A Look Into How Consistently Sports Dress Code Rules Are Enforced
Others feel that the different nature of some sports call for different uniforms — “at any school, basketball shorts would be longer [than shorts for other sports], so it makes sense that the AJA basketball shorts are longer,” argued Aiden. However, said Rabbi Houben, “I think the goal is to be consistent; we just aren’t there yet.” Whether it means creating clear rules that apply across the board or keeping the current rules while providing explanations on some potential inconsistencies, both AJA administrators and students agree that the goal of consistency and fairness is attainable.
A typical Saturday night for an AJA student probably consists of joining many members of the community in watching an AJA basketball game. In fact, many dedicated students try to make it to as many AJA games as they can, whether it be flag football, volleyball, or basketball. But in recent years, students have noticed some inconsistencies in how the sports dress code has been applied to different genders and different sports.
First of all, many, including senior Kiki Starr, noticed that for the boys basketball team, wearing a shirt under their otherwise sleeveless jerseys is not required, but that “for the girls, it’s clear that they have to wear shirts under [their jerseys] and it’s just not consistent.” Sophomore basketball player Yael Mainzer agreed, saying, “I think either none [should] do it, or both [should] do it.”
Head of High School Dr. Sim Pearl suggested that “you could [argue] that the girls don’t have to worry about kippot on their heads, so maybe they have to worry a little bit more about what’s going on with [their sleeves]… I think we’re learning as a community that being fair does not necessarily mean being equal.” Coach Rodney Zimmerman (Coach Z), AJA’s Athletic Director, agreed with Dr. Pearl that “[the rules] are fair, while they may not seem equal; whether it is kippot for boys during games or longer shorts for girls.” Dr. Pearl said that, ultimately, for himself, “It’s about tzniut” and giving clearer guidelines to prevent constant worrying about whether an outfit is appropriate or not. “We know people have different ways of living… and if people come modest[ly], we’re just going to be respectful of one another,” Dr. Pearl added.
While Coach Z said that “the goal of the AJA athletics program is to align itself with the values and principles of the school[’s] mission statement,” senior Micah Feit Mann suspects that this goal is not always met. He noted that he finds it “weird that the school places such a standard on being [tzanua] when most of the [sports] outfits are fairly incompatible to that — I’m on the wrestling team, and I don’t really get why I have to wear a collar [during the school day], but when I wear my wrestling uniform, half of my chest is exposed.”
In the realms of shorts, many feel that female athletes are put in uncomfortable positions: “Can we talk about how degrading it was to stand in a line and have our knees photographed to check the length of our shorts?” remarked sophomore Aiden Smolensky who played on the volleyball team earlier this year. At the beginning of the volleyball season, players were given longer shorts that inhibited their agility as they covered the players’ knee pads and made it harder to fall and slide properly. Players requested new shorts that were more suitable for volleyball and were told that in order to wear the new, slightly shorter shorts during games, a picture of the team wearing the shorts must be sent to and approved by an administrator. In response to this situation, Judaic Studies Instructional Team Leader Rabbi Allan Houben said “I agree, that’s probably not a dignifying experience… I think somebody in consultation with the school should make decisions about what the uniforms look like and then keep the rules the same across boards… if girls are wearing shorts for basketball, they should be the same as the shorts that they are wearing for volleyball, as they are wearing for soccer, as they are wearing for tennis.”