Brooklyn Tech Searching for Boys Ready to Step It Up

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Ramona Richardson and Mensa Smith are looking for a few good young men.

The boys competitive step team at Brooklyn Technical High School, in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, is down to six boys after most of the team graduated last year, and only three of those have any experience in competing.

The boys team, Organized Chaos, and the girls team, the Lady Dragons, spent the final days of summer practicing their routines in the scorching heat of Fort Greene Park.

Ms. Richardson, a guidance counselor who coaches both teams, said they were hoping in the new school year to pick up a few more recruits.

But she said it can be difficult getting high school students, particularly ninth graders, to see step as anything more than cheerleading -- even though, on the college level, men's step teams are much more popular than women's teams.

“If they don’t have family members who have gone to college, then they haven’t seen the fraternities that step,” she said.

Brooklyn Tech has both competitive and noncompetitive groups of steppers, but the larger group consistently has about half as many boys as girls.

“They’re definitely going to need more talent,” Ms. Richardson said.

Last year, the boys team, with 12 competitors, came in fourth nationally, and Mr. Smith, 17, the team's captain this year, says he had high hopes for going farther when the competition season kicks off on Oct. 28. It lasts until May.

But the boys and girls have not given up hope. They are now practicing six hours a week and will ramp it up to 10 hours when competitions get close. They also have to maintain a high G.P.A at Tech, one of the city’s most academically competitive schools.

The steppers are spending their lunch periods trying to recruit more boys to the team. Mr. Smith said he was looking for guys with great rhythm and a little panache.

“Certain guys have a certain swagger,” he said.

But Ms. Richardson said the best recruiting tool will be the steppers themselves.

"If you see those guys step you know there's nothing feminine about how they step,” she said. "They step very, very hard."

And Mr. Smith is a confident team captain. Even if they don’t find more male steppers, he said, he thinks the boys can win nationals with just six competitors.

“The discipline makes up for the lack of members,” Mr. Smith said. “Even if we have less people, we stomp louder.”