Updated: Dec 21, 2018
By TARA JENNINGS, Staff Writer
December 19, 2018
A leaky ceiling. A two-stall bathroom with only one locking door. A shower coated with rust. This is a description of one of North Brunswick Township High School’s locker rooms―and it isn’t one of the boys’.
Sports have always been a source of pride for NBTHS, but that is especially true this year, since the Raider football team reached the sectional championship for the first time in nearly half a century. A fan bus and special pep rally were both organized for the game, and while there is no doubt that the team deserves credit for their hard work and success, many athletes were left wondering―why aren’t all sports treated this way?
Because, of course, the simple truth is that all sports are not treated equally. No one will ever admit it, but there are always going to be more fans at a Friday night football game than at a Monday afternoon bowling match, and certain sports are always going to win favor amongst students and staff. But to what extent does this favoritism affect the athletic programs at NBTHS? Do certain sports get treated better by the school itself, or does the issue always lie with the students?
When looking at the different ways in which athletic programs are treated, one of the most common factors considered is that of gender. In an anonymous survey sent out last week, seventy-five percent of respondents said they felt that boys’ sports are treated better than girls’ sports at NBTHS; this included about forty percent of male responses and over eighty percent of female responses. When asked to explain their views, the respondents addressed a variety of issues; this included the differences in the facilities provided for girls’ and boys’ sports, with special attention being drawn to the locker rooms.
For the team rooms set aside for after-school athletes, the differences between the genders are evident: the boys’ locker room is modern, the picture of a high school from the twenty-first century, while the girls’ locker room looks as if it has not been touched since the 1970s. The boys’ team room is filled with large lockers, holds a whiteboard and several rows of benches for athletes to watch their coaches draw up plays, and a relatively clean bathroom; the girls’ team room, meanwhile, holds lockers barely big enough to fit the equipment needed for softball and lacrosse players, has a two-stall bathroom with only one functioning door, and has showers coated with rust (and a strange greenish substance that cannot be identified). Some of this is practical―after all, football players need a place to store pads, helmets, and other personal equipment, so it makes sense that their lockers would be bigger―but there is no excuse for the overall discrepancy in the quality of the two rooms.
Top: A collection of photos taken inside the boys' team room.
Below: A collection of photos taken inside the girls' team room.
Photos Courtesy of Tara Jennings
Other survey responses addressed issues with the faculty and the student body. Some felt that the school staff gave male sports more attention; others wondered why the football team got its own pep rally, while the only female program to ever perform in a pep rally is the cheerleading squad; and many felt that boys’ sports always get more credit and attention than girls’, even if the girls are having a better season. The idea that students supported male athletes more than female athletes was shown in a second part of the survey, where respondents were asked about the winter sporting event they would be most likely to attend; nearly fifty percent of participants responded that they would choose to attend a boys’ basketball game. The rest of the responses were split between girls’ basketball, swimming, bowling, winter track, and wrestling, with girls’ basketball and swimming earning the second and third highest percentages respectively.
When asked if she thought boys’ sports were treated better than girls’ at NBTHS, senior Keyara Hill said yes. “It’s not necessarily that we’re treated unfairly by the school, but that we’re treated the same way all girls’ sports are treated in America,” said Hill, a member of the girls’ volleyball, basketball, and lacrosse varsity teams. “This isn’t an issue that’s unique to NBTHS; it’s typical for society.”
Inequality between sports does not just occur between male and female athletic programs, however. Many of the survey responses focused primarily on football and boys’ basketball, admitting that, with those exceptions, the rest of the sports at NBTHS seem to be treated equally, regardless of gender. That being said, some sports―such as bowling―are still overlooked. Ms. Jenna Rutsky, a history teacher at NBTHS and one of the school’s bowling coaches, admitted that the program is often overlooked when it comes to school spirit, but that in terms of money, they are treated the same as everyone else. “We don’t need as much as some other teams in terms of equipment, and the students themselves have to provide a lot of it,” she explained. “I would like to see us mentioned more, and for kids to be encouraged to come watch us, but that’s really the only thing.”
While many athletes and respondents expressed differing opinions about the ways in which sports at NBTHS are treated, one thing seemed certain: it was impossible to discuss inequality in high school athletics without mentioning football. Some survey respondents felt that members of the Raider football team were treated better than any other athletes; others said that students seemed more likely to attend a football game than any girls’ fall sport; one student even went so far as to say that football players were treated “like kings” in the school. There is no doubt that the 2018 team deserves credit for their success this year, but some wondered why they had their own pep rally while other programs that have had historic seasons―such as the boys’ volleyball team, which won its first county championship in 2017―have had to fight for the recognition that is just handed to the football program.
Senior Sean Breheney, a member of the Raider football team and a varsity baseball player, admitted that he doesn’t know enough about women’s sports to make an accurate comparison between programs, but that he still feels there are some differences in the way sports are treated in the school. “I would definitely say that the teams that are more successful get a little extra support,” he explained. Expanding on his own experiences, he added, “I would say that between baseball and softball, things are pretty equal; we share the gym and it rotates on a schedule, so it’s not like we always get the first choice.”
When asked about the difference between baseball and football, Breheney said, “Baseball is a little more independent from the school than football. For football, we get a lot of support from alumni, but with baseball, I feel like we’re more by ourselves.”
It is very hard to believe that anyone at NBTHS is purposely choosing to treat male sports better than female programs or to favor football over other sports, but that does not mean that such problems are not present. It is an issue that affects not just North Brunswick Township High School, but society as a whole, and this is one case in which the old saying holds true: the first step to finding a solution is admitting that there is a problem. So, it’s time to accept that not every athlete gets the glory, and to start giving every sports program (regardless of gender) the recognition they deserve.