Anxiety builds up within the eighth graders as their hands shakily clasp the sealed envelopes which foretell their future high schools. Tearing open their acceptance letters, some students are enlightened to see that fate matched them to Townsend Harris High School.
When these eighth graders have time, they excitedly begin to research their home for the next four years, exploring upcoming events, extracurricular activities, clubs, and teams. Some are disappointed when they notice it lacks such typical programs as the boys swimming, boys football, and a cheerleading squad.
With a population of about 1100 students, a small number compared to largely populated schools like John Bowne or Forest Hills, students have the privilege of participating in 28 different sports teams, which include all but these famous high school sports.
One Foot Forward for Football!
There are 668 high schools in New York State with male high school football teams. THHS isn’t a part of this classification. According to physical education teacher, Mr. Ray Adamkiewicz it is because of the “population, athletic ability, and budget.” Football uniforms would cost about two hundred dollars, and helmets would cost about one hundred dollars. It would also be difficult to certify insurance every year.
Sophomore Dylan Biscardi said, “I feel that the addition of a football team would open more doors, and also add to the plethora of Harris sports and hawk pride. I played football a couple years ago and stopped when I came to Townsend. My coach had faith in me to be good if I went to a high school with a football team.”
Most students believe a football team is an unrealistic goal because of the lack of males in the school. Junior Aditya Samaroo said, “In our school we don’t really have people built for football because it is more demanding than other sports.”
Sophomore Rafael Abbariao added, “It’s intimidating and requires some sort of physical ability which is negative because guys from Townsend aren’t the most physically competent.”
However, some females view the sport as an outlet for the guys, and a way for them to channel their emotions.
Senior Susana Mollick stated, “Guys would enjoy football because they could be extra aggressive and tackle each other without getting in trouble.”
The sport is both demanding and time consuming, as Ms. Maria Assante, physical education and health teacher, believes it to be, as it is also dangerous. According to the Chicago Tribune, football is dangerous for the human brain and young athletes’ brains are more vulnerable to brain trauma than those of adults. According to the Brain Injury Research Institute, 20% of high school players suffer brain injuries. More than 40.5% of high school athletes who have suffered concussions return to action earlier than supposed to, and this can lead to death from Second Impact Syndrome, a swelling of the brain that shuts down the brainstem and results in respiratory failure. Helmets although useful in preventing skull fractures lack the ability to prevent brain damage.
While Harrisites use the facilities with Queens College, there is no football field they could make use of. This plays a role in the reason why the school lacks a team.
Freshman Olivia Krakowski stated, “If something would be arranged for a practice area, then a football team would be a great idea. In all those high school movies you see high schoolers go to football games and I think football would be something that would make Townsend more interesting.”
Swimming Through Problems
With only 25% of the school’s population consisting of males, the formation of a boys swim team is as unlikely as the establishment of a boys football team. Twenty six years ago, Townsend Harris did have a boys swim team but it was eventually cancelled due to the lack of boys.
Physical education and health teacher, Mr. Keith Hanson explained, “After giving up a team, it’s hard to get it back. We applied for a boy’s swim team in 2011, and we will be reapplying soon.”
Sophomore Daniel Szewczyk has been supporting the boys’ swim team since 2012 and would join because of his desire to continue his experience with swimming, “Lots of guys on track would join a swim team because it’s the closest sport to running due to its breathing, endurance, and leg power. These aren’t clubs where you just fool around; teams demand your time, strength, and agility. We don’t want to be saving people halfway through their race.”
The addition of a swim team would also increase school spirit and create room for a friendly rivalry. Olivia stated, “Swimming for guys would be great too because it can give a mini competition between the girls and guys. We could even organize swim meets between the two teams from our school.”
A greater variety of sports for males would also be more beneficial to future prospect Harrisites and might create the possibility for evening out the gender ratio. Rafael explained, “It would attract more people. Say, a boy made it into Townsend and another school but chose the other school because of its swim team. If we offer more, more will choose Townsend.”
Some students have suggested for the boys to simply join the girls’ team and make it co-ed. However, Mr. Hanson explained that only girls can join a boys’ team if there isn’t a separate female team for that particular sport, while boys don’t get that option at all.
WE ARE THE HAWKS!
Although Townsend Harris doesn’t have a boys football team, why can’t we have a cheerleading squad to support other teams?
For one thing, Mr. Hanson believes that the gym is not capable of holding cheerleading practice.
Sophomore Jada Allred thinks that the addition of a cheerleading squad would be a great idea because it would represent school spirit. “These teams are very common in other schools and in the world in general so they probably already appealed to a lot of students more than other teams that aren’t as big as these.”
Olivia added, “Some students would choose these teams maybe because they’re really popular and what make up the ‘ideal high school’ experience. There’s almost always a football team along with a cheerleading squad as well as swimming and basketball team because they’re the most popular sports which probably would want to make kids join.”
Although some students believe this would be beneficial as it would help people feel school spirit, others fear that it would bring more harm and stress to the females at the school.
Freshman Amanda Zhang said, “A cheerleading squad would be fun, but it might affect other girl’s self-esteem. Some girls might feel left out if they’re not on the cheerleading squad, as they might not have the confidence or the abilities. I think that a cheerleading squad would change our high school’s social structure.”
“Cheerleading also has a reputation of demoting female culture, being revealing, and showing amounts of confidence,” added sophomore Melanie Wong.
There is a small possibility that a cheerleading squad will be formed in the near future. With an increasing amount of students displaying a more positive attitude toward the idea, Judy Kwon, next year’s SU president, is exploring some options.
“I think it is extremely important to root for our school during games or even practices! Freshmen messaged me saying that they want a cheerleading squad. The idea may be proposed this upcoming Fall.”
As Cheerleaders Fly, So Do the Chances of Injuries
As gracious as the sport may appear, there is still much danger to those participating. Ms. Assante stated, “Coming from an athlete, I’d much rather play than cheer for another team. You have to be coordinated to be a cheerleader and they are more prone to getting hurt compared to other teams.”
According to the New York Times, emergency room visits for cheerleading injuries nationwide have doubled since the early 1990s. Out of 104 severe injuries by female high school and college athletes during 1982 to 2005 — head and spinal trauma that occasionally led to death — more than half resulted from cheerleading, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.
When combined, all other sports do not exceed the dangerous risks of cheerleading. There were 22,900 cheerleading-related injuries treated in emergency rooms in 2002, which greatly increased from 10,900 in 1990, as explained in the Columbus study. The Consumer Product Safety Commission surveyed that there were nearly six times as many emergency room visits for cheerleaders in 2004 than in 1980.
Cheer for Townsend!
Regardless of all the risk factors involved, students are still inclined to say that they would support the addition of both the cheerleading and football teams since they want Townsend to be “more like a regular school,” as Melanie called it.
Anna commented, “I think the addition of both these teams would influence our school greatly and change the opinion of our school’s rank in the city because our school is known for its excellence in academics and we are also giving the students an opportunity to participate in a variety of sports, we will always keep up our grades and work hard to achieve what our school expects from us.”
Laughing, Dylan concluded, “These teams would change the atmosphere of our high school because football is American pride, swimming burns a lot of calories, and c’mon, what single guy doesn’t like cheerleaders?”