Educational institutions are the foundation to communities.
The citizens in surrounding areas often look to schools to honor the heritage of the town or city. This is why mascots often rally students together and stand as an expression of goodwill. They are a means to making students feel as though they belong to something bigger. Within the community, schools are a driving force in maintaining pride that involves “everyones” efforts.
Years out of school, people rarely remember what final scores were for homecoming football games. But they always remember their school colors and mascots. Beyond this, people are drawn to these images for the rests of their lives. The entertainment it provides is great, but the memories are far more than that: schools have characteristics that shape the identities of students and communities.
Nothing rallies the troops more than a good old-fashioned spirited pep rally. And it is a good thing for the school and the kids, although the level of anticipation varies among students from “What? We have a pep rally?” to “Can’t wait. Counting down the hours. Go team!”
Personally, I believe it’s a positive experience, but there is a lot more to school spirit than all the excitement surrounding the football game. To me, school spirit means representing your school proudly through behavior that paints our school and community in a positive light.
Take for example recent comments on social media which were malicious in nature and used to muddy the clear waters of school spirit. These are the very things which destroy local communities and the desire of the youth to attend such institutes of learning. By both our attire and actions and intentions, we represent our schools and communities much more than school colors or pep rallies.
We easily express this externally through wearing pajamas, all black, or whatever else the day calls for. While in high school, I thoroughly enjoyed the pep rallies while I was sitting in the overflowing bleachers, wearing black and screaming for the junior class pie-eater. The gym was buzzing with its green, white, black, and red sections.
Everyone was eager to represent their class. The music was energetic and the dances were well-choreographed. The football players were contagiously excited.
That being said, I don’t think that wearing school colors, going crazy at the pep rally or attending the football game in question by themselves necessarily fulfills the requirements for school spirit. They are simply signs of allegiance, not particularly difficult to show. True school spirit takes much more thought.
There are plenty of people who feel that school spirit is a fun key part of the high school experience – I agree with that. It’s important to be proud of our accomplishments as a school and as a community, particularly for those who work so hard for our school to be a positive learning environment that merits our town. Many people work hard and put their own time and money into making our schools the best they can be.
Often people like to be the object of attention and in doing so, they use their own selfless desires to destroy what others, including the youth, work so hard to preserve.
As we get older, our activities for the most part change. We have to mow the lawn, go grocery shopping or complete numerous other weekend chores around the house. Attending a local high school sporting event brings us back to a time when life was a bit easier, perhaps less stressful. Back then, we thought homework and exams were the most stressful activities that we had ever seen.
However, there is one thing better than watching a game and that is being on the field or in the trails surrounded by teammates playing the game. Athletes feel they are a part of a much bigger picture when they join a team because their individual effort is an important part to the team as a whole. As we get older and further away from our high school and college experiences, we still remember those individuals who were on the team with us. We remember the hours on the bus going to competition where there were times when the ride lasted longer than the game. Those are cherished moments in time that no one can take from us.
Whether it’s football, soccer, volleyball, track, or cross country, there are many benefits to joining a team. The greatest benefit is having a good coach. As much as they care about winning, they care more about preparing their athletes for the future. They are not intimidated to tell the whole team when they feel they are out of line or disrespectful.
I just remember as an athlete growing up in a small town that respect for my teachers and coaches was most important. Still to this day, my coaches mean the world to me. Even the ones I didn’t like, I still respect. Many of the teachers who I didn’t like when my children were growing up I still respected.
I have never in my life seen as much hate and disrespect as I see today.
One thing I have decided is to no longer care what people think, the reason is you just can’t please everyone and there is no use in trying. No matter what you do the hate mongrels will still be vying for attention, they will still be lurking in the shadows trying to disrupt anything you do. It’s become the norm, people can’t let go of the hate and anger and jealousy.
Nothing, including lack of school spirit or changes in school colors will destroy a school or community easier than harboring hate in school officials or city leaders. It also causes division within a community which will discourage families and businesses from locating there.
This past week it was my pleasure to visit a small town in Wetzel County who has not had a winning football season for several years and for the past two years, the school has not had a varsity program. This year, the town has excitement. They are back and everything seems once again positive – more than 30 kids out for football!
I sat down at the local restaurant and the talk was all about opening night. No arguing or name calling, just peaceful, meaningful talk. One man said, “I sure am glad to see football season back. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”
I could barely recognize the USA athletes at the Olympics. I am so glad they wore a patch that said USA. There were Red, Blue, Green, Grey and an array of colored uniforms, yet when the flag was displayed it was still Red, White and Blue. The national anthem had not changed and the athletes still proudly represented their country. You pledge allegiance to the school or country, not the colors.
In perhaps the greatest sports speech ever New Martinsville’s hometown hero Bill Stewart said it best when he spoke to his beloved Mountaineers – “Leave no doubt tonight they shouldn’t have played the Gold and Blue, not tonight” – prior to taking the field for a bowl game in white jerseys. The Mountaineers won the fiesta bowl game 48-28 over the Oklahoma Sooners. Coach Stew loved the state of West Virginia. That night sealed his place in the history of the state, not just the history of WVU football…..but the history of the state.