Over the past decade, there has been a lot of talk among Deerfield students, faculty and alumni about a perceived decline of school spirit on campus. Whether it is getting rowdy at a pep rally or supporting our athletic teams by attending contests, something is different.
Although change has occurred in most aspects of Deerfield life over the years, one thing that remains constant is the number of fans that come to support boys sporting events. But girls varsity teams don’t draw the same attendance. The Scroll recently surveyed 100 students, and 92 of those students affirmed they would be more likely to go to a boys game.
It is no secret that Deerfield was for many years a boys school: therefore, traditions are in place that make boys sporting events more prominent.
In the fall, the football game against Choate is scheduled towards the end of the day so most students are able to watch. During the winter, the boys varsity hockey team has a late-night home game where fans dress in 80s clothing, watch hockey and socialize in The Barn. For home games in the spring, the boys varsity lacrosse team is led to their field by a bagpiper.
While all of these rituals are lively and enjoyable for all, girls teams lack the same level of tradition.
The lower attendance at girls games can have a negative impact on their performance. After being asked, “Do you think fans impact the outcome of a game?” 88% of Deerfield students surveyed by The Scroll agreed that fans indeed have an impact.
Earlier this winter, a fan bus was organized to watch the boys varsity hockey team take on Choate.
When asked how the support impacted the team, Brendan O’Connell ‘16 said, “It honestly felt like a home game. Having that many people come out to watch makes me not only want to play for my team but also everyone that came out to support us.”
During the fall post-season, a fan bus traveled to Hotchkiss for the girls varsity field hockey playoff game. The impact this fan support had was quite apparent.
Nina McGowan ‘16 commented, “We knew going into the game that Hotchkiss had created a ‘chirp sheet’ about our team. Our fans brought a lot of positive energy, and hearing them cheer for us drowned out the sound of Hotchkiss’s insults and changed the momentum of the game.”
With this added school spirit, Deerfield became the biggest competition that Hotchkiss, the #1 team in New England, faced during the playoffs.
Another survey question posed a hypothetical situation: “If a girls team has a winning record and a boys team has a losing record in the same sport, which team are you more likely to watch?” The responses still favored the boys, 60% to 40%.
Cheerleader Serena Ainslie ‘16 said, “On Choate Day I went to the varsity field hockey game and was disappointed that there weren’t more fans there. It was one of the most exciting games—our only varsity win—and most Deerfield fans didn’t even see it. I know it was tough for the girls to watch a crowd of fans walk straight from [boys] soccer to football, without even stopping at field hockey. Students, alumni and parents should try to get to all the games—both boys and girls.”
Midfielder Elizabeth Growney ’16 added, “It was disappointing not seeing or hearing any Deerfield students at our game. This game determined whether or not we would go into the New England playoffs, so we were expecting a huge crowd to support us. [Even so] we ended up winning four minutes into OT. We played so incredibly well that day.”
The results gathered from the survey make it clear that fans who come to support teams during their games inspire the athletes—regardless of their gender—to want to work harder not only for their team, but also for Deerfield as a whole.
If students want to rekindle school spirit, they might consider dropping by a game—girls or boys—to show their support and their belief in inclusion.