The Haverford School “cult”?

The team during a winter erg session – photo by Andrew Tornetta ’20

The school community does not know its own brothers as well as they think they do. Each sports team has a well-known narrative… except for the crew team. 

In recent years, students have noticed a shift in the way the community views the crew team.

Crew has historically been one of the school’s most successful sports programs, competing at the most competitive high school and national levels each year. Yet, even with the team’s success, mystery surrounds the program. 

Some students even use the word “cult.”

The first words coming to Sixth Form soccer co-captain Mitchell Hark: “Nationally successful, unattended, and outcast.”

“I know that it is a ton of work,” Hark said. “If you are on the Crew team, you’re a workhorse.”

The 8 during a Spring practice – photo by Coach Jon Stephanik

While students have high praise of the work the team puts in, the poor attendance at weekend regattas seems to be the reason for the team being seen as “outcasts.” But how does one draw the connection between “outcasts” and “cult”?

Sixth Form football player Mathenge Mwangi said, “I just think they’re a little different than everyone else; they are not very well known. I don’t have any close friends on the Crew team, but they seem to be a little weird. I don’t like to call people weird, but it’s just like a stigma about the crew team.”

Mwangi said, “Honestly, I think some people are just insecure and like to make fun of Crew guys.”

But what puts the Crew team at the subject of this instead of any other team on campus? More importantly, what draws the line between a joke, and people believing lies, like Mwangi and others around the school.

Maybe it all comes back to the fact that not enough people really know the team or the sport that well. “You always end up hearing the sacrifices for the team, never the good things that go on with the Crew team.” said former Sixth Form rower Conor Wood, “There’s not enough good press for the crew team in our community.”

Sixth Form leader on the Water Polo team, David Gobora, would agree. “It’s kind of in its own shell,” Gobora said, “because it’s the same kids doing the same sport all four seasons each year.” “I think the team needs to be publicized more,” Gobora said.

The team shortly after an erg piece during winter training – photo by Andrew Tornetta ’20

At the end of the day, the Crew team is not in the same world as the rest of the sports teams at Haverford. This is likely the main reason for the lack of knowledge. The unfortunate reality is that Crew is a sport that does not practice or compete in a setting that is favorable for high school boys, and so it is a sport that takes place in its own world. They practice in Conshohocken and race in Philly and Camden. Separation is the cause of any misunderstandings about the team’s culture, as well as the lack of good publicity that every competitive team deserves. “They don’t get as much recognition,” said Hark when talking about the differences between Crew and other teams. “It’s just hard to go out and watch a regatta.”

The Haverford community has always thrived in the athletic world. Some might argue that the schools just draws in the best athletes. However, the aspect of brotherhood and camaraderie is one of the strongest parts about a school like Haverford, and, surely, a team with true camaraderie is bound for success no matter the circumstances.

Chris Dehney, Sixth Form leader on the Lacrosse team said, “If you’re not getting the brotherhood component of Haverford at school, then you get it when you’re on a team.”

Author: Andrew Tornetta '20

Andrew Tornetta '20 is a student in the journalism seminar. He was in Mr. Keefe's Honors English IV class and won a Silver Key in the Scholastic Art & Writing competition. He is a student leader of Peer Counseling and has been on both the golf and crew teams for four years.