The bleachers rumble with a low “Ohhhhhhh,” as fans await the kickoff of a rainy Friday night football game. The kicker, Max Voet, takes a few steps back and then charges forward. As he gets closer and closer to the ball, the low rumble becomes louder and louder. Voet makes contact with the ball, and the entire student section erupts in a thunderous scream. This is the tradition every Friday night for the Black Hole.
The Black Hole is well established and widely known by schools in the area. “When they cheer, it makes the whole ground shake. When points are added to the scoreboard, they make the ground tremble,” Holland Christian Sr. Anna Mulder said.
The Black Hole is a key component to making every football exciting and riveting. When the Black Hole cheers and yells, supporters in the stands stare and smile while the other team’s student section stares in awe and silence.
However, intimidating other teams is not the only tradition the Black Hole keeps. Since the Black Hole’s origin, every leader has been male.
The Black Hole originated in the 2003-2004 school year led by Justin Caserta. “A few of my buddies and I were student section ‘leaders’,” Caserta said.
The selection process since that 2003-2004 season almost guarantees that the tradition remains untouched. Before graduating, the past leader passes the reins to a rising senior; male students have been elected every single year.
Although the tradition has been long held, the West Ottawa community is beginning to question its principles.
Students and parents at WO have started to bring up that females would be more than capable of taking the position as leader of the powerful Black Hole. “I’ve always wondered why there haven’t been girl Black Hole leaders. Girls would definitely be capable,” says Cyndy Schurman, mom of two West Ottawa High School students.
The job of a Black Hole leader is to rile up the crowd, lead cheers, and get everyone excited. Are girls incapable of doing that?
The issue is the structure of the tradition itself. Since previous Black Hole leaders (who have only been male) get to choose the new leaders, they simply choose their guy friends.
A possible solution to the issue could be a school-wide election process similar to the homecoming court nomination process. All students could nominate who they believe would be best fit for the leader position at the end of the year. This would ensure that people are being elected based on their merit and not solely on their clique.
The monotonous pattern of Black Hole leaders seems excluding, but previous and current leaders claim the favoritism was and is wholly unintentional. “I wouldn’t care whether they’re a girl or boy, it just matters how good they are. How much they know about the sport, if they pay attention at the games, how big of a fan they are,” current Black Hole leader Josiah Sondermann said. “It has traditionally been a guy and I normally had guys come up to me about being the next Black Hole leader rather than girls,” former Black Hole leader Tucker Fritz said.
The ideal situation would be electing the top two loudest, most spirited, and positive students to lead the Black Hole, regardless of gender.
Senior Claire Bouwens and her best friend Daisy Rios are always some of the loudest in the Black Hole every Friday night. “Claire has more school spirit in the senior class than anybody I know,” Jr. Logan Terpstra said. Because of the selection process, Claire’s spirit was overlooked her junior year. Despite this, she still comes to every game and cheers her heart out.
“I think girls are just as capable to be the Black Hole leader as boys because we’re outgoing, and not afraid to get people involved in chants,” Bouwens said.
Although it makes sense to have the two students best fit for the job become leaders, some students feel strongly that any girl would not be best fit for the job. “Honestly, if there was a girl Black Hole leader, they would be kind of annoying. They don’t know about football as much, their voices are not as loud, no one would take them seriously, they would be really annoying,” an anonymous student said.
Whether students admit it or not, there are unwritten stereotypes that prevent girls from being leaders. People deny women the same authorities and opportunities as men in almost all places.
The workforce is a perfect example. Wage gaps have been a popular topic of discussion recently, because like the Black Hole, people have been questioning the principles of why there is a difference for women and men completing the same jobs. “By comparison, the Census Bureau found that full-time, year-round working women earned 80% of what their male counterparts earned in 2016,” according to the Pew Research Center. The inequalities women face are denied repeatedly, but some, like the anonymous student for example, will outright admit that they do not view women as knowledgeable or capable.
After 15 years of only having male leaders, it would be a positive step in the right direction to change it up and pick leaders based on qualifications rather than gender. It may be new and difficult to adapt to right away because the process has never been altered, but this could be the next step in allowing girls to have the same opportunities as boys at West Ottawa.