Flipping the Script

Students are involved in sports typically done by the opposite gender but is their experience any different from those around them?

The next match is about to start, and the two opponents walk onto the mats. They take their positions and wait for the cue to start wrestling. They look each other in the eye. One is a girl.

Seeing students in a sport dominated by the other gender is a rare occurrence at GS. There are two students who openly participate in an activity like this, sophomore Owen Johnson and junior Riley Stoner. Johnson is a member of the dance team and Stoner is on the wrestling team.

“A lot of my friends are on dance team and they asked me to do it, and I agreed to do [dance team],” Johnson said. “Also, I thought it would be fun.”

Sophomore Ethan Kelley as the mascot at the first football game of the season. Photo courtesy: Mr. Lenzi

Despite the threat of being discriminated against for participating in something that isn’t typical, they both said that they’ve had no real issues with discrimination or stereotyping.

“[Due to participation in dance team] I learned that our school is a lot more accepting than I thought it’d be,” Johnson said. “I thought I’d be bullied for doing it, or something, but I really wasn’t. It’s been really great.”

While he doesn’t really receive any prejudice for being on dance team at GS, Johnson said that other schools are often surprised to see him out on the field with the group of girls.

“Not anyone here, but a lot of dance teams from other schools are like ‘oh, there’s a boy,’” he said.

The stakes are a little lower for Johnson than Stoner in their activities. Dance team is a part of the band, and doesn’t compete individually, while wrestling is a one-on-one contact sport. People could refuse to wrestle against Stoner if they choose to, forfeiting their match.

“They usually do want to wrestle me,” she said.

With so many different options of activities, some people still choose to pick the hardest route, going with the one that has the opportunity to give them more issues. It could be started as an activity in high school, or something that’s been a part of daily life for years.

“[I’ve been wrestling] since I was seven,” Stoner said.

Choosing an activity to participate in can be a big decision, and should be considered carefully, especially if the decision could be pushing what is considered normal. The activity could require extra effort that wouldn’t necessarily be needed for another activity. Miss Alyssa Palenchar, the girls’ health and gym teacher, has seen more students participating in activities dominated by the other gender.

“I have seen a rise where a lot more students are going out of their comfort zone and participating in sports that [they wouldn’t] necessarily have,” Miss Palenchar said. “For example, football. There are more girls going out for football and wrestling. Guys [are joining things like] the dance team. There has been a rise and I think those people are starting to have an impact on other people as well.”

As more people push the norms of athletics, it gets easier for everyone to pursue one. Today, there are less restrictions on men and women, and what they get to partake in. There is still a limit on what they can participate in, though.

“I think it stems back from a while ago when we were so set on seperate genders because I feel like men are stronger than women, in some sense, just by the way their anatomy is,” Palenchar said. “I feel that that’s why we have had separate gender sports for such a long time, because they still see that as a setback or a difference between the two. It’s just that the anatomy is different.”

“Just try it out, and if it’s bad for you then don’t do it. It’s better to try than to not do it at all”

— Owen Johnson, ’21

Despite there being less of a divide between men’s and women’s athletics, it can be hard for them to be successful in particular situations.

“I think [that] in certain circumstances there are,” Palenchar said. “A woman isn’t going to go out and be a linebacker, but they could be just as successful as a male in kicking, or something like that. I think it just depends on the sport, and what position they’re trying to fill.”

Trying something new and different can be scary, but the people who have tried new things have really enjoyed it.

“Just do it,” Johnson said. “Just try it out, and if it’s bad for you then don’t do it. It’s better to try than to not do it at all.”

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