The exception, not the rule: safety at ETHS sporting events


Photo courtesy of Maya Valentine

Christopher Vye, Sports Editor

In 2022, large gatherings of any kind are targets. Schools, nightclubs, parades, movie theaters, grocery stores, shopping malls, places of worship and concert halls have all been the sites of some of America’s deadliest acts of domestic terrorism. High school sporting events are no exception to this threat, and that includes ones held at ETHS.

Across the nation as a whole, these competitions don’t usually have the most expansive safety measures in place.

According to ESPN, “High school games, especially football and basketball, draw relatively large crowds of young people amid often lax security, making them hotspots for disputes … safety measures such as metal detectors and coordinated security patrols are more the exception than the rule.”

As any Wildkit would know, ETHS is undoubtedly the exception. At larger athletic events like football and basketball games, bag checks, ticket scanners, swarms of safety staff and a police presence are the norm. 

Athletic Director Chris Livatino outlines the ETHS athletic events most likely to warrant an increased number of safety staff and police.

“If we anticipate that there’s going to be a larger crowd, then we’ll assign safety staff. If it’s even larger than that, the police will be involved,” says Livatino. “You’ll notice that at all of our football [and basketball] games, varsity and JV, we have a significant safety and police presence because we can have up to 5000 people at a football game and 2000 at a basketball game.”

As intuition suggests, crowd size is the number one factor considered in determining what the safety response will look like for ETHS hosted athletic events. But when the number of attendees creeps up into the thousands, complications inevitably arise. 

Associate Principal for Educational Services Keith Robinson discusses some of the strategies employed by ETHS to keep these events safe, as well as some of the challenges that come along with such an endeavor. 

“When you have thousands of people it’s always a challenge,” he says. “You have to have the most controlled environment as you possibly can. It’s best to control the environment at [indoor games]. We have a couple of points of entry, a few points of exit, so we can really scan who’s there and monitor. [Outdoor] games are more tricky because [they’re] just larger. We really depend on our safety team and staff who have relationships with students.”

These relationships are absolutely essential when it comes to creating an environment that is both fun and positive for attendees, but also prioritizes their well-being and protection. There is an inherent deference students have for safety officers, but sometimes, this deference can transcend into, at best, feelings of intimidation, and at worst, outright fear.

Senior Alicia Frajman reflects on her experience during interactions with safety officers at sporting events. 

“I do think ETHS could make sure their safety officers are being understanding and patient with spectators, because there have been misunderstandings in the past,” says Frajman. “I was once with a friend at a football game and she was on crutches, but the safety officer at the gate wasn’t accommodating her and was a little harsh.”

Frajman acknowledges that she has “personally never felt unsafe” as a spectator for the Wildkits, it is the role of safety to help create and maintain an environment that is not only safe, but welcoming. Even if a safety officer’s actions are not ill-intentioned, if situations are mishandled, the department may be setback in its mission.

“I understand that the main goal is safety and overall I appreciate the school’s effort,” Frajman added.

Senior and ETHS Kit Pit leader Kyla Wellington explains how the presence of safety staff has helped to make her feel at ease during her time in the student section.

“I have never felt unsafe because there are safeties present at all of the [bigger games], so having their presence has ensured comfortability,” says senior and ETHS KitPit leader Kyla Wellington.

If you’ve been reading carefully up until this point, you’ll notice that the only specific sports that have been mentioned thus far are basketball and football. But, those are just two of the dozens of sports offered by ETHS. So, what does safety look like at volleyball games, or soccer matches, or all other sports for that matter?

“Smaller venues, like your typical non-basketball or football game, the supervision is the coach that’s there, the athletic director, [whoever is] making the rounds and just general safety,” says Livatino. “We could not afford to have a supervisor for every single contest that’s taken place.”

“There’s always room for pause and concern that [we] don’t have as many eyes at every single event as you could possibly have, but [we] also can’t afford the cost of that type of supervision,” Livatino added.

Regardless, attending an ETHS sporting event presents no greater safety risk than coming here every day for school, or going to any other space where people congregate. In 2022, having to keep an eye out for dangerous situations is just a fact of life, and that should not prevent anyone from making the decision to cheer on their fellow Wildkits from way up in the stands.

“There’s definitely been things that have occurred at different contests, and I’ve always felt like safety and the police department have done a good job of trying to quell whatever the issue is and not let it become larger,” says Livatino. “But there’s always room for improvement and growth.”