As the colder weather comes rolling in, our fall athletes gear up once again for battle against EA. The yarn outline of the sweater hanging by the Head of School’s suite is both a rallying cry for the Fords and a reminder of all that’s happened in the past year and a half. The last time the whole community gathered to cheer on our athletes, current Sixth Formers were just in their second year of high school; Fifth Formers, their first year; and the underclassmen were in middle school.
With that, beyond a contest for the warm sweater, this year’s EA Day is a monument in our trickling return to some sort of normalcy, to pre-COVID times. Sixth Formers, for whom this year will be the last time they experience the day as a student, are eager to watch the games but, more so, to do what they missed last year: rally together.
“I think it’s a time for Haverford students to come together and really support one cause; it’s probably the best community building event we have because everyone is so excited. We all want to see a win, and it’s the most I’ve seen people come to a game,” said Sixth Former Andrew Johnson.
This community excitement begins in the days leading up to that weekend.
Head of School Mr. Tyler Casertano said, “To me, it is about community—bringing people together. And I’ve already seen that over the past few days and weeks during the moments when it has already brought people together.”
And it’s this shared excitement in the buildup to EA Day that unifies the entire school, even those who long graduated, in ways that were distinctly absent last year.
Mr. Casertano said, “Togetherness begins with you all and your ability to support one another—and when I say ‘you all,’ I don’t just mean the Upper Schoolers who are competing, but also the pre-kindergarteners, the fifth graders, the eighth graders who will participate. And also the alumni who will return to campus, and the parents who can come together and support the community in ways that they have not been able to during the past few years.”
Coming off of the gap left by last year’s EA Day, or rather the lack thereof, some students sense that the spirit is less than what it has been in previous years.
“It’s a little different: there’s less hype, at least from my experiences,” said Sixth Former Max Rosenberger. “The freshmen, sophomores, and even some juniors didn’t get the experience that I did in my freshman year, but I think we can change things around this year.”
Others, like Sixth Former Andrew Johnson, believe that the excitement is higher than the 2020 EA Day because of both the hiatus and the competitions’ return to Haverford.
“I think kids are antsy to have it here again. Talking to some of the athletes who are going to compete, I hear that they’re really excited to put on a show for everybody else,” Johnson said.
Regardless, the activities during EA week serve as a solution to the purported weakened level of enthusiasm. And even with some changes, due to social distancing measures, Dean of Students Mr. Luqman Kolade believes that the activities will still boost the same spirit as they have in the past.
“I think there’s going to be excitement for the festivities, and for being able to actually do them. We’re not going to have everyone in Centennial do the activities—we’re planning around that—but still think the energy is going to be good. It’s a time to come together, to revitalize some of the things that are part of Haverford’s culture,” Mr. Kolade said.
With concerns about COVID still present, Director of Athletics Mr. Michael Murphy and the rest of the school’s COVID task force have created various plans to ensure safety on EA Day; it helps that most of the events are outdoors.
Mr. Murphy said, “The water polo match is usually jammed-packed, so we’ve been looking at ways to make sure that that’s safe. Obviously, indoor spectators will be masked, but, even with that, we’re going to limit numbers in there. All the events will be live-streamed, but [for the water polo match] we’re also looking to simulcast it here [in the fieldhouse gym]. Outside of that though, everything shouldn’t be that much different.”
Other challenges the planning team faced were less difficult to address because there was a precedent: from earlier this year and from previous EA Days.
“We’ve been dealing with everything all fall if there are any challenges. The only things, and this is the same with every EA Day, are the sheer number of people on campus: the parking, the four contests happening that day, as opposed to just one game on a Friday night, all the normal challenges that you think about when you host an event,” Mr. Murphy said.
Though Rosenberger feels that it might be weird to have so many people on campus again, he encourages everyone to feel safe, as there’s been plenty of other sporting events this year. Johnson further holds that the large crowd is a critical component for EA Day, and this year, to be able to have people on campus after so long, makes it even more significant.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a little weird, but, at the same time, I’m excited for it. Although COVID is obviously still a big thing, it [the crowd] is needed.” Johnson continued, “We haven’t had this many people on campus for a long time, I think it’s important for us to have these big activities where everyone can come together.”
“I want that sweater back!”Director of Athletics Mr. Mike Murphy
However the event turns out, many are eager to just have an EA Day this year: Sixth Formers who are grateful to have one in their last year; and new members of the community, looking forward to their first experience.
Mr. Casertano said, “I can’t wait. I think this is one of the greatest traditions in the life of the school and something that I’ve been looking forward to since I first learned about it during the transition process. It’s going to be a great day for The Haverford School.”
One shared sentiment remains.
“There’s been too many days where we’ve had to look at the sweater outline in the case. We didn’t get a chance last year, and we’ve had that outline for too long,” Mr. Murphy said. “I want that sweater back!”