As November begins, this week marks the end of yet another Nykerk season. The class of 2022 secured its second consecutive victory, but this year’s Nykerk brought up some issues in regards to some of the tradition that has become entrenched in the event over the years. This is important for me personally because I will have the opportunity to coach the incoming 2024 freshman Song Girls. As a coach, I feel that I have the unique opportunity and responsibility to shape the future of Nykerk, and in reflection of this years event, I feel that Nykerk is at a crossroads. It was founded as an event to promote female participation in the arts and on-campus activities, but what does that mean for Nykerk today? After all, we live in an age where the femininity inherent to the competition is not something that all women identify with. Additionally, some of the traditional aspects of the competition may not be inclusive to all peoples and genders. However, I think that some of the steps that have been taken over the last couple of seasons put Nykerk in a great spot for growth and inclusion.
One of the more potentially problematic elements of Nykerk is the focus on gender. In our current society, the concept of dividing the participants from the moralers by gender could be perceived offensive to some people. For people in the student population who consider themselves to be transgender, genderqueer, or non-binary, this creates a barrier in regards to being able to participate. If Nykerk truly wants to be inclusive to all people, there needs to be a clearer movement to include people who are marginalized because of their gender expression. However, it has been encouraging to see female moralers being included and supported in a traditionally male context. My Nykerk experience has provided me with a space of love and acceptance and as a coach next year I hope to be able to make sure that Nykerk is a place for those whose gender expression may act as a boundary in other spaces.
Another area of Nykerk that I would personally like to positively affect as coach is the relationship between Even and Odd Year. Since Nykerk usually occurs pretty closely after the Pull, the outcome of that competition is usually fresh in everyone’s minds. This year especially, I noticed that everyone, even myself, was pretty focused on winning the competition. While this is not a bad thing in a vacuum, Nykerk as an event is contingent on the concept that Nykerk Love comes before the desire to beat the opposing year. To be fair, finding a balance between competition and loving support is really hard. Both of these things are inherent to Nykerk. As a coach, I hope to step away from my own competitive spirit a little bit and be able to positively influence the 2024 Song Girls with a spirit of Nykerk Love.
I think that the biggest challenge Nykerk will face in the coming years is the relationship between the event and tradition. This Nykerk especially challenged some of the traditional elements of the competition. For example, Orator Molly Douma wore a suit instead of a traditional dress during her speech. Continuing, both of the oration speeches were meaningful critiques of parts of Hope’s existence, primarily in regards to its religious affiliations. Additionally, the theme of Odd Year directly addressed Hope’s “obsession” with tradition, claiming that “the key to Hope College” is being able to embrace change together. As the world continues to be a more progressive place, those on the Nykerk Executive Board and coaches will definitely have to examine Nykerk as an event, decide which traditions can and should be adjusted, and which ones are essential to Nykerk’s existence. Is the gender of participants an inherent piece of Nykerk? Is the femininity of the “nunfits” inclusive to all of the participants? These are questions that people have asked and will continue to ask more loudly as the world around us changes.
In response to my own musings about the future of Nykerk, I would just like to state that comments that might appear to be critiques do not come from a place of discomfort. They come out of a place of love for the event and its participants. The reason that I care so much about Nykerk is because it gave me a chance to be the person I want to be and to spend time with people who make me feel really positively about life and myself. This environment was only possible because of the Song Coaches that I had. To me, they really embodied what it means to love unconditionally and to put people first. I have been in very few situations in my life where people in leadership positions acted this way. Their actions and attitudes have inspired me in my personal life and now they will continue to guide the way I treat the class of 2024. My primary desire for Nykerk going forward to is make sure that everyone feels loved. That’s it. In my desire to make Nykerk more inclusive, I would encourage those in the Hope community who have issues with Nykerk to reach out to me. I would love to hear from you and talk with you about what can be done to make Nykerk better for everyone involved. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can reach me there whenever. I love Nykerk and I love this school, and so if there is anything I can do to make either more welcoming for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.