News Detail

Competitive Spirit

Sarah Pelmas, Head of School
Of my many favorite weeks of the Winsor year, this is one of the favorite favorites. It’s not just seeing the extremely clever choices students make around dress-up themes (“music genre” day, for one, had a range that’s hard to describe, from classical to country to ’70s rock to puns on the word “pop”); it’s also the sheer unbridled all-in-ness of it. Adolescence is often a time when young women hide what matters to them until they see the reactions their loves might elicit. At Winsor, Spirit Week gives them permission to commit fully to their own silly, funny, well-crafted ideas.

And it all culminates in this fantastic weekend of competition, beginning today at Under the Lights, with three soccer games, three field hockey games, and two volleyball games, and then continuing with Saturday’s cross country meet and two boats racing on Sunday at the Head of the Charles. I love everything about this weekend, from the red face paint, to the fierce competition, to the fans cheering and screaming from every direction. It’s a relatively recent cultural trend that has allowed girls and women to compete aggressively and be passionate fans for their teams. Of course, women have always been competitive, but it has not always been something they could show to the world. And we are still coming to terms with what it means for a woman to be ambitious, competitive, and explicit in her goals. So I love this weekend, because we are a huge community celebrating girls’ athletics, the spirit of competition, and the wonderful fighting desire to play well and win.

It’s probably worth knowing that I am absurdly competitive. In fact, I get so competitive even in board games of chance that I rarely play them anymore; it serves no one for me to be that competitive. (For the record, I am trying to reform, but it’s a slow process.) And I think there are a lot of Winsor women just like me. So we are lucky to have a time when we can scream and yell, growl at the injustice of a bad call, celebrate the spectacular goal, clap as the rally builds and changes the momentum, cheer for the doggedness and beauty of the runners and rowers as they go by. It’s fun to win, and it’s fun to be the best; and it’s especially fun to be together with a huge group of people who are uplifted by the competition and who celebrate victory, positively and kindly, but decisively too.

In a world where we must pay more attention to the diversity of human perspective and experience, and where we must try to lift everyone up, and strive for peace, it is an incredible gift to have the space and time (and permission) to participate in these miniature battles. We play our hearts out to win, we cheer for victory, we try to be the best, and we feel a kinship with others who share this goal.

So I will be out there, screaming and yelling, and absolutely thriving on the competition. Maybe the Wildcats will win. I really really hope they will win. But more than that, I hope they (and all of us) will enjoy the rush of emotions, the community feel, and the visceral passion of rooting hard for our teams, cheering a good play or a powerful moment. Rooting for our teams, done well, lifts our athletes as well as ourselves and offers a transcendence that we rarely experience in our daily lives.