Is Powderpuff an expression of school spirit?

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For the first time in five years, red triumphed over blue. The juniors bested the seniors in the annual Powderpuff game 7-0 on Nov. 21. The junior defense held up strong at the end of the game when the seniors’ offense made a final drive down the field.

Before the teams ever hit the field, a meeting Headmaster Deborah Holman called with the Powderpuff players caused a stir of rumors about the future of Powderpuff at the school. But more steps went on behind the scenes than many students knew about.

In preparation for this year’s events, Holman met with administrators to discuss successes and challenges of past pep rallies and Powderpuff games. According to her, administrators voiced concerns that “sometimes the Powderpuff game has gotten out of hand if it’s on Cypress Field. Sometimes the alums come back and they’re under the influence. Sometimes, the decorations on the hallways were not always pro-junior class or pro-senior class, but they were derogatory or negative towards the other team and team members’ personal attributes.”

In years past, both the junior and senior teams choreographed entrance routines that they performed at the beginning of the rally.

Administrators mentioned that some entrances in years past “were beyond appropriate chaos,” and evolved into trash talking between the two teams, according to Holman.

“Administrators also said that over the past couple of years that the pep assembly and the powderpuff game were relatively well managed,” Holman said, “so we wanted to continue that tradition.”

Following her meeting with administrators, Holman held another meeting with Athletic Director Pete Rittenberg, the deans, the Powderpuff coaches and the junior and senior girls on the Powderpuff teams on Nov. 15 to discuss Powderpuff’s role at the pep rally.

Going into the meeting, Holman said she and Rittenberg shared the goals of “fun, safety, pro-BHS spirit and a good time for everybody” in terms of the pep rally.

Following a proposal made by Rittenberg to move the entrances to the end of the pep rally, those present at the meeting voiced their feedback and objections.

According to senior and player Emma Poole, some administrators raised the concern that having the entrances at the beginning makes it difficult to transition into the rest of the program because the crowd is often rowdy directly following the spirited entrances. Holman also expressed her desire that everyone stay for the entirety of the rally.

In reference to this goal, Holman brought up an instance a few years ago in which many people left the rally during a speech about the football team because they had already seen the entrances, according to Poole.

The meeting also served as a larger discussion of the relationship between Powderpuff and the football team.

“She asked us straight up what was the relationship between Powderpuff and the football team at BHS,” Poole said. “I think some people translated that as she wanted us to support the football team more, but I really think she wanted there to be greater emphasis on spirit towards BHS as a whole instead of a division between blue and red.”

After the meeting, Dean Diane Lande said that at pep rallies all athletes need to be given recognition, but felt that the attention has not always been evenly distributed.

Senior and player Kate Rhodes said that the concerns that the entrances take the focus away from other teams at the rally were unfounded.

“It’s a tradition to have it be an entrance,” Rhodes said. “It doesn’t distract that much from the other sports because they still have a big cheering section, and everyone still supports them.”

Rittenberg thought the meeting was successful overall.

“I think it was a good opportunity to discuss expectations, what we hope to get out of the rally, and what the rally meant for Powderpuff girls,” Rittenberg said of the meeting with the players.

According to Rittenberg, he and Holman met the next day and decided not to make any changes to the place of the entrances. Holman and Rittenberg held what she called a “Powderpuff summit” with the leaders of the teams to discuss the details of the entrances. According to Holman, the girls said they wanted to keep the entrances positive and in support of BHS spirit. They also said they wanted to give some sort of “visual support” to the boys football team, which Holman and Rittenberg had initially recommended.

“I was impressed with them when we met in the big meeting to talk to them about the pep assembly and the actual game,” Holman said of the players. “They really were thoughtful in terms of explaining to me what I needed to know about Powderpuff and the pep assembly. When we made a suggestion for a possible change to the pep assembly the girls football players were incredibly reasonable in saying, ‘here’s why that might not work.’”

The decision to not change the placement of the entrances was met great enthusiasm by players such as Rhodes and seniors Leah Warren and Ariana Nisonoff.

“It feels nice to know that they trust us enough to let us have the entrance,” Warren said.

The much discussed Thanksgiving week events went off without a hitch.

“I had said to the Powderpuff girls,” Holman said, “‘You guys have power. You guys are so influential here. Use your power and generate it towards pro-BHS spirit, pro-Powderpuff, pro-class and pro-boys football game against Newton North, and they did all of that wonderfully.”

This examination of Powderpuff begs a larger question concerning the state of school spirit at the high school.

Senior and player Casey Bivens said that the high school lacks a sense of spirit beyond Powderpuff.

“A lot of people are trying to create logos, and they’re selling the T-shirts,” Bivens said of other school spirit efforts. “But Powderpuff is the one time when the school really comes together as, a giant group and really celebrates. I think the entrance in the pep rally is having all of the grades together celebrating BHS.”

Although Powderpuff separates the student body into red and blue, Bivens does not view this as being divisive.

“When we’re competing against each other, it’s still a Brookline High School win,” Bivens said. “I know that it would probably be better if we could bring the entire school together as a whole, but I think that by bringing the junior class together and bringing the senior class together we can have a cohesive upperclassmen group.”

Junior Alejandro Brown, like Bivens, also believes the school is yet to unify under a single identity outside of the single day. According to Brown, this is partially a result of the diversity of activities offered at the school.

“BHS is really good at being really broad,” Brown said. “But we are so broad that we have so many options that people don’t know what to do.”

Holman, though, wants to harness this diversity.

“Any and all school activities are opportunities for students to lead in small and big ways,” Holman said. “That’s what I want to cultivate here with students.”

While a larger sense of school spirit may not fully exist yet, this void does not detract from the significance of Powderpuff for junior and player Mia Svirsky.

“This is tradition,” she said. “This is Brookline High School.”

Anna Parkhurst can be contacted at [email protected]