The position of Captain Deerfield was created with the initial purpose of increasing school spirit at athletic events.
By “getting rowdy” throughout the school year during cheers, pep rallies, Choate Weekend, and the games of popular sports such as football, hockey, and lacrosse, Captain Deerfield serves as a representative of Deerfield’s school spirit.
However, in recent years many people have expressed the sentiment that declining school spirit has caused Captain Deerfield’s presence to fade into obscurity by the end of the fall term.
Charlie Carpenter ’16, the current Captain Deerfield, reflected on this sentiment. “As a senior and as Captain Deerfield,” he said, “I felt like it was my responsibility as well as the Class of 2016’s responsibility to bring back the school spirit and the school pride that makes Deerfield so unique.”
Carpenter strove to reignite school spirit by supporting the student body in innovative ways. For example, he pushed for greater energy and inclusivity at athletic events by going to games year-round and by instating new measures like welcoming girls into the upper rows of the bleachers at hockey games.
Many students, such as Katherine von Weise ’17, a current nominee for next year’s Captain Deerfield, welcomed Carpenter’s revitalization of the position of Captain Deerfield. “Charlie was a really good Captain Deerfield this year. When Captain Deerfield went to games, more fans tended to come with him, so when you saw him there with more people, you got more riled up and excited for the game,” she said.
Carpenter made a deliberate effort to increase the attendance at girls’ games and the community’s support of female athletes. Jenna Greenbaum ’17 and Felicia Renelus ’17 appreciated this gesture.
“I definitely think Charlie as Captain Deerfield made a difference in attendance at female games,” said Renelus. “I remember sophomore year especially, the girl’s basketball team really didn’t get fans, and if we did, a lot of the time the fans were parents from other teams. However, I noticed this year that some Wednesday home games had a great turnout, which really helped the team play well.”
Greenbaum added, “One memorable way that Charlie encouraged others to support girls’ games was at our hockey home opener, when the stands were filled and we had a gauntlet in between the periods, something I had never experienced during my three years on the team. It’s always a great feeling to step out on the ice and have a crowd of your classmates and teachers cheering you on.”
Another innovative approach by Carpenter and the cheerleaders was attending arts performances in full uniform, a notable first in the history of Captain Deerfield.
To actor and stage manager Kaycie Sweeney ’17, this new initiative both surprised and pleased her. “Captain Deerfield and the cheerleaders exceeded my expectations during the opening night of the fall play, The Children’s Hour, when I walked on stage to find the whole first row inhabited by cheerleaders in uniform. It’s a great feeling to know that all the hard work that you put in is appreciated by people of all walks of life at Deerfield,” she said.
The most notable change to the position of Captain Deerfield this year has been the new selection process. In the past, the current Captain Deerfield has chosen his successor with some influence from the cheerleaders and faculty. This year, the selection process has become more democratic, having been opened up to the entire school.
“The selection process may be changed in the sense that it takes the pulse of the school in an official form,” Carpenter said, “but the selection process still maintains its tradition of having the current Captain Deerfield having a large influence on who the next successor will be.” The new Captain Deerfield will be announced on Friday, May 27, at school meeting.
Some students, like Cameron Thrasher ’17, thought the changes were unnecessary. “I do not believe a student survey input should apply to Captain Deerfield because it is not a position you run for in the school.”
Other students like Jan Menafee ’16 welcomed the changes. “The changes acknowledge that a position as important as Captain Deerfield to the energy of the school year requires student input,” Menafee said.
Sweeney agreed, stating, “How well Captain Deerfield does is measured by how much the community is impacted by his or her actions,” Sweeney said, “and having those same members of the community put in their say about who Captain Deerfield should be would definitely make the decision more sincere and true to form.”
Other students say they are excited about the new selection process because they hope that it will bring more inclusivity to the position of Captain Deerfield. Zakiya Newman ’17, another nominee for the 2016-2017 spot of Captain Deerfield, stated that by “allowing the whole student body to have a role in selecting the next Captain Deerfield, the school becomes more inclusive, which creates more room for diversity and greater anticipation around the position of Captain Deerfield.” Brandon Scott ’17, another nominee, added, “I feel if a female or non-white person or both were voted Captain Deerfield, it would show that anybody can become Captain Deerfield, that Deerfield welcomes everyone no matter their skin color or sex.”
The role of Captain Deerfield has been one both occupied by and associated with white males throughout its history. As a result, many people worry that there will be resistance to a non-white or female Captain Deerfield because of the strong exclusive tradition surrounding the role of Captain Deerfield and the implicit gender and racial hierarchies that still persist within the student body.
Imani Goodridge ’17 explained, “I feel that Deerfield has two kinds of hierarchies: racial hierarchies and gender hierarchies. White students at the top, then everyone else. White males at the top, and then everyone else.”
Newman added that because of these racial stigmas, “Deerfield puts minorities… at the bottom end of the popularity scale,” making them unable to acquire popularity-based positions such as Captain Deerfield.
Discriminatory stigmas against females also have barred them from attaining the position of Captain Deerfield. Von Weise explained that “there is a stigma that girls are less rowdy than guys, and the majority of the school believes that to be true. So sometimes when girls try to be as rowdy as guys, guys will sort of not laugh at them but be like ‘What are you doing?’”
Newman attributes this attitude to the conservative mindset of the community with respect to how girls are supposed to act. “Deerfield culture sometimes promotes boys to be very spirited and ‘pumped’ while encouraging girls to be quiet, prim, and proper. If girls continue to live up to this expectation, then they can’t expect to represent Captain Deerfield, a position for a very spirited, eager, and bold person,” she said.
In spite of all of this, Carpenter hopes the school will look past these mindsets during the new selection process. “One stigma that has surrounded Captain Deerfield is that it has always been a white male. However, I don’t necessarily think it’s the superficial things or the face value of Captain Deerfield that matter, but rather the spirit within the individual that is Captain Deerfield,” he said.
However, Carpenter highlighted a need for change in the attitude of the school first. He stated, “I don’t see [Captain Deerfield] being a female in the upcoming years because of the current… male-dominated [Deerfield] culture. Ideally, our culture would be more equal. However, I do not believe that is the case [right now].”
As the school year draws to a close, many have acknowledged the impact that Carpenter has had on the community this year in his role as Captain Deerfield. Assistant Dean of Students Mr. Kevin Kelly stated, “Charlie tapped into what many students were feeling deep down—a pride and love for their school—and it worked. He has now set the bar for any future Captain Deerfield to be much more than just a cheerleader and has demonstrated how one person can impact and lead others to make a difference.”
The community is hopeful that the next Captain Deerfield will both continue and expand on the new legacy of Captain Deerfield by exemplifying pride and love for all aspects of the school.
In order to do this, students hope the next Captain Deerfield will continue to strive to promote school spirit and inclusivity within the community. Scott said, “We have to make sure that the new Captain Deerfield is someone who is not afraid to get loud.” Sweeney added, “In order to embody true school spirit, all activities should continue to be celebrated. This means next year the new Captain Deerfield and the cheerleaders should show up to orchestra events, student art gallery openings or student debates, in uniform, to show the support of things other than just sports next year.” And Greenbaum believes that the next Captain Deerfield should reach out to freshmen to increase inclusivity: “If we have a leader who is open to helping the younger kids to show up to games and not be too timid to get rowdy, school spirit will be stronger than it has ever been before.”
Many students, like Menafee, just want the next Captain Deerfield “to be someone that loves Deerfield and is brave enough to show it all of the time.”
As Carpenter’s time as Captain Deerfield approaches its end, he reflects on his experience, saying, “Some of my best memories at Deerfield have been being Captain Deerfield in the bleachers. There is a symbol that Captain Deerfield represents by being in charge of the school spirit. So hopefully, the next Captain Deerfield will continue to take the role very seriously and continue to raise the school spirit at Deerfield.”