Think Pink?

Halas says No! Staff writer Maddy Atwater takes an inside look at two Paly sports teams that have changed Pink October and how a recent decision has caused chaos and confusion among the teams and community.

Think Pink?

Maddy Atwater, Staff Writer

You take a deep breath to calm your nerves, block out the rally screams and take in the Friday night lights. You’re nervous. It’s the home opener and you can’t quite seem to get those butterflies out of your stomach. You look left and right at your teammates and see a field of green, white and pink ahead of you. Every player on the field is wearing pink: pink socks, pink arm sleeves, or pink leggings. You look down and breath in one final deep breath before game time. You feel confident, you feel good and you feel pink.

Pink October is a month dedicated to breast cancer awareness, fundraising and support. In the sports world, Pink October takes over professional, high school and even middle school teams.

The National Football League (NFL) has a campaign, “A Crucial Catch”, that shares a partnership with the American Cancer Society (ACS). Throughout the month of October, the official games played will be filled with pink both on and off the field. Players, coaches and referees will be wearing different pink attire during the games; the NFL has also used pink balls, ribbons and a pink coin for the toss. While raising awareness as well as using, the league will also auction off all apparel worn, game balls and pink coins from the game. The proceeds will go to the ACS Community Health Advocates National Grants for Empowerment (CHANGE) program., which provides outreach and screenings for women in underprivileged communities.

Over the past few years, Paly’s athletic involvement in Pink October and breast cancer awareness has had high participation and solid outcomes. Generally, teams participate by wearing pink for a game or two, and some individuals wear it on a regular basis, however two fall sports at Paly have taken Pink October to a whole other level.

In the past, one of those teams has been the Paly football team, but this year things will be a little different. Normally, for every game in October the boys wear pink socks, leggings, towels, arm sleeves and other accessories to show their support for Breast Cancer awareness and research. It is more important to some boys than it is to others, but as a team there has been widespread participation.

“My grandma was a breast cancer survivor and I support it a lot,” Eli Givens (‘16) said. “It lets us express how we feel about it.”

This year, new head coach Jake Halas made the shocking and disappointing announcement that the football team will not be allowed to wear pink this season. Aside from the team, different fans and Paly students are upset and confused over the new rules.

“I’m against the decision, but he’s the coach and what he says goes,” Jayshawn Puckett (‘15) said.

Like the players, I was a little shocked at first, too. I did not understand how a coach could not allow his team to support such an amazing cause, but also why he would limit his players freedom of expression.

Along with other student athletes, Molly Fogarty (‘15) a volleyball player and an active participant in Pink October, did not quite agree with the football coaches decision.

“I think it’s really weird that the football coach is not allowing the team to wear pink,” Fogarty said. “It’s to raise awareness for a cause, I don’t know why he would restrict his team from it.”

A decision like this did not make sense, and it seemed to have the same disappointing impact on the football players. The most frustrated boys on the football team are the returning varsity athletes. In previous years, coach Earl Hansen supported the boys in wearing pink. It’s an expressive right and a fun thing to do as a team and as an individual. Some may argue that players do it because it is “cool” and “in-style”, but even so, it should be their choice.

“I feel like it’s unfair to kids who want to show support for loved ones that have battled or are battling breast cancer,” Shaun Pike (‘16) said. “It should be allowed for kids in that situation to show their support.”

I, and I’d assume most of the student body, was quick to judge this decision without knowing the reasons behind it. After talking to Halas, I still did not agree with him, but I was able to understand why he made it. Whether it would help the team understand why they could not wear pink, his decision was final. Halas made a decision that he believed to be the most beneficial for the team.

“We need to look like a team; we are having a hard time looking like a team, playing like a team, being a team,” Halas said. “It’s hard for some of our boys because they like the ‘swag’.”

The football lineup has had some bad attendance rates at practice and coach Halas wants the boys to get back to being a cohesive team. Halas is not against breast cancer support, but he wants the players to be uniform and consistent. With this being said, he would still like to participate in breast cancer awareness and research.

“For breast cancer awareness month, we will take private donations and give them to the charities,” Halas said. “I’ll have an envelope stuffed with money, all the money they would spend on pink socks, shoes, wristbands, whatever and we can put it [aside] and give it to [the charities].”

He also stated that if there happens to be a certain situation, say a close family member battling breast cancer, and his player feels the only way he can express himself is through wearing pink, then Halas would be willing to make an exception.

Even though the actual team is not allowed to wear pink, Paly’s Associated Student Body (ASB) designated the football game on Friday, October 10 as a “pink out” game against the Wilcox Chargers. The students on ASB have created three t-shirts, one short sleeve and two long sleeves, ranging from $10-$20. These shirts were made to not only raise awareness and encourage the student body to wear pink to this particular football game, but also to raise money for ASB and paly. Seeming odd given the fact that the actual football team is not permitted to wear pink during games, the goal behind this was, in a sense, to make up for the team’s new rule.

“I knew that [the team can’t wear pink in games], which is one of the reasons we’re pushing this because we are hoping the student section will make up for that,” senior class president Maya Ben-Efraim (‘15) said.

To encourage fans and students to wear pink to this game, ASB will be selling the breast cancer apparel on the quad and the webstore. Unfortunately, there are a limited amount of shirts, so sales will be on a first-come first-serve basis. Besides the support at the game, ASB also plans on hosting an event before the game to raise money and awareness.

Although I do not agree with Halas, I do respect his decision. In a sense, he is being a good coach. After all, Halas is the head coach and knows what will be best for the boys in the long run.

If the whole idea behind this decision is cohesiveness, uniformity and preciseness, it feels like Halas could reach a consensus with the boys to satisfy both his demands and the wants of the team. Maybe all the players could wear the same pink accessory so that it becomes a team activity, and they can keep the unity while still supporting their personal causes and breast cancer awareness as a whole.

I still remain very dismayed with Halas’ decision. It was always nice and uplifting to see so many of the players wearing pink on the field. But, even so, he made a respectable decision that must be stuck with. In the end, he has the best interest of the team in mind and as a head coach, that is exactly what a team needs.

The Paly volleyball team is the second team that significantly supports breast cancer awareness and research. Going into its third year of participation, the Paly volleyball team along with the Los Altos team, has either hosted or played in The DIG PINK Match. DIG PINK is a national breast cancer awareness and fundraising rally that school teams all over the country either host or participate in. All of the proceeds go to the Side-Out Foundation, which gives grants to research and patient care.

Parents of the volleyball team put in a lot of work to make the DIG PINK match run smoothly and work effectively. In the past, Sharon Poore and Liz Raffel have been in charge of the event and are also very passionate about the overall cause.

“We always have great fan support for the DIG PINK Match,” L. Raffel said. “The players decorate the gym with pink streamers and posters, all the fans wear pink, and the JV coach’s mom parks her very cool pink sports car outside the gym.”

Aside from showing support, the Paly volleyball team raises money for the Side-Out Foundation. First, they set up a web page for participating fans to make direct donations online. Instead of having fans pay to get into the game, they are asked to make a contribution to the donation box by the front door. Digs are counted during the match and donors can make either a pledge-per-dig donation or a fixed amount donation if a certain number of digs are achieved. All the girls wear special DIG PINK t-shirts to school and during warmups.

“It brings together two opposing teams by both wearing pink and coming together for a common cause,” Becca Raffel (‘14) said. “More importantly, it raises awareness and money for breast cancer research, which is a very important cause.”

The team’s first Dig Pink match was in 2012. During the two state championship seasons of 2010 and 2011, three Paly volleyball moms were diagnosed with breast cancer.

“While the players were battling on the court, these brave women were fighting their own battles off the court,” L. Raffel said. “To honor them, and so many others in the Paly community, Paly Volleyball decided to join the annual DIG PINK Rally.”

The players on the volleyball team also feel very strongly about breast cancer and love playing in the Dig Pink match. From graduated players, current players, coaches and fans, there is a ton of support from all spectrums of the Paly Volleyball Community.

“It’s nice to be able to give back and help a cause by playing the game I love,” Jade Schoenberger (‘15) said. “When people come out and cheer that night it’s exciting because it’s not just about us, but for all those who we’re helping.”

When it comes down to it, wearing pink in sports is a great way to show support, raise awareness and even express yourself as a player. What the volleyball team has done with Pink October exceeds expectations of a high school team, and I think what they do is absolutely amazing. Breast Cancer Awareness Month should be appreciated and supported like this among all high school teams.