With over 100 clubs and a multitude of sports teams, an RHS student is always involved. But over the years, students have demonstrated that what we have just might not be enough. Individuals and groups have brought their talents and passions to the forefront of the student body’s attention in an attempt to increase opportunities for all.
Two years ago, I founded the RHS Fencing Team. A fencer myself, I was surprised that such a prestigious high school would not already have competitive boys’ and girls’ fencing teams. But with the recent increase in young fencers and the leveling-out of males and females in the field, the Ridgewood team began with a strong foundation. Now, a practice that would have otherwise been difficult to access is within reach. We recently concluded our second season and are already planning and preparing for next year’s statewide tournaments.
Alec VanSickle, a dedicated member of the RHS Fencing Team, is grateful that the team was available just in time for his arrival at RHS. “The team itself in the first year turned me into a better fencer,” VanSickle said. The club even inspired him to take his prior fencing experience to the next level; originally a foil fencer, VanSickle switched his main weapon to saber in the process. “I made some good friends and improved my mindset in fencing,” VanSickle said. The camaraderie built among team members continues to grow, and together they have worked diligently to maintain a strong team psychology.
RHS teams have continued to surface within the past few years. I spoke to three eleventh graders who founded the RHS Badminton Club; Parker Fraiman, Kumail Raza, and David Man decided to take a quarter-long gym activity and transform it into a competitive event. The club meets three times a week, and the season concludes with playoffs between the top teams. “We realized how much fun it was and saw the opportunity,” Raza said. Previously, badminton was accessible only to eleventh graders through Activity 11 physical education classes. “We thought it would be fun to have something that continued throughout the year,” Man added.
The gratification that comes with initiating a high school sport is special, but the success doesn’t always come easily. Despite having access to an environment of over 1,500 students, making the sport “fit in” with the school and its students is challenging. For both the fencing and badminton teams, finding space and time was difficult. Gyms are usually at full capacity, sometimes holding two or more practices at once.
This year, RHS Fencing was able to arrange practices at a local fencing club, which had all necessary equipment installed. While some of last season was spent maneuvering the group to find practice space, this year’s abundance of space and gear gave team members a “real feel” of how fencing works. “It was much better compared to the other places in the school,” VanSickle said. “It had fencing equipment that let everyone practice at once, which made it easier for people to enjoy the sport.”
But has RHS reached athletic capacity? Based on recent trends, it seems like the athletic department is still fit for growth. Each new addition serves as a marker of the school’s ever-changing demographics; a new team may fill in a gap, and more evenly scatter athletes to broaden RHS’s realm of talent.
So what’s the takeaway? Starting a high school sport has its benefits and challenges. But the end result makes it worth each minute: everybody gets involved. There’s a team for everyone. With each sports team addition, RHS opens a new path, lane, or court that will tailor to at least one of our 1,500 eager students.
Graphics: Anika Tsapatsaris