A dramatic comeback: the history of sports at AHN

POSTMKTG is thrilled to have helped Academy of the Holy Names rediscover its proud history of athletics and put it on display.

A new 150-foot mural celebrates 110 years of milestones and nearly forgotten memories, including a fierce interscholastic rivalry with AHN in Rome, New York, held semi-annually from the 1930s through the 1950s, a period when national sports associations, even women-led sports associations, were warning against vigorous competition among girls.

Dedicated to AHN’s long-time athletic director, Carlo Cherubino, the athletic mural and its accompanying text required hours of research. Every yearbook published from 1910 on (which were all carefully stored in AHN’s temperature controlled archive) was carefully reviewed, photographed and cross referenced with period newspaper clippings, letters and memoirs, journal articles, photographs and other sources. Piece by piece, an amazing story emerged.

Here’s the story in brief


Basketball was invented in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891, and by 1892 was already the rage at women’s colleges throughout the Northeast. Here was a sport girls could play (though at half court with slightly modified rules), even in gyms like that at 628 Madison Avenue, with its 11-foot ceilings and exposed water pipes! By 1912, with the founding of the A. A. A., the Amateur Athletic Association, basketball was played, hard, at AHN, with a JV team and two Varsity teams.


As quickly as basketball took over in the 1910s, by the decade’s end, it came to a sudden stop. The 1919 AHN yearbook has no sports photos. Neither does the 1924 yearbook (the only yearbook from the 1920s in its archive). The reasons why are complex, but it wasn’t just Holy Names that pulled back. A national movement had emerged, led by female physical education professionals, that warned of the mental and physical dangers of highly competitive sports for girls and the “evils of commercialization.”

However …


Exactly how and when the rivalry started no one is quite sure, but by the mid-1930s, a bi-annual interscholastic competition had developed between Academy of the Holy Names in Albany, New York, and Academy of the Holy Names in Rome, New York. The games, held in the fall at one school and in the spring at the other, were a highlight of the year.

The prominence given “Rome Day” in the school’s yearbooks speaks to the desire among students for athletic competition, right through the couple of decades in the mid-twentieth century when highly competitive athletics for girls was discouraged. The rivalry with Rome would last until Rome’s closing in 1963. Fortunately, by then, new opportunities had begun to emerge.


New possiblities for women emerged during World War II and in the years that followed. The image of “Rosie the Riveter,” it might be said, also inspired the idea of “Billie Jean the Basketball Player,” “Sally the Shortstop” and “Viola the Volleyballer.”

AHN had a cheerleading squad as far back as 1947. By 1950, students were competing in tennis, softball and swimming, along with basketball, and by 1956, “volley ball” as well, though basketball, as reported in the 1953 yearbook, remained the school’s “king of sports.”


As early as 1965, at a time when interscholastic competition for girls was rare, AHN was competing (in basketball and field hockey) with other schools in the region, including Kenwood Convent of the Sacred Heart, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Notre Dame.

With the encouragement and guidance of Carlo Cherubino, who became the school’s soccer and track coach in 1982 and its athletic director in 1984, AHN joined the Colonial Council. In addition to its historic programs in basketball, volleyball, soccer, softball, track, tennis, and cheerleading, in the years that followed, AHN added lacrosse, golf, alpine skiing and swimming.

Today, the school competes in 13 varsity sports.