The history of the sports rivalry between American and Washington
Some say school rivalries serve no practical purpose. Sure, it makes schools compete with each other, but critics say competing with one other school (typically athletically) doesn’t do anything to make a school an all-around better place. But what it does do is bring an entire school together for one night of cheering and celebration or mourning if things don’t go as well. And it provides athletes with a reason to push themselves to the next level. American High School, like most schools with an athletic program, has its school rival, Washington High School. This rivalry has changed and affected so many athletes and students and has evolved in unseen ways over the years since its creation.
The American vs. Washington rivalry used to be one of intensity, sheer distaste, and hatred for one another. According to Ms. Nauss, former varsity volleyball and basketball player for Washington and current girls volleyball coach at American, the games played by these two schools were so tense that fistfights would break out during games.
“I think the rivalry between American and Washington was a lot deeper when I was in high school; I was an eighth-grader, playing varsity in spring league and my very first encounter of being around a varsity team was a full out fist brawl between American and Washington [players].”
Ms. Nauss goes on to add, “American and Washington kids did not like each other, it was the Battle of the Boulevard and we took that seriously.”
Even students from American share this same mentality of disliking students from Washington.
When asked about playing against Washington, Steven Ho, American high school alumni, and former varsity volleyball player explained, “I usually just went into [playing Washington] like I didn’t like them, because right off the bat, even before you get into high school, at Thornton they always talk about the rivalry between American and Washington. So, right off the bat during my first game against [Washington], I thought ‘yeah, let’s, let’s just beat them right now, right here, because this is about our pride.’”
However, Mr. Rigdon, the Co-Athletic Director at Washington High School, believes that the rivalry occurs because of amicable reasons.
When asked about the origins of the rivalry Mr. Rigdon states, “I think what makes this rivalry special is that because of how close to two schools are like I mentioned, you get a lot of kids or young adults now that grow up together and they’re friends and they may play on the same little league teams or the AAU teams or the clever travel teams or have the same private coaches, but they still want to win when it’s, you know, Washington against American, American versus Washington whatnot so the rivalry is still important.”
During the early years of this rivalry, the rivalry seemed to barely affect the way athletes played or even student culture in both schools. This can be seen with Mr. Hashimoto, a former varsity baseball player for Washington and current Athletic Director for American High School.
According to Mr. Hashimoto, the rivalry did not affect many facets of school life or change any athlete’s outlook towards playing American. Mr. Hashimoto believes that it has gotten more intense than what it used to be: “I don’t think [the rivalry] was as big of a deal back when I was at Washington. I think it has grown more now.”
But despite this statement, the rivalry seems to have mellowed out in recent years and many athletes seem to treat playing against Washington the same as playing against any other team.
Ms. Nauss agrees with this statement and believes that the athletes she coaches do not seem to change their mindset when playing against Washington.
“I never really felt a rivalry when it comes to volleyball. I don’t know if that’s always the case,” states Nauss.
Despite the ways the American vs Washington rivalry has evolved, the competition between these two schools is still encouraged. The coaching staff on both sides is encouraging healthy competition among the athletes and encouraging them to push themselves a little more when playing against their rivals. Overall, the importance of this rivalry can be summed up in these words by Mr. Hashimoto: “It’s okay to have a rival as long as everyone understands the context of the rivalry and doesn’t cross boundaries. We are all competing and doing the best we can to come out victorious, and I think our coaching staff has done an outstanding job in fostering that with our athletes.”