Taft is known for its school spirit, and so it comes as no surprise that athletic events are widely popular and highly attended by the student body. Whether you play a varsity sport or not, game days are a major part of the Taft experience. We take pride in our enthusiasm and eagerness to show our school spirit, and on any given Wednesday or Saturday, Taft students will flock to the fields and athletic center to support their peers and cheer on Taft. However, while school spirit is plentiful, students have noticed that certain games are often much more popular than others: boys’ varsity sports. Many female athletes at Taft complain that their home games are oftentimes sparsely attended, whereas the boys’ games almost always draw a crowd. So why is this the case?
Most boarding schools, including Taft, were originally founded as all-male institutions. Historically, boys’ academic and athletic performance have been prioritized over girls’. Obviously, society has since progressed and Taft is now a co-educational institution. However, the idea that boys perform at a higher athletic level than girls is still relatively prevalent today. Stereotypes such as this implicitly influence students to choose which games to go see. For example, at Taft, if a boys’ team and a girls’ team have home games at the same time, students will oftentimes choose to attend the boys’ game. When asked why, they explain that “the boys are more fun to watch” and that those games are “just more exciting”. This kind of belief held by the student body sends a negative message to female athletes and cultivates a subtle sense of inequality among students at Taft.
While students certainly do not have hurtful intentions in choosing which games to attend, it is definitely a longstanding social norm at Taft to show more support for boys’ athletics. As a result, many of our female athletes feel overlooked and underappreciated by Taft. In addition to the lack of comparable student attendance on game days, some girls feel as though their coaches are of less quality than those of the boys. Furthermore, there are significantly less female post-graduate students at Taft for sports, as well as in general less of an emphasis on recruiting female athletes in the Taft admissions process. In general, it seems as though Taft tends to take boys’ sports more seriously, which can be very frustrating for female athletes.
Although this is an important subject in need of discussion, the discrepancy between support for boys’ and girls’ athletics at Taft has greatly improved over the last couple of years. With the recent establishment of The Crash, many students make sincere efforts to attend every home game on Wednesdays and Saturdays, regardless of whether it is a boys’ or girls’ team. The Crash heads help rally students to spend time at several different games on these days, rather than just choosing one. Furthermore, as many girls have recently raised concerns about the seriousness of female athletics at Taft, the school administration has been paying much more attention to this issue and is working to address specific complaints.
It can be incredibly frustrating to feel as though girls’ athletics are not considered equal to boys’ at Taft, and this is undoubtedly an issue that our community must recognize. Ultimately, however, it is up to us to fix this problem. By making a conscious effort to show more support for female athletes at Taft, we can eradicate outdated stereotypes and help all of our athletes feel respected and valued as members of our community. Taft is known for its school spirit, after all; boys and girls alike should feel equally and wholly supported in all athletic endeavors.