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March 21, 2024
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Girls In The Stands

Girls at West High share how it feels to be forced to leave the front two rows of the student section during games.
Ali Parkhurst
Senior Hannah Connor represents the male student section leaders sitting during games while the women in the stands interact with athletes.

Waterloo West High takes pride in their school spirit. Many students enjoy attending the games, meets and other events to support their peers. However, over the past year there has been a common issue brought up, why do we never have girls leading the student section?

West High has a tradition of passing down a pair of maroon and white overalls to four seniors who are in charge of leading the student section for their senior year. In recent years, the discussion of passing the overalls down to a girl has been up for debate, but not once has it happened.

This has been a tradition for the past four years, but is it time to start a new one? Seniors Charlotte Gettman and Karis Burch thought of starting their own tradition, where they would wear camo pants when they were told the overalls were “just for boys.” Gettman shared, “It didn’t make sense because we were the only ones going to every home and away game, yet the boys were given those to wear.”

There have been many active female students who have shown up to support West High’s sports teams. When asked how she felt about the issue, senior Hannah Connor responded with, “Of course the overalls being passed down to guys is a tradition. However, considering that they are always only boys it can make the girls in the student sections feel less important.”

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Senior Hannah Connor shows her passion for her school in a pair of maroon and white overalls. (Lucy Prescott)

On Dec. 8, 2023, the Wahawk Barstool X account made a post that stated, “WOMAN OUT OF THE FRONT 2 ROWS PLEASE AND THANKS.” This upset many people who attended the school events, especially the senior girls, who are dedicated to the athletics at West High. Connor shares how this made her feel,  sharing that “there are many girls within the student sections that love watching and participating in sports, and when those girls are overlooked it can be hurtful,” she says.

The post requesting women to stay out of the front two rows was posted before the home Cedar Falls game, where the girls basketball team was playing. Gettman, who is also a female basketball player, shares that being supported by her female peers makes a big difference. “Personally when another girl is cheering me on it means so much more than a group of boys,” Gettman says. She notes that she feels loved when seeing the hard work her peers put in to support her and her team.

When creating accounts such as Wahawk Barstool or Wahawk Nation, they are seen as platforms to express school spirit and to get everyone involved. Connor feels that when the boys have control over the overalls and social media platforms, they in return should be considerate for how they handle that. “By stating on the Wahawk Barstool ‘no women in the first two rows’ is an abuse of power and simply annoying,” Connor shares.

The tradition of passing the overalls down began in 2020 when the four original seniors bought the overalls. Since then, the role is passed on to four new seniors each year.

This year, however, has strayed from the normal path in multiple different ways. For starters, there have been more than four student section leaders. Not all at the same time, but rather than consistently seeing the same four seniors in the front row, we have seen a few new faces for the winter season.

In addition to this, one of the new faces was a junior, not a senior. Junior Brody Schmidt has been seen showing up in the overalls for the game. When asked why a junior was in the overalls for a senior tradition he mentioned it was to fill in for senior Tayvon Homolar, because he had a bowling meet and was unable to attend the game. “I was just really honored to have them,” Schmidt shares.

Seeing the tradition be broken in one way, causes students to wonder why we cannot bend the rules for others, why can we put a junior in overalls but not a girl?

“The stereotype that only boys can truly like and understand sports is simply outrageous and untrue. There are many girls within the student sections that love watching and participating in sports,” Connor shares.

For the second time this year, the Wahawk Barstool made a post that caught the attention of many. On Feb. 6, 2024, the Barstool stated, “If you think we are bad student section leaders please take it to court cause I’ll beat that mf case.” While the Barstool is known for making aggressive and ‘problematic’ statements, students at West High were not prepared for the statements to target their own.

Students who attend West have noticed a decline in attendance at sporting events. Some students find themselves wondering, is it the student section leaders, or is it the representation the student body has made for themselves? Homolar shares his side of things, stating that “the lack of students showing up was kind of pathetic.” He later used girls basketball as an example, stating that the student section only supported the team when they made the state tournament.

Overall the student section as a whole has been struggling. Students need to come together instead of discriminating and discouraging others. Just because girls might like glitter and to dress up does not mean they are incapable of loving and being attentive to a sport.

We are the women of West High, and we belong in the stands.

This story was originally published on The Wahawk Insider on March 26, 2024.