Swaggering down the hall and flashing his cardinal and gold letterman jacket, varsity football and baseball player Christian Gange (12) shoves a small freshman into a trash can and cockily high-fives his teammates — except not really.
Although in some ways high school has changed radically over the last few decades, the jock stereotype has remained a constant, portrayed in movies and on television as bullies with all brawn, no brains and a letterman jacket to prove it. Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), the jock of the iconic ‘80s movie “The Breakfast Club,” embodies all of these traits on the surface. However, like Andrew’s friends discover by the end of the movie, many so-called “jocks” subvert that stereotype, becoming more “person” than “athlete.”
“A lot of kids on our football team are very smart, a lot smarter than we get credit for,” Gange said. “And we’re not as mean. I’m a nicer guy when I’m not playing football.”
Gange believes that the jock stereotype, as portrayed in “The Breakfast Club,” is “off,” and produces the false assumption that athletes are not well-rounded.
“I’m in ASB, I take AP classes; I feel like I can do a lot more than run a football,” Gange said. “People will judge you and think that’s all you are, when there’s much more to all this. We don’t wear letterman jackets around and we don’t talk about sports all the time.”
History teacher Jim Harrah, who played football, baseball, football and track during high school, faced similar stereotyping.
“I never considered myself a jock because academics were always really important,” Harrah said. “I was perceived as a jock probably because most of what I did outside a classroom was sports all year long. I was a person focusing on academics … but I just loved the outdoors.”
According to varsity softball player Mikaila Reyes (11), the stereotype has evolved since Harrah attended high school.
“People thought of jocks as really cool kids who only partied, but you realize they are actual people,” Reyes said.
However, Reyes feels that the typical perception of a jock has also remained the same in some ways.
“I dont think it includes girls or other sports,” Reyes said. “I think when people think of jocks, they still think of the wrestlers, the football players, the guys that are really tough and big.”
This type of “uber jock,” according to Harrah, is the character on which Andrew of “The Breakfast Club” is based, someone who has all the categories of the jock stereotype. While Harrah acknowledges that the persona still exists at other schools, he believes it is far less evident at TPHS.
“I’ve seen examples of that [stereotype] probably earlier in our school history, but I would say now, because our school is so diversified, there’s so many activities that jocks don’t rule the place,” Harrah said. “I think there’s more opportunities, which has diluted the dominance of the stereotype.”
However, varsity football player Ben Spitters (11) still sees examples of the jock stereotype limiting opportunities for some athletes.
“At school, there’s some pressure — like I’d probably get a lot of hate if I tried out for a play or did something like that,” Spitters said. “I feel like personally I would just do it if I wanted to, but I definitely know kids who have been limited by stereotypes and not done what they wanted to.”
This pressure manifests in forms outside of high school social boundaries as well. In “The Breakfast Club,” Andrew was under heavy pressure from his father to succeed as a wrestler. But Gange, despite playing two varsity sports, has never felt any external pressure to excel.
“It’s only pressure I put on myself,” Gange said. “My parents don’t put a lot of pressure on me like that.”
Unlike Gange, however, Reyes often times feels the pressure to succeed — in both sports and academics.
“I’ve been playing softball for about ten years. I really enjoy playing it, it’s fun to be a part of the team … because you’re part of the school and you’re making a contribution,” Reyes said. “But it’s very time-consuming … and it’s difficult with school and all the classes I’m taking.”
At times, it seems difficult to imagine athletes outside of their stereotypes, as real people instead of characters. Reyes is more than just a softball player, Harrah was not just a jock, Spitters does well in school, Gange is far from a bully — and Andrew Clark, as it turned out, had more in common with his fellow disciplinary detainees than he ever could have imagined.