Athletes, not distractions

Brooke Chomko, Sports Editor

Editor’s Note: This version of this column is different from what printed in our October 2021 issue. It has been updated to clarify misinterpreted information. The LION apologizes for this error in print.

Cross country practice is usually my safe place. Aside from the brutality of running, the effortless conversations I have with teammates and coaches make it a safe haven from the stress of school and life. 

However, with the heatwave of mid- to late-August, it has not been pleasant to run around in nearly 100 degree weather, especially wearing a heavy T-shirt. With this being said, most of the athletes have been running in a sports bra and shorts to prevent overheating from running multiple miles. This attire is something that cross country runners have been sporting for many past seasons without any problems. In the past, we’ve been told that we should have a shirt on when we come back to campus grounds after our road runs, but it’s usually not enforced.

This was until a recent practice, when we were using the track to run sprints and the football players were playing a scrimmage at the same time. Near the end of the workout, our coach pulled us aside and told us we would have to start wearing shirts when we were outside on campus. He explained this was a long-standing rule and did not want the football players to get distracted, so we would have to cover up in the future. He made the false assumption that the football coaches would care about our attire, which he based on a former rule requiring us to wear shirts. I remember looking around at my teammates, seeing faces in complete shock and disbelief.

I, and every other runner, was appalled. After all the Social Emotional Learning lessons we had endured about acceptance, belonging, and being respectful at LT, it was almost comical how hypocritical this outdated rule was. It was also not reflective of the dress code at LT, which is minimal and mentions nothing about clothing for sports. 

To us, sports bras are not a fashion statement but rather a necessity to not overheat while running, just like the boys practicing without shirts on. Furthermore, it was not evident that any football players were even distracted in the first place. They were doing their practice, and us ours, so we were honestly confused at who was being affected by our choice of running attire. 

I saw this as a continuation of the recent misogyny the girls’ soccer team faced on Instagram, receiving sexist and rude comments when they asked a school spirit account to post their team for making it all the way to the state championship game in June 2021. The team placed second in state and did not receive nearly as much coverage on this account as boys teams with lesser accomplishments. This incident exposed the true opinions of some insecure boys at LT: mainly that they do not respect women as successful athletes and treat their accomplishments as jokes. 

Thankfully, when our issue was brought up to athletic director John Grundke and Principal Jennifer Tyrrell after multiple complaints from students and parents, they clarified that we were allowed to run in sports bras as they are proper athletic wear. 

Despite this, the initial reaction to our running outfits is just another sign that LT is far from being the fully accepting school they advertise themselves to be. When students and staff members continue to sexualize girls’ bodies and invalidate their athletic ability, it shows there is still some serious change that needs to happen.