School? Sports? We Can Do It All, and Thanks to a New Sports Awareness, Everyone is Starting to See It Too

New developments in Bronx Science Athletics suggest a prosperous future for the sports-loving Wolverines, in which their efforts finally flow into the mainstream, and their games are watched and cheered on by their classmates.

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Maximillian Kramer

At one of their first home games of the season, the Boys’ Varsity Soccer Team had an impressive crowd of spectators, larger than they have ever seen in years past.

Bronx Science undoubtedly holds a reputation as one of the strongest schools – particularly STEM schools – in the nation, but fewer people know about our prowess in sports. Our Girls Varsity Volleyball team is the defending PSAL Division A champions, has produced an undefeated regular season, and recently came in first at the Cardozo Breast Cancer Awareness Tournament on October sixteenth. Our Boys Badminton team took City Championships in the 2018-2019 season and remains undefeated currently. Our fencing team is undefeated and awaits their playoff rounds, which will all take place on one day sometime in November.

Strong sports never seems to correlate with the Bronx Science image in the media — why is that? The obvious reason is that our academic prestige overshadows our athletics, but there must be more. After all, many colleges are known for their success in both fields. 

The emergence of a new Athletics Instagram account created during remote learning last year aimed to increase awareness in the Bronx Science community and outside media regarding our athletic prowess. Kickstarted by senior Grace Lorch, co-captain of the Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team and co-chair of the Judicial Board, the account advertises game times, encourages viewership and reports post-game scores. Now, an increase in spectatorship and the rise of separate team Instagram accounts are destined to change Bronx Science sports culture for the better.

Grace Lorch ’22 is the founder and head of the @bxsciathletics Instagram account. The account is now fueling the increase in sports awareness at Bronx Science; Lorch is very happy to see her vision materialize.

For many sports teams, spectatorship has increased “monstrously,” as Maximillian Kramer ’22, a captain of the Boys’ Varsity Soccer team, describes it. The number of spectators for boys soccer has grown somewhat tenfold, from 5-10 onlookers in years prior to around fifty! Kramer acknowledges that the new spectators are mainly juniors, sophomores, and ninth graders, suggesting the growth is being brought in from new students. Norah Smith ’22, a captain of the Girls’ Varsity Soccer team, has also noted an increase in spectatorship at Girls’ Varsity Soccer games, although not as massive. “People are making an effort to go to the games that they can go to – like if it’s close to their house or close to the school – so that’s really cool,” Smith said.

Smith remembers it bluntly: “We virtually never had spectators, even at our games in the Bronx.” The same went for Boys’ Badminton, with few viewers, even at their final Championship match in 2018-2019. Comparably, the Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team had the highest spectatorship throughout their full season in 2019-2020 – garnering lots of supporters as playoff games intensified – but their regular season games were still played aside empty bleachers.

Bronx Science athletes have historically played aside empty or speckled bleachers and sidelines. A growing sports awareness in the student body, however, appears poised to change this reality.

Smith suggested that these weak turnouts were “a combination of games not being well advertised, being far away, and people just not having any time.” Considering the time constraints of Bronx Science students — with academics, extracurriculars, and commutes eating up time — one can easily see why attending a sports game was not a top priority. Kramer suggests it was a lack of vision for what sports culture could be: “I think sports teams just weren’t really getting a lot of exposure, and the people on the teams didn’t really care that much about having spectators – they didn’t really try to network,” he reflected.

So what has changed?

It all started with the Instagram account. After falling short in the virtual Bronx Science Secretary Elections of 2020, Lorch wanted to ensure one of her campaigns would still be instituted, a Bronx Science Athletics Instagram. “Athletes go out of their way to make sacrifices in terms of their free time – oftentimes, kind of cramming their schedule together in order to attend practices and participate in the sport that they love,” explained Lorch. “So I approached administrators — Mr. McGrath, Ms. Parness, and Ms. Cooper — asking if I could go ahead and run it independently. They all signed off and @bxsciathletics has been operating since then.” Lorch now runs the page, which announces sports news, including games, results, and special team or athlete announcements to the Bronx Science student body. Students are able to view daily Instagram stories to stay updated on how teams are doing and when their next games are. The best part? Teams have been inspired to follow suit!

Instagram pages are and continue to be popping up for every sports team at Bronx Science. Some sports teams have had Instagram pages even before the Bronx Science Athletics account was formed, like the swim team, but the new account has increased engagement and awareness tremendously. Nine new accounts have been created this past fall season alone, according to Lorch, starting with Girls’ Varsity Soccer. Then came Boys’ Varsity Soccer, Girls’ Varsity Volleyball, and many others. Before long, a social media network had been built. Winter teams have even begun their accounts to spread word about tryout dates and informational meetings. “It’s good that they are all starting to gain a social media presence, and I am so glad I was able to pioneer that,” Lorch said.

“I think that the athletics page is a really good way of organizing all of our sports events into one outlet for people who are interested in watching or being a part of sports,” said captain of the Boys’ Badminton team, Branden Chen ’22. “It does get annoying to navigate the PSAL page – constantly switching between tabs to find sports — but the athletics page just gets everything out there,” he said. “It’s also sort of pushed this support for sports that we haven’t had in recent years, which is really nice.”

Beyond simply getting the word out, the team Instagrams offer a genuine, interactive, and often humorous means of connection between students and athletes. “It’s nice to see that people on the sports teams are not just robots who play sports, but are actual people who have a bond with their team,” said Chen, with a smile. Lilly Flynn ’23, starting libero on the Bronx Science Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team, said, “They provide really authentic insight and personality for the team; you get to know them more on an intimate level.” Whether it is through memes or goofy team pictures or video snippets, these teams are given an identity beyond their names: Girls’ Varsity Soccer (@bxsciencegvs) is known for their self-made memes, the Swimming teams (@bxsciswimming) are known for their appealing infographic-like posts, Boys’ Badminton is known for their silly pictures and illustrative captions, and Girls’ Varsity Volleyball (@bxsci.girls.varsity.volleyball) enjoys sharing dancing and highlight videos. We, as a student body, have a greater understanding of the personalities of these teams – ranging from comical, to physically impressive, to charitable. “It sort of humanizes athletes, and it gives us an outlet to do even more with the platform,” Chen said, entertaining the prospect of the athletic community becoming a driving force of change in the future.

Before spectators were recently allowed to attend indoor sports competitions at Bronx Science, the Instagrams were also the main method of communication to the student body for indoor sports teams, like Volleyball and Badminton. “You got to view the team’s athletic abilities without having to see it in person,” said Flynn. As for the increase in spectatorship, the Instagrams have an indisputable role. “You can’t go to a game if you don’t know when it’s happening,” said Smith.

Student-athletes agree that their experiences are different now — generally more positive — because of the increase in spectatorship. “I think it has a lot of positives, in the fact that you feel like you’re at a real game, and getting cheers is obviously a great motivator when you do something good and it keeps you in the game. It’s a bit distracting occasionally, you know, but overall it’s very positive. And I think it makes a lot of players on the team want to do their best, to show off to whoever’s there, with all their friends,” said Kramer.  “It definitely boosts team morale. If someone isn’t really going to play during the game, which happens a lot because our team is so big, it’s nice to see other people cheering along with them, and not feeling like you are responsible for all of the team’s spirit,” said Smith. Kramer and Smith both also mentioned feeling a greater sense of pride in the institution they play for as a result of the attendance and cheers from the sidelines. Chen, although having not had spectators so far due to the PSAL rules relating to COVID-19, explained how spectatorship can create these positive experiences: “You see in movies, all the time: students go to football games and cheer, and it builds this community in the school, which is something we really don’t have right now.” 

Branden Chen ’22, captain of the Boys’ Badminton team, is excited about the growing awareness of student-athletes and teams. He hopes that spectatorship in Badminton will increase now that the PSAL and Bronx Science is allowing indoor spectators.

Most athletes are in agreement that these developments suggest a bright future for developing a greater Bronx Science sports culture. “Mr. McGrath, Assistant Principal of the Athletics Department, has thanked me repeatedly, and I have spoken briefly with Ms. Parness about my plans for the account moving forward, so it’s something that right now is a motion to become a staple of our community,” Lorch said. Smith, however, questions whether spectatorship will remain consistent – especially as the school workload intensifies throughout the year. “I think right now, due to the past year, there was a legitimately lighter workload for most people, so people have the perception that they have a lot more time than they had before. I don’t think spring sports will have the same turnout, just because people will be busier, more adjusted to this, but it’s cool for now,” she said. 

Although spectatorship is less foreseeable, the Instagrams definitely will not be stopping anytime soon. In fact, Lorch already has a plan in place for how to continue the Bronx Science Athletics account and increase its fanbase once she moves on to college. “In the spring, I plan to have an apprenticeship that will welcome people who are interested in being part of the management team for the account. I graduate this year and I want to make sure this is something that the community can rely on for years to come. I also plan on introducing promotional films to Wolverine TV with our promos that come after all the Weekly News and segments,” she explained.

On Dewitt Clinton High School’s soccer field, Maximilian Kramer ’22, a captain of the Boys’ Varsity Soccer team, heads the ball during a game. Kramer has noticed the sports culture shift in Bronx Science, most prominently in the increase in spectatorship at his soccer games, and he is hopeful for how the culture will grow.

These prosperous athletics developments have inspired many athletes to think ahead to what this culture could create. Kramer proposed the future he hopes to see pan out: “Once people come to a soccer game, that inspires the soccer kids to go to another game, and that sort of creates this cycle of sports supporting sports. If we get to this point, where our sports are trying to support the others, I think that would be very beneficial.” 

Chen enthusiastically expressed that he hopes the culture becomes even bigger, with more athletic advertising around the school: “One thing I have been thinking about is having a bulletin board with just athletic news that you would see right when you walk into the school, because in such an academically-oriented environment, some people need a way to get a break from academic work,” he explained. 

Another potential positive is spreading word about athletic college commits. Two Bronx Science seniors recently announced their verbal commitments to play Division 1 sport in college — a huge accomplishment! Alex Aney ’22 has verbally committed to play D1 tennis at the University of South California, and I have verbally committed to play D1 beach volleyball at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. In many schools throughout the country, athletic commits are celebrated among school administrations and student bodies on National Signing Day and through social media. But no such sort of celebration has existed within the Bronx Science school community thus far – and potentially a greater sports awareness could change that.

As an athlete myself, I know that the goal of playing is not for the glory or the applause. But to have actual support at your competition is a reminder that you are playing for something bigger than yourself. It is an experience that simply cannot be recreated — one in which your athletic efforts feel the realest, because others see them too. In knowing the social-emotional benefits of this support, I am in full support of this sports culture becoming all that it can be. Personally, as co-captain of the Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team, (with the Grace Lorch), I aspire for the efforts of my underclassmen players to be more appreciated in the future, because I know how hard they work and how deserving they are of praise.

Hence, while the increase in spectatorship and athlete media presence has the potential to enhance student life, and add a new dimension to the Bronx Science high school experience, the real purpose is for the athletes. “We have really good sports teams! It’s about time that everyone recognizes and shares their successes, including the championship banners. We usually bring around 2 to 3 home every year, and the whole school deserves to know about that,” expressed Lorch. “So in the end, I did this for the athletes.”

Grace Lorch ’22 (left), manager of the Bronx Science Athletics Instagram, has received lots of praise and thanks from team captains – like Branden Chen ’22 of Boys’ Badminton – for increasing their exposure on Instagram. Here, they pose together in front of the Bronx Science courtyard.

And the athletes are extremely grateful. We thank you, Grace Lorch.

“It sort of humanizes athletes, and it gives us an outlet to do even more with the platform,” Branden Chen ’22 said, entertaining the prospect of the athletic community becoming a driving force of change in the future.

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