Mascot Tryouts: Behind the Scenes of the Blind Audition

THE SLC GRYPHON MASCOT PHOTOGRAPHED DURING A GAME IN CAMPBELL Sports center. photo credit: tony correa. 

THE SLC GRYPHON MASCOT PHOTOGRAPHED DURING A GAME IN CAMPBELL Sports center. photo credit: tony correa. 

Along with her many duties in the Campbell Sports Center, Erin Pomykala, assistant director of physical education, is the woman behind the vast amount of email blasts about sports events, gym classes and most importantly, the Sarah Lawrence College (SLC) mascot tryouts. Each year she sends out one of her infamous emails concerning the tryouts and receives interest from a handful of students.
 
The Gryphon, named after Godric Gryffindor, was chosen in the 1990s to represent Division III athletic teams. Since then, the mascot has made several appearances at home and away games. The position pays nine dollars an hour and has flexible work hours.
 
“I think [the job] is something different [...] It’s kind of that feeling of no one knows who I am and I can kind of get away with a little bit more in acting goofy [...] and just having fun,” said Pomykala.
 
While in the middle of the tryout process this year, Pomykala reflected on what finding the school mascot is really like. “It’s kind of like a blind audition. People just email me saying that they’re interested,” she said.
 
Five students tried out to be the mascot this year, compared to a total of eight last year. “[It was] really six, but unfortunately one of them was just a little too short for the costume [...] She looked at me and I kinda looked at her and I was like yeah, I don’t this is gonna work. So it was really funny,” Pomykala said with a laugh.
 
This is the first year that height has been an issue during the tryouts.
 
“The costume is the size it is and to be on the taller side does help because [...] it’s almost like a safety hazard because if the costume is too long, you’re going to be tripping over it [...] Plus too, it’s kind of a unisex costume. One size is supposed to fit all [...] I think anyone over probably like 5’6’’ would probably be a good indication,” she explained.
 
The tryouts are not as competitive as students might imagine them to be. Pomykala ends up hiring about four or five gryphons every year. This removes a ton of pressure from the actual tryout process.
 
In addition, Pomykala runs the tryouts on an individual basis, making sure to make time to meet with each student. She structures the qualifications into three reasonable facets: comfort, enthusiasm and availability.
 
“My biggest thing is making sure you’re comfortable [...] putting on the head, the costume, the feet, the hands. For some people that makes them very claustrophobic because with the helmet you are restricted [...] Your peripheral vision gets a little distorted,” she said.
 
While the mascot’s safety and comfort are the top priorities for Pomykala, she also values the student’s level of enthusiasm. “It’s important that they can move around the gym while engaging with the crowd in a comfortable and safe way,” she pointed out.
 
The third aspect of the tryout is discussing the student’s availability. Since Pomykala realizes that scheduling can be difficult, she is thankful that she has the safety net of multiple gryphons. She also uses the mascot selectively.
 
“So we try to make it at more special events. Just because I think if the mascot was at every game, it would kind of lose its luster [...] and unfortunately students’ schedules don’t always work where that is a possibility,” Pomykala said.
 
To accommodate students’ busy schedules and the surplus of SLC sporting events, there is the potential to have the gryphon in two places at once; however, there are conflicts around this possibility.
 
“So we have two costumes. The problem is the head on one of the costumes was supposed to have a fan in it, but somehow through the years it’s kind of fallen apart inside where the metal is kind of exposed,” she explained.
 
Currently, the mascots have only been sharing one costume. Efforts to repair the second costume will hopefully be made in the future.
 
Pomykala reflected on the mascots that she has hired in years past.

“We’ve had gryphons where they’ve forgotten to, you know, dress the gryphon [...] so the gryphon comes out in like a basketball jersey and no shorts. So for anyone else they probably wouldn’t notice it, but we notice it because we are like we have a half naked gryphon,” she said with a laugh.

Due to the anonymity of the job, Pomykala said that she is unable to disclose any names of the students trying out. 

Alexa Di Luca '19

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