For this week’s issue, it was with a heavy heart and a plugged nose that I went where no NARP has ever gone before: the locker room. And before I go on, if you’re confused by that term, it is probably because you are one. Urban Dictionary defines the acronym NARP as a “Non-Athletic Regular Person. Your school’s lacrosse team probably shouts it at you while you walk by.”
Fortunately, if you’ve gone this long without hearing it, then you have yet to have it yelled at you (or maybe you were just too much of a NARP to understand what they were yelling, NARP). More importantly, if you don’t know that word, then you probably haven’t spent much time where my story takes place.
Before my journey into the world of locker rooms, I did what any good NARP does to educate themselves on athletics: I watched movies. Growing up in American culture, it’s hard to avoid depictions of the locker room within cinema. “Remember the Titans” taught that locker rooms mean brotherly love. Whether it was a tussle in the showers or an a cappella rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” those ‘60s football cuties showed us that a team in a locker room is nothing more than a family in its home. Movies like “She’s The Man” and “John Tucker Must Die” exposed us to the vulgar side of the locker room, proving that it is a place where an overload of testosterone leads to all sorts of inappropriate behavior (John would only have said he wanted to “uncork and pork” Kate in the locker room. Boys will be boys!). Our favorite team on “Friday Night Lights” taught us that locker rooms mean strength and unity, as “clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” became our mantra too.
Most importantly, all those nonexistent scenes of female locker rooms taught us that women do not sweat, and, if they do, they don’t deserve to be in movies. I left my film study of this environment with more questions than answers: are the guys really that bad? Do they work on team harmonies, or does that kind of unity come naturally to irregular athletic people? And where do the women change? On a quest for answers, I turned to the locker room legend himself: Dougie Payton.
“The locker room is like a sacred place for them,” Payton said. “We have a rule here; what happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room. If people heard what they said in there, they’d be in trouble.” Having played since childhood through to professional football, and then working as the Colorado College equipment manager for 16 years, Payton has become a locker room expert. But it wasn’t until he got off the field himself and came here that he learned the ins and outs of both genders’ locker room dynamics.
“The girls might be worse than the guys,” explained Payton. “The guys will fight, but the girls, they’re sneaky. But really they’re not too different. It’s just an important place for any team because it’s their sanctuary. A coach might come in and quiet them down, but really, it’s theirs.”
Helping me to understand the sanctity of the locker room was junior Jack McCormick, a two sport athlete for his entire CC career until this year, when he decided to quit lacrosse to focus on soccer.
“The locker room basically feels like any party with your team,” McCormick explained. “We always have music playing and we can talk about anything. The team wouldn’t be the same without the time we have in the locker room.”
As far as locker room stereotypes go, McCormick found them to be generally accurate.
“The only thing we don’t do is fight, but the towel whipping, the crude speech, and just inappropriate behavior; I’d say that’s all pretty real,” said McCormick. “At least one thing happens a day that I’m sure has been in a movie. I imagine the women’s locker rooms are pretty different. If I had to guess, they’re probably a lot less crazy and less vulgar than we are.”
“There’s definitely a lot of singing and butt -slapping in our locker room,” first-year men’s soccer player Connor Rademacher explained. “The movies are pretty accurate. I would imagine that the girls’ locker rooms are different. I could imagine them just kind of getting their stuff and being more serious, not very rowdy like us,” Rademacher said.
But, contrary to what many believe, women’s soccer player junior Louisa McKenzie described something quite similar to the guys when asked what women’s locker rooms are like.
“It’s just a place we can goof off really without worry of people judging us,” said McKenzie. “There’s always music playing and it’s just a place away from our coaches or anyone so we can vent or work things out that need to happen. It’s where we get to know each other a lot better. I remember last year I first learned how weird the girls on my team were from the locker room and I probably wouldn’t have figured that out anywhere else.”
Sophomore Patty Atkinson’s description of the women’s track and cross country locker room sounded even more movie-like than any of the men’s descriptions.
“We just got this awesome new speaker that lights up and we pretty much bump everything from trap to ‘90s rap,” Atkinson explained. “Stef, our captain, will always post the top ranked times in the SCAC and highlight girls on our team so we can see where we stand. Oh, and we also have a giant poster of Ryan Lochte in a speedo. All hail.”
Looks like no matter what locker room you walk into, you’ll find sweat, nudity, dancing, touching, and even objectification of the opposite gender. So why is one half exalted and the other kept under wraps? The lewd behavior that occurs in men’s locker rooms is often written off as “boys will be boys,” but whether we show it on TV or not, behind closed door, girls will be girls, too. All hail, ladies.