even though I was out my last two years, which is something that really changed at Amherst. I think that I purposefully didn’t involve myself even though I was out because at that point,” Stone said. “I didn’t feel like I really wanted or needed to say anything about it because I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as someone who was just gay and nothing else. And sometimes being here I still feel that way a little bit.”

Although Stone was not as outspoken at Andover about women’s and gay rights as she has been at Amherst, she drew inspiration from a number of courageous athletes at Andover who served as voices for the LGBT community. She credits Andover for granting her with the security and confidence to speak up about issues of equality and respect.

Advocate

When preparing to meet with Stone, I was most interested in hearing about what inspired her to be such an outspoken LGBT athlete. The Amherst hockey defender explained that upon her arrival at Amherst, she was one of the college’s only openly gay college athletes.

“At Andover, there were athletes who were out, so I had those sorts of role models when I was young. And here, there weren’t as many. There weren’t none, but there weren’t a ton.”

Equipped with the confidence she attained in high school from an environment of tolerance and acceptance, Stone sought to bridge the divide between the LGBT community and the Athletic Department.

In our conversation, she described her experience as an openly gay LGBT collegiate athlete saying, “It was sort of like being a part of two different worlds, but falling somewhere in between them, so not totally being apart of either one.” The apparent juxtaposition between two key tenants of her identity inspired her to speak up and enact change.

During her sophomore year at Amherst, Stone worked with the Pride Alliance to bring Jeff Sheng, the artist and photograph behind the Fearless Project, to Amherst.

The Fearless Project documents “out” gay, bisexual and transgender high school and college athletes in an effort to enact equality and change. Sheng was inspired by his experience as a closeted gay athlete and like Stone, recognized the apparent divide between the LGBT community and high school and college athletics. On his visit to Amherst, the photographer shot five out athletes to be a part of the project. Stone, one of those athletes, cites this experience as one of her most rewarding as an advocate for the LGBT athlete.

In addition to the Fearless Project, Stone has played a large role in the Patrick Burke’s You Can Play Project. The project’s mission seeks to ensure equality and respect for all athletes regardless of sexual orientation.

Stone was encouraged by Amherst’s participation in the project, explaining, “I think the school has made a lot of steps in addressing how not just LGBT athletes, but all athletes are respected on this campus. I think the You Can Play video was a great step in the right direction.”

On top of her involvement with Jeff Sheng’s Fearless Project and with Patrick Bruke’s You Can Play Project, Stone has been vocal with her own experiences pertaining to gay and women’s rights. She has openly shared her stories as a contributor to The Huffington Post and The Washington Post and at speaking engagements at colleges. Her story has even inspired attention from prominent media outlets, including The Boston Globe and the NHL.

Amherst Hockey

In her four years as an Amherst women’s hockey defender, Stone has played a prominent role in the team’s success. Head Coach Jeffrey Matthews described Stone’s “never-ending enthusiasm, positive attitude and relentless effort in every practice and game” as among her defining traits as a hockey player and person.

Matthews also praised Stone’s work ethic and flexibility, explaining, “she did whatever we asked of her. In her junior year, we asked her to play defense after playing forward the previous year, and her response was: “‘Wherever you need me, coach.’”

Stone perhaps best exhibited her grit and resilience following her ACL injury in the NESCAC playoffs during her sophomore year. Stone, with her characteristic “never say die” attitude, rehabbed her knee from complete ACL reconstruction and was able to play every game of her junior season.

Assistant Coach Kate Beemer ’15 further elaborated on Stone’s resilience and positivity: “She didn’t miss a beat and remained positive throughout the process. Her ability to grow as a person and player through a turbulent time will serve her well in future endeavors.”

While Stone admits that her time as an Amherst women’s hockey player has not been devoid of difficulty both on and off the ice, she looks back on her career fondly.

In our conversation, Stone explained that she respects her teammates, appreciates her love of hockey and believes that the program will go in a really positive direction in the next few years.

When asked for any advice for future Amherst athletes or Amherst LGBT athletes, Stone responded: “I would say love your teammates, always respect your teammates, be the best teammate that you can but don’t be afraid to make other friends.”

Aspirations

As an English major, Stone hopes to pursue a career in media following graduation. The senior has spent her summers away from Amherst working for major publications including Fortune, Self Magazine and The Huffington Post. Stone is fascinated with the ever-evolving nature of media and its prominence in the world today. She cites her career as a hockey player at Amherst as what equipped her with the tools “to navigate relationships with a bunch of different people in a bunch of different ways and to adapt to situations really quickly. That’s something that I’ll always thank my coaches and my teammates for is making me more versatile in that way.”

Matthews expressed their faith in Stone’s bright future, explaining, “Avery is a courageous young woman with a big heart. We are proud of her and know she will do well beyond Amherst.”

Stone has embodied strength, courage and perseverance in her career at Amherst and through her efforts to enact change: a true athlete by all definitions.

Anchor
Comments
No comments. Be the first?

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.