By Clara Atwell, Associate and Business Editor
Every year, as the days begin to heat up, tensions seem to rise regarding the student dress code.
This year I have become particularly frustrated with how the dress code translates to sports practices. I have run cross country in the fall for the past five years and played tennis in the spring for the past three.
According to the student handbook, the dress code states that, “Clothing should adequately cover your undergarments and body. … Students not complying with the above standards of dress and appearance will be asked to change [into] appropriate attire or be sent home per the appropriate disciplinary action.”
When working out, my attire is normally the least of my worries. However, when it interferes with my comfort and distracts me from practice, I tend to look for a solution. Often, that solution is wearing a sports bra without a shirt.
When I say “sports bra,” I am specifically referencing an item of clothing which covers more area than a “regular” bra and is made for one purpose: athletic activity.
During one particularly humid tennis practice in mid-April, I suggested to some of my teammates that we wear our sports bras, under the impression that there would be no repercussions if we all did it together. However, my coach informed us that she could face major consequences if her athletes did not wear shirts at practice.
“All our coaches are trained on [the dress] policy, and we make no distinction between male and female teams,” athletic director Andrew Sears said. “I attend many practices, and when this policy is not enforced, I always talk to the coach and make sure it is followed. I then follow up with a written reminder and additional training. If it was not followed further, it could lead to a non-renewal of that coach, though hopefully, it would never have to go this far.”
I find it shocking that the manner in which students dress has such great potential repercussions for coaches.
Additionally, according to Sears, if students wear clothes to practice that don’t follow the school dress code, they face the same consequences as they would throughout the school day.
Though the policy applies to all teams, many of the boys soccer players practice without shirts, a situation with which I take strong issue. Although school rules prohibit their actions, based on my discussions with some of the boys soccer players, I have never heard or seen the administration enforce it upon them.
In stark contrast, staff members regularly check in with the girls tennis team to ensure that the same rule is being followed. I am in no way advocating that the boys soccer team should be required to wear shirts during practice. Rather, I argue that no student athlete, whether they are female, male or nonbinary, should be required to wear a shirt at practice.
The purpose of the dress code is to maintain an uninterrupted learning atmosphere. However, having the same dress code apply to sports practices as in the classroom does not make sense; the athletic environment is not educational in nature.
There is no reason why a student should find it necessary to go without a shirt while sitting in class; however, the circumstances completely shift when a student is exercising in the heat.
The idea of female athletes wearing sports bras without shirts at practice always raises the issue of cleavage, which is technically an area that reveals “undergarments and body.” There is a misconception that if a woman is showing cleavage, she is trying to appear more attractive and sexy.
As varying body types lead to more cleavage showing for some students while wearing the same type and design of clothing items, this is not true. Furthermore, if the amount of skin left exposed in a particular outfit is the deciding factor in what girls can wear at practice, then much of the school’s athletic attire is technically prohibited, including every female team’s uniform except those worn for softball.
For many girls, all of these uniforms have the potential to show both cleavage and buttocks, both of which are explicitly mentioned in the dress code as areas that must be covered. For that reason, by solely disallowing the use of sports bras at practice due to over-exposed skin, the administration is prohibiting, de jure, the very athletic attire that it supplies.
The school has made some rule changes in order to help improve the conditions of sports practices on hot days. The cross country team, for example, is allowed to practice in mesh tank tops with no shirt underneath.
In theory, this is a good solution. However, having actually run in these, I find them uncomfortable. They are too big for many team members, and shift awkwardly while running, calling for constant readjustment.
It all comes down to comfort; if an athlete feels more comfortable wearing a sports bra or no shirt to practice, they should have that option available to them — especially if it allows them to be more focused on building their athletic and team skills