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The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Pep rally costume guidelines reformed in attempt to address hazing concerns

Track+and+Field+flaunts+their+winter+holiday+theme+following+the+newly+implemented+guidelines.+The+team+shared+the+same+theme+and+similar+costumes%2C+with+no+apparent+division+of+grades.+Traditionally%2C+track+and+field+has+been+such+a+large+team+that+we+split+the+costumes+between+seniors+and+underclassmen+...+Now%2C+we+just+dont+have+the+division%2C+...+but+it+doesnt+hurt+the+team+morale+in+any+way%2C+senior+captain+Beth+Fogg+said.
Mackenzie Norris
Track and Field flaunts their winter holiday theme following the newly implemented guidelines. The team shared the same theme and similar costumes, with no apparent division of grades. “Traditionally, track and field has been such a large team that we split the costumes between seniors and underclassmen … Now, we just don’t have the division, … but it doesn’t hurt the team morale in any way,” senior captain Beth Fogg said.

In response to concerns about hazing and uncomfortable practices, school administration and the athletic department have stopped sports teams from dividing costumes based on grade level for the winter and future pep rallies under Montgomery County’s respect and anti-hazing policies.

Previously, when sports teams would participate in the pep rally, they would dress up in themed costumes, often giving seniors or upperclassmen the nicest outfits, leaving the freshmen or underclassmen with the more flamboyant and embarrassing costumes. While some athletes accept it as tradition or are otherwise indifferent about the costumes, the athletic department has ruled against it as it is demeaning to some students forced to be singled out.

“We are being proactive in making sure that everyone feels great in all situations at Walter Johnson. We want to ensure that we never have any possible perception of any wrongdoing, even if there is none. We don’t even want possible perception,” Hurd said.

Junior Ginger Fishberg reflected on her freshman year costume as a varsity lacrosse player. The team’s chosen theme was “Under the Sea,” and as the only freshman on the team, she was assigned to dress as a boat. That day, Fishberg waltzed into school, flaunting a cardboard boat costume.

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“Being able to just laugh about wearing a cardboard boat all day really helped me bond with the team and made me feel more welcomed than anything,” Fishberg said.

In addition, varsity softball coach Richard Carter believes that the costumes have little to do with team morale, especially because seniors often consider freshmen’s opinions.

“In my years of coaching, all my teams were respectful and careful not to make the freshman wear something they were not comfortable with, and there are ways to build team chemistry that doesn’t make some people feel singled out,” Carter said.

Respect was the primary concern for the athletic department as they made this decision.

“I think a big part of this and a big part of our athletic program, MCPS, and WJ is ‘we RAISE,’ and the very first part of ‘we RAISE’ is ‘R’ and it’s ‘Respect.’ We show respect for everyone on our teams no matter their grade, no matter their level of play,” Hurd said.

With this being said, many pep rally participants see both sides of the story, as they can see how being singled out affects some students more than others.

“I think that some freshmen may become embarrassed, especially during the fall when they are still trying to make a good impression, but overall, I think it is a fun and harmless tradition that you look back on and get to laugh about. I think most freshmen on varsity sports would agree it’s embarrassing only to a small extent, but is overall a fun tradition,” Fishberg said.

However, school spirit will remain as the new policy requires each team to wear the same costume, not divided by grade level. This policy will ensure that those who feel uncomfortable standing out but are too afraid to say it can participate in school spirit without being singled out and without confrontation.

“I think that there were some students in the past that may have felt a little nervous or humiliated about the costumes or the dress that they were asked to wear… We don’t want anyone to feel humiliated or have the perception that they were hazed or forced to wear something, but we want them to have fun and wear their costumes the way they like to do it, as long as nobody in the group is made to look inferior in any way,” assistant principal Terry Heintze said.

The pep rally is run by Sophie Fierst, the leadership teacher. Fierst held the winter pep rally meeting to announce the new policy.

“Nothing else has really changed other than sports teams cannot costumes that set apart their new and younger students. … I did emphasize at the informational meeting that their costume had to be school-appropriate and could not be broken down by grade level…For the most part, I leave [the themes] up to the teams,” Fierst said.

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Mackenzie Norris, Print Sports Editor
Senior Mackenzie Norris is excited to particpate in her first year with the Pitch as Print Sports Editor and Business Manager. In addition to writing for the Pitch, Mackenzie enjoys representing WJ on the softball field with some of her best friends and teammates.
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