I have started and stopped on this article a half-dozen time over the past couple of years, initially starting on it toward the end of the 2014 basketball season. Then something would happen that caused me to stop and wait, perhaps thinking that our fans had turned a corner. But for the most part, our fans still do not cheer like the could and I vowed to finish this article! The ultimate example was our last basketball game of the 2015-16 season at Beckman Catholic against conference rival MFL MarMac. What a disappointment, yet perfect example of why I pose the question. More on that below.
First of all, there have been a few times in the last three or four years when our fans have been a positive part of the event, cheering loud and supporting our team. In fact, since we became North Fayette Valley, some of the better instances have taken place when our fans have had a positive role in a game. A raucous gym one night at a basketball game versus South Winn comes to mind. It is no surprise that we have seen a little more cheering as Valley students and fans had a very good reputation for cheering and supporting their teams. I remember a conversation with a Valley parent when we were in the planning stages for sharing asking if our fans yelled at football games because he “ sure the heck yelled at football games!” In conversations about this topic there was hope expressed by a few of us that the Valley spirit would influence the North Fayette fans that tended to sit on their hands and generally display a lack of interest of what was happening in front of them. At best, there has been a little improvement, but certainly not the kind of support generated by some other schools, nor that amount we had hoped for. This isn’t to blame Valley folks, rather in terms of students, I wonder if they haven’t been muzzled a little bit by those kids that live in the North Fayette district.
So, why don’t our fans cheer? I’m talking all of our fans, those in the student section and the adults that come to games as well. I’m not talking about one sport. I am talking about all of our spectator sports, starting with football and volleyball, and going through basketball and the other sports. I will cut a little slack to wrestling fans as I have heard them make some noise at home events, pulling for all of the fellas out on the mat, but on the road they seem to have swallowed their collective voice. I know some will say that our crowd is good at football games, but I disagree, having the ability to be across the field for most of the games and being able to hear our crowd. Yes, in big games there is some collective cheering during important moments in the game, chanting “Defense! Defense! Etc.” And when games are still close, there is a loud burst of noise when the TigerHawks score. But more often than not, there isn’t a lot of noise coming from our side of the field compared to other schools. Why is that?
Some would say it is arrogance. Because of our success on the football field we expect to do well, and anything less that playing in big playoff games is not that big of a deal. Why would we cheer for anything other than those games? Related to this might be another reason: Indifference. Perhaps we don’t cheer because until we get to games that “mean something” or matter, we aren’t going to waste our time cheering. Finally, could it be true that we are a “football school” and don’t care about supporting other sports? I don’t think that is a satisfactory answer, though we do struggle to get strong crowds for most of our other sports.
It has been suggested that there’s the cool factor, in other words, it isn’t cool to stand up and cheer. I have never quite figured that one out, though I recognize that some people are self-conscious and don’t want to draw attention to themselves, yet being one of those types has not prevented me from standing up and cheering my lungs out when my beloved Huskers are playing. There should be strength in numbers and for the individual that is self-conscious there is safety when there is a crowd. I do kind of get it if the reason is not wanting to draw attention to oneself, but if that was the case, then there would only be a few people that don’t stand and cheer. The impression given is that it’s not cool. In the student section we have students that are viewed as leaders by others that simply will not cheer.
Maybe the reason is because we are selfish, which can be looked at from two perspectives. One side of it might be “I’m the one that people should be cheering for. . . I don’t cheer for others.” Could it possibly be that we have students that because they are part of a particular group or clique believe others should cheer for them and they in turn are above cheering for others? I have heard that suggested by students: “he’s a (fill in the blank) and thinks he’s too good to cheer for anyone else.” The other way to look at it is that if others don’t cheer for you, why should you cheer for them? Now some of those ugly character traits sneak in, specifically envy and jealousy. Why should I cheer for someone if they don’t come and cheer for my team? I would hope that we aren’t that petty.
Has administration, me included, crushed cheering and school spirit? I have had people share this with me. What gets lost in translation here is that we have never attempted to limit cheering. In fact, we have strongly encouraged our students to be loud and supportive of our teams and their classmates. What we have worked to eliminate are those “cheers” that are derogatory toward the other team or players, those chants that run others down. Our expectation is that we have first-class fans that don’t lower themselves to poor sportsmanship. We want our side of the gym to be loud and proud! Perhaps as a school leader I need to model the kind of cheering that we desire. Would that make a difference? Maybe we need to model it, or show examples of what good, supportive fans look like. Rather than address the negative cheering like they did in Wisconsin with a state-wide ban on specific cheers, we could do as they do in Michigan where they have Battle of the Fans sponsored by their state activities association to recognize outstanding student sections. It may be very possible that we need to teach our fans how to cheer and be supportive of our players and teams.
There is nothing more energizing than school spirit and seeing the student body pulling for one another. We are all NFV TigerHawks and when we support one another it is an incredible thing! We need to figure out how we can get everyone to that point where no one needs to be coerced to stand up and cheer. In the first paragraph I mentioned the MFL MarMac game at Dyersville. What happened that night was with about three second left on the clock our boys were down by one-point and taking the ball out of bounds under the basket on our end. It should have been a moment when everyone was on their feet cheering and providing energy to our players. This was one of those situations that some of the guys on the court had dreamed about when they were little kids playing in the driveway. Three-seconds on the clock . . . time for one last shot . . . Crowd going crazy! Well, the crowd wasn’t going crazy. Three people on our side of the gym stood up to yell encouragement to the boys on the floor. Three people! We can do better.