When it comes to being the NYU Bobcat, there is only one rule: enjoy yourself. Well, that and don’t do anything that makes the school look bad.
You have seen the Bobcat at Weekend on the Square and Strawberry Fest. Perhaps you have seen it at a Law School or School of Professional Studies Event. And, while you most likely haven’t attended an NYU basketball game, I can assure you, it was there. The Bobcat is well-known around campus. Yet, no one seems to know much about the person, or should I say people, behind the suit.
There are approximately 10 members at any given time, which is considered a club team at NYU. I sat down with Stern junior and NYU Mascot Captain Avery DeWindt and three members of the team, CAS first-year Ben Schroeder, CAS first-year Olivia Zhong and SPS senior Irene Kulbida, to talk about what it takes to be the Bobcat.
To try out to become a Bobcat, an interested student only needs to perform a short dance in front of the team leaders.
Like any other team, they have been training since the beginning of the year, teaching new members like Zhong and Schroeder how to master the Bobcat walk, how to react to scared children or drunk people and how to act toward rival teams.
However, no amount of training has helped them master how to stay cool in the suit during warm weather.
“I was in the suit for Weekend on the Square on Saturday,” Schroeder said. “It was outside Stern and just constant heat and sun. It was hell. And then the assistant is standing there under a fan, just chilling and watching. I was sweating like crazy inside of the suit.”
Kulbida and Zhong face other difficulties while being the Bobcat due to their gender.
“The funniest thing — just being a girl in the suit — is that everyone always assumes it’s a guy,” Kulbida said. “So, I’ve had so many guys just jump into my arms expecting me to catch them, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, why?’”
Zhong has had experiences similar to Kulbida.
“Yeah, they assume that I’m a guy, so I’ve had lots of girls coming up to me and asking, ‘Are you cute?’” Zhong said.
While the mascots are taught how to react in specific situations, they do not train members on how to bring the Bobcat to life.
“The cool thing about being on this team is that everyone has their own style while being the Bobcat,” DeWindt said. “You have to be creative, so we try not to limit that creativity.”
Their creativity in the costume will be sure to shine next year when they compete in the National Mascot Competition. While some of the performances are over the top, Kulbida is confident that the Bobcat will win.
This is only one of the initiatives that the team plans to take next year in order to create more of a presence for the Bobcat.
“There’ll be a lot bigger presence on campus for current students, not just admitted students,” Schroeder said. “And then we’ll have our own events in a way, events we create, to really try and increase the spirit at NYU.”
DeWindt pointed out that the Bobcat doesn’t necessarily need to be tied to athletics, since NYU is not a big sports school.
“I feel like NYU is very fragmented and there are a lot of different groups and cultures,” DeWindt said. “We need to find a way to bring them all together. Rather than just attending a basketball game, we could attend a show at Tisch or a musical performance at Steinhardt.”
As of right now, the mascots are gearing up for commencement, where they will actually have two Bobcats at the event, spread out between entrances at Yankee stadium.
“At the graduation ceremonies, people are nostalgic and happy,” DeWindt said. “Everyone just wants a picture with the Bobcat before they leave.”
If you want more than just a picture and aren’t graduating this year, you could be a Bobcat too, seeing that the team is always looking to gain new members.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 23 print edition. Email Tyler Crews at [email protected]