Hard hat hardships

Pushing for a new take on an old tradition

The fluorescent lights of Buell shine down on the sea of royal blue rolling in the stands. As the Mustangs stride on the field, the MN student section chants, “Go Big Blue!”

There’s one person at the heart of it all. Wearing a black spray-painted construction helmet with chalk-white lettering, the hard hat stands in the front row, determined to lead the football team to another victory. 

The hard hat has been an integral part of school spirit since its creation in 2008. Armed with a list of chants and a crowd on their shoulders, hyping up a school as large as MN is no easy feat.

However, when the stadium lights go out and the crowd goes home, there is a question that needs to be addressed. Because of the lack of any female representation in the history of hard hats and noticeable hard hat absences at girls’ sporting events over the last few years, it is clear that an alternative solution is needed.

According to Principal Brian Begley, we’ve had nine or ten students wearing the hard hat now, and it’s always a male student, particularly a white male student.

The hard hat selection process is mostly student-run, explaining why the candidates and past selections might not be as diverse. 

“It’s a little tricky because since it’s been student-run, it’s something I don’t think I can necessarily force. But I feel like I want to have a positive influence in every aspect of our school,” Begley said.

Current hard hat, senior Austin Zorinsky, noticed some push back in response to a girl candidate for hard hat in the selection process.

“A lot of people were just hesitant to change the tradition because they’ve never seen a girl hard hat before,” Zorinsky said. 

While backlash is inevitable, until the norm is challenged the student body won’t be able to reshape their mindset and make progress.

Additionally, the MN student body has recognized a lack of attendance at girls’ sporting events, which could be mitigated by a different type of hard hat, improving both the lack of attendance at girls’ sporting events and female representation.

“A female hard hat to drum up support for female athletics, I think it’s definitely a great start,” Assistant Principal Casey Lundgren said.

Furthermore, it’s important to recognize that a hard hat’s effectiveness and reach should not be solely based on their gender.

“It doesn’t have to be a male leading a male sport or vice versa, it can be totally mixed, whatever works,” Begley said.

Even the idea of multiple hard hats or spirit leaders has been introduced.

“It’s not a bad idea, just having the right group of people representing everyone and being rowdy. Why have one hard hat when you could have seven that are just as rowdy?” senior and previous hard hat candidate Reghan Svoboda said.

Other schools like Millard West have taken ideas like Svoboda’s to the next level by creating a group of spirit leaders called the Wildcat Crazies. This is perhaps something MN could consider.

The tradition is something highly valued by the student body. Some individuals seem to value it to an extreme that brings down others wanting to make change. MN needs to bear in mind that traditions can, and always do, change. 

At the end of the day, school spirit is what keeps athletes, students, and spectators alike going. Maybe encouraging more diversity in the hard hat selection process is a solution we, the students, can implement next year. Because it’s important to maintain tradition, but also make progress.