By: Rachel Krzesinski (Loyola Junior)
If you attended a Loyola men’s basketball game over the last two seasons, chances are you noticed a student donning a pair of maroon and gold striped overalls and holding a sign mocking the opposing team.
Now a regular at sporting events and a solidified personality on social media, Ramblers know Sign Girl. But not enough people know the woman behind her.
Cecilia (Ceci) VanZyl (20) is a junior at Loyola University Chicago majoring in Communication Studies and Theology with a minor in Marketing. VanZyl has taken her passion for public speaking and sports, blended them together, and created the Sign Girl persona.
VanZyl’s Minnesotan roots sparked her love for sports as she grew up playing hockey, learning to figure skate, and watching the Vikings. Although Loyola University Chicago does not have a prominent hockey or football team, VanZyl found other ways to get involved in the sports community on campus through her internship with the Athletic Department’s student section: The Pack.
I sat down with her to discuss how Sign Girl, as a sports fan, and VanZyl, as a student, influence one another.
*Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
RogersEdge Reporter: Who is Sign Girl?
VanZyl: I think the most simple answer would be Sign Girl is me and I am Sign Girl, but I don’t think that’s the full truth. When I was a freshman, I was just kind of getting comfortable on campus. It was the first basketball game of the season and I was like, you know, maybe I’ll go; they’re playing UW Stout. I was on the phone with my mom. I’m like, “You know what they say: when in doubt go to Stout.” I was like, oh my gosh, it’ll be so funny if I made a sign that said that. She was like, “You better walk to CVS right now, get a sign and a Sharpie, and make that sign.” So I did. By the end of the night, I was walking back to my dorm and we ran into the head coach of the Stout team. They had seen our sign and were like, “You’re the girl with the sign.” I was walking with my friend, Arabella, and my friend, Megan, and they were like, “You have to make a sign for every game now.”
The overalls came later, but I knew my whole life watching people wear striped maroon and gold overalls or gopher-alls to University of Minnesota football and hockey games I had to find a pair. The older, alumni fans on Twitter started hashtagging “loyolasigngirl” and waiting for my signs each game. It snowballed into something bigger than a phone conversation with my mom.
RogersEdge Reporter: Why the Rambler men’s basketball team?
VanZyl: I think specifically men’s basketball because that’s the team. When people think of Loyola, when I tell people I go to Loyola, they say, “Oh yeah, I know your men’s basketball team. I know Sister Jean.” I think what it really comes down to is people love a sports community and people love stories about sports communities.
RogersEdge Reporter: Now that Sign Girl is a regular at sporting events and known around campus, what’s the pressure like to maintain this appearance?
VanZyl: There is definitely an unspoken thing of okay, what’s my sign going to be? I love that I’ve kind of inspired other people to make signs and wear overalls, but I do think if my sign sucks, that’s so embarrassing; I’d rather not make a sign at all.
RogersEdge Reporter: Do you go to other athletic sporting events as Ceci VanZyl or do you go to them as Sign Girl?
VanZyl: I love going to soccer games, volleyball games, softball, etc. As I’ve been more involved within the athletics department, I’ve really loved being able to bring Sign Girl. This year for Hustle to Hoyne, I got to emcee our pep rally in my overalls. Last year, I organized a Panhellenic night for women’s basketball which broke a student attendance record and I was wearing my overalls and making signs with my sorority. As someone who’s not only very excited about sports, but passionate about women in sports, I think I’ve kind of tried to not only bring Sign Girl, but bring Ceci there as well.
RogersEdge Reporter: When you graduate, what happens to Sign Girl?
VanZyl: I don’t really know. Thinking about graduating, I can’t be a 30-year-old with a 9-to-5 coming to a college basketball game in overalls. But I also feel like she is so intertwined with me, that I feel like passing off the torch would be a disservice to her. There’s something so special about being in college because it’s this in between of being an adult and being a kid. I think Sign Girl lives in that space.
To see what VanZyl and Sign Girl are up to, follow @signgirlluc on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/signgirlluc/?hl=en
Also, to stay up to date with Loyola men’s basketball, please visit: https://loyolaramblers.com/sports/mens-basketball/schedule