Rival or Resource?: The Walls Students Who Play on Jackson-Reed Sports Teams
The Jackson-Reed girls’ crew team, for which Maia Riggs (‘25) plays / Credit: Maia Riggs
Jackson-Reed High School is a sports powerhouse in D.C. Walls sports teams often find themselves head-to-head with the Tigers in DCIAA championships, and these events are consistently very competitive. However, School Without Walls lacks the facilities for certain sports. On the other side of the city, rival Jackson-Reed does have some significant advantages, including a larger student population and its own sports facilities.
Under DCIAA rules, students are allowed to play sports at another school if the sport is not offered at their school. So when students want to play a sport not available at Walls, it’s an easy choice to join Jackson-Reed’s dominant teams. Lila Rosenberg (‘24) has not had a problem playing for the Jackson-Reed field hockey team as a Walls student. Next season, she’ll be one of the captains. Rosenberg has found her time on the team very enjoyable, saying “everyone was pretty accepting,” despite the fact that she didn’t know many people when she first joined.
A positive team environment is a common draw of Jackson-Reed sports. Declan Chada (‘26) didn’t know anybody at Jackson-Reed before joining boys crew, but now, his “teammates are some of [his] best friends.”
However, Chada doesn’t display his love for the team at school. Chada and Rosenberg both said they would never wear Jackson-Reed merchandise at school. Chada receives enough jokes from “every single person” about playing for Jackson-Reed. Showing up to school in their merch would push it over the top.
Despite the opportunity, the challenges stretch beyond occasional jokes from classmates. First, practices are right after school and across the city at Jackson-Reed facilities. Walls players often rely on their parents to get them to practice — and usually arrive late regardless. In addition, student-athletes miss out on a big team bonding experience: spirit days. Every game day, the Jackson-Reed teams will dress up at school with a theme, like “rockstar,” “pink out,” or team jerseys. That’s tough for a player who doesn’t go to Jackson-Reed.
“There’s only 3 of us [from Walls],” Rosenberg said, “so none of us really want to go all out because no one [at Walls] knows what we’re doing.” A huge part of being on a team is bonding, but Walls athletes often do not get to experience it to the fullest extent.
Like Rosenberg, Maia Riggs (‘25) has loved her time with Jackson-Reed sports. Rowing for the crew team, Riggs has spent the last few months training hard to earn a spot for the regatta with the Scholastic Rowing Association of America (SRAA), an event in Tennessee where the top teams from all around the country will compete. Recently, however, regulations for multiple regattas have changed. Now, at SRAA and other competitions, boats are only allowed to have rowers from one school in them. This means Walls rowers won’t get to be a part of the Jackson-Reed crew team for these competitions.
“More and more races are disallowing us from competing which is a really hard experience … We’re moving into championship season and I only have two races or so left because of a lot of [competitions] I was not able to race in,” Riggs said. Despite the frustrating situation, Riggs still plans to row for Jackson-Reed next year. She enjoys the community and finds crew a fun way to get in some exercise. As for Chada, he will continue rowing but is unsure if it will be at Jackson-Reed due to the increasing number of competition restrictions on outside athletes.
Although they may be our rival, Jackson-Reed provides opportunities for students to play sports they cannot at Walls. Walls’s athletic director, Kip Smith, supports this decision as he wants students to play the sports they love. Still, for the foreseeable future, Jackson-Reed will remain Walls’ primary sports rival. Mr. Smith said, “We’re gaining on them. This rivalry is gonna be interesting in the next few years.”