Sport Initiations Make a Comeback

the popular tradition of varsity athletes ‘kidnapping’ new recruits makes a return

The+water+polo+captains+and+initiates+congregate+at+the+beach+for+their+start-of-season+event

Cate Regan

The water polo captains and initiates congregate at the beach for their start-of-season event

With sports and activities returning to normal once common initiation traditions are also returning. 

For the fencing team, initiations are held in the early mornings, according to fencing captain and senior Lucia Kustra. 

The tradition is that you wake up the freshmen, you drive them to someone’s house, we play kickball, we play capture the flag, we serve them breakfast, then we drive them home. Everyone’s in bed before 9am.”

The goal, says Kustra, is to establish friendly relationships with the freshmen, so as to not have them feel isolated during the season.

“They can bond with the seniors, to show them that we’re not that big and scary,” she said.

Girls Water Polo has a similar morning tradition. Senior captain Cate Regan, says a highlight is the team breakfast.

“We wake up freshmen early in the morning, we take them and drive around, watch the sunrise at the beach, and all meet and have breakfast at someone’s house after. But during that time, the [different] cars do their own fun get-to-know-you activities.”

They can bond with the seniors, to show them that we’re not that big and scary”

— Lucia Kustra

Unlike the water polo and fencing team, badminton holds their freshman welcome at night, without the involvement of the freshmen themselves. Senior badminton captain Sophia Kurzman helped plan the event this year.

“It was a little different this year with COVID, but the seniors are drivers, and they take a car of sophomores and juniors, so everyone’s included but freshmen. We assign each car the house of a freshman, then we take sidewalk chalk and chalk their driveways with birdies, rackets, and positive messages. [The freshmen] don’t know it’s happening, so the next morning, they come outside and see it all.”

However, Kurzman says COVID skewed their plans, including being unable to hold a sleepover for the upperclassmen that typically follows chalking driveways.

“Traditionally, afterwards, all of the sophomores, juniors, and seniors would have a big sleepover together. But back when we did the initiation, even carbofests weren’t allowed. We didn’t want to gather inside until it was allowed.”

The water polo team also had to change their initiation plans to encompass all new swimmers, incorporating even non-first years in the initiation.

“This year, we extended it to all new people, because we had a lot of people who joined who weren’t freshmen,” said Regan. “In the last few years, it kind of got messed up, and we didn’t get to welcome the people who were freshmen, so we did an event for everybody this year.”

Beyond COVID regulations and conflicts, Kustra says other initiation rules and guidelines were given to the fencing captains by their head coach.

“He sat us down and told us we had to include everybody, because there were some issues with that, and we had to follow these regulations, like being careful with driving and not breaking curfew. It was very regulated, and we had to run our plans by him.”

On the other hand, Regan says the water polo captains based their initiation on common sense, instead of adult authority.

“We do have rules and regulations like calling parents beforehand. We just follow common sense, and do nothing dangerous, nothing harmful, always ask people if they want to participate, nothing crazy.”

Members of teams said that Initiations are an important event to create team chemistry and lasting bonds with new recruits and each other.

“We want to make sure that everyone feels like they’re part of the team,” says Kurzman. “Freshmen are very separated from us, but we want to let them know that we want them there, and care about them.”