“So basically when we were sophomores, we um started this thing, like it was our coach’s idea, and she thought it would be fun for the veteran members, who had been on the team at least a year, to kidnap the new members right before football season started. And this was kind of like an opportunity for the veteran members to have a lot of fun with sneaking into the house and scaring the new members and forcing them to put on different parts of the uniform, like as a joke, over their pajamas, or like blindfold them sometimes, but it was all ok with the parents and everything. We emailed them and they knew about it and let us in without waking up the new members so we would surprise them. But it wasn’t too mean because we took them to breakfast afterwards so it was kind of humiliating for the new members but like fun at the same time.”
Informant: The informant is a nineteen-year-old college freshman from Dallas, Texas. While in high school, she was a member of the Jesuit Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team. She attended the all-girls Catholic high-school, Ursuline Academy of Dallas, the sister school of Jesuit Dallas (an all-boys Catholic school). She began dancing when she was three, performing ballet, jazz, and lyrical styles of dance, which eventually led her to the high-school drill team. She currently attends Oklahoma State University.
The Rangerettes Dance and Drill Team is an extracurricular activity unique to Texas and a few other southern states. The team performs at the half-time of football games on Friday nights, as well as at basketball, soccer, and rugby games. They wear leotards with fringe skirts, fringe and sequin overlays, gauntlets, a belt, white cowgirl boots, and sequined cow-boy hats. The season does not end with football season; rather, the team continues to perform at Jesuit events and participates in two dance competitions in the spring. Because this team is a year-long commitment, there are many extenuating traditions that serve to unify and “bond” the members of the team, in order to foster a spirit of sisterhood.
I believe that this tradition is an important part of the initiation process. Within most teams and organizations there is an initiation process that can be humiliating at times, but the purpose is to essentially assert the dominance of those who have more experience, while also inducting the new members into the group. Because the kidnapping of the freshmen was an event that was meant to frighten the freshmen in a mild manner, it was carried out with gusto by the veteran members. I believe that this was their opportunity to not only be assertive of their prowess as veteran members, but to also remind the sometimes insubordinate new members of who was in charge. While this task was carried in good fun, it had a distinct message of who was in charge.
However, it also promoted a bonding experience for the team. Although the initial element of scaring the freshmen may demonstrate the apparent division in the team between new members and veterans, the ending of the ritual is a team breakfast. When the blindfolds are removed, and the new members are allowed to orient themselves with where they are, they are allowed to realize that the practice took place in good faith. The reconciliation with the team at breakfast, which culminates with the veteran members buying the breakfast for the new members, demonstrates the finality of the initiation process. The timing of this event also reinforces this as well, as it is carried out at the beginning of football season. This means that the practice and training of the new members is over, and that they will be able to finally perform as true team members, while still recognizing the authority of the veterans.