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The History of Powderpuff

Updated: Sep 24, 2022

By Sneha Kandalgaonkar (‘21) and Esha Peer (‘21)

Photo by Lors Photography courtesy of Valhalla

Football: a sport for which nearly the entire American population sits in front of their television screen on a Sunday or Monday night in fall. Football has been a North American tradition since 1920. The same year women got the right to suffrage, a new male-dominated sport was created. In opposition to the common gender roles of football, another sport was created known as Powderpuff.

Many high schools, including SBHS, use Powderpuff as an event to raise money for charity. The sport opposes gender roles commonly associated with the roles in a football game: the players and cheerleaders. The players must be girls and the cheerleaders are comprised of an all-guys team.

The name of powderpuff comes from cosmetic powder that women generally apply to their face. “Powderpuff” football usually refers to girls or women playing football, a sight which is rare to see both in professional and high school football.

While girls are becoming increasingly involved in male-dominated sports such as football, there is still an enormous disparity between the number of boys that play football vs the number of girls that play football. Powderpuff games encourage women to get out and play sports generally dominated by men while supporting their school by raising money.

Powderpuff games became popular in the 70s following the passage of Title IX by the federal government in 1972, which made discrimination based on sex illegal in schools or other programs that receive federal funding.

The prominence of this new law made women more significant in the sports scene in high school and consequently in professional sports. Powderpuff became an ongoing trend and later a tradition that many high schools adopted. It holds popularity throughout high schools in the country.

Student council goes on conferences a few times a year to discuss and get ideas for new school events. South Brunswick began doing Powderpuff around 2002 through an idea coming from other schools who used the same fundraiser. For student council, the fundraiser was not just an idea to make money.

“We’re always looking for ways to get kids involved and have more spirited opportunities. I think what we try to do is Mr. SBHS is for the guys and Powderpuff is for the girls,” said activities coordinator Mrs. Lauren Morris.

Powderpuff started out much smaller than it is today. It had coaches and players from the beginning, coaches being male and players being female. Overtime new roles have been created for the event, such as the cheerleaders and spirit squad.

“It [is] a good way for the whole class to get involved besides the kids who are in the event and I like that. I like the idea that Powder-puff isn’t just about the players anymore,” said Mrs. Morris.

Powderpuff in SBHS isn’t just about the game: there is a whole process in getting to the event. The main part is the decorations and advertisements made to promote the fundraiser a few weeks prior. Decorations are done by the spirit squad and class councils to promote each class they represent. The Powder-puff team colors are also based on their class colors.

Mrs. Morris shared a certain moment in the school Powderpuff history which she remembers very well. That year the senior class was decorated for its awards from Powderpuff which the class had won since its freshman year.

Mrs. Morris remembers decorations such as “tic tac toe, four in a row!” to promote class spirit for winning once again.

“It was an orange full moon and the stadium was packed and the juniors and seniors went to the final game and the juniors won,” said Mrs. Morris, “I was crying because I felt so bad for those seniors that they didn’t win that fourth year in a row. But that class also showed that anybody can win.”

Unfortunately, it is evident that Powderpuff’s popularity has decreased over the course of the past few years. Student Council and Class Council are trying to increase attendance at the event this year.

“The first thing that we did is changed Powder-puff from November to May because when we had it in November, even though we had enough participants, we didn’t have an audience because it was so cold. By now having it in May after AP exams are over, even though we have some sports teams that are still playing, we hope that we can include a new group of people in Powderpuff. Hopefully because it’s nicer and warmer outside people actually have an incentive to come and enjoy.” stated Student Council President Sara Rubiano.

Changing Powder-puff from November to May was not an easy decision. There were several pros and cons that were considered when Powder-puff was moved from November to May.

““I think one of the pros is absolutely the weather. The con is always that we have sports teams that are not able to participate. The one, really wonderful thing this year though, is that our football players are actually able to be coaches and they’ve never been able to be coaches in the past because they’re always in season and in season athletes are not allowed to participate” commented Student Council advisor Ms. Harlee Olsen.

Powder-puff is a long lasting tradition that began in the 1970’s and retains its prominence in high schools throughout the nation today. South Brunswick High School has been lucky enough to hold a captivating and exciting Powder-puff football game for the past seventeen years.

When it comes to Powder-puff this year, Student Council President Rubiano only has one request, “Please come! It’s going to be a fun event. Games should be really intense, challenging, and fun.”

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