Wednesday, October 5, 2018 will go down in my history as the day I reached Peak School Spirit. I didn’t know I had it in me,
There is a special football game between two high schools in our district every fall. To some people, this is a big deal. Not me. I love the kids and support their efforts, but my enthusiasm lives in the classroom and I don’t get a chance to attend games thanks to my commute. Besides, I was in the marching band in high school so I’ve had my fill of teenage sports drama thabkyouverymuch.
Growing up in the next town owner from my current place of employment, I had no idea this rivalry existed. It’s considered to be a prime event by people who care. All week there’s a build up to it. Special T-shirts are sold, there’s a spirit scavenger hunt, special lunch performances, a pep rally, and a “Powder Puff” game. That started out as a flag football game between a senior girl’s team and a junior girls team. In recent years that has ended up being a little too rough for administration’s tastes so they changed it to a kickball game. Only the junior and senior class are allowed to go so if you’re a freshman, sophomore, or teacher, you’re out of luck.
Can you tell by my tone that this was maybe my least favorite week of the year?
Minor soapbox time. I’ve never been a fan of pep rallies. The idea of the student body cheering on one team over one game never appealed to me. We have all kinds of amazing teams that deserve recognition, so why do we only lionize and celebrate this one group of boys for one game? It smacks of misogyny and doesn’t sit well with me. Plus it blows an entire day of instruction when I’m going to miss three more days for standardized tests so when are we going to, you know, actually learn something?
Enough Karen. It’s high school. Lots of people love it. Don’t yuck their yum. Get over it and get goin.
Anyway…a few weeks ago one of the class officers asked me to be a coach of the junior girls kickball team for the Spirit Week “Kickoff” game. My initial reaction was shock. This task is usually assigned to the gym teachers or sport coaches. I had to ask, “Do I need to know how to coach or are you just looking for enthusiasm?” Personality trumped skill so I went all in. We picked a team color, designed T-shirts, the girls created a chat group and we got organized. On the day of the game, I bought candy and ice pops for treats.
As we started to gather for pictures, help each other with headbands, face paint, and stickers, they started to get pumped up. I had no idea what I was doing so I carried all their stuff and told goofy jokes to ease the tension. When we got onto the field, it was on.
These girls fought like warriors. Typically, the seniors find a way to win. This year was no different, but damn did we give them a run for their money. I hollered and cheered and hoped and wooted for them like they were my own kids. For a short time, they were. I wanted them to win and be happy so badly that it became a physical hunger. I don’t know what came over me. Maybe it was the fact that they were girls and some were even my students. Maybe it was the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” that I was feeling for the first time. I had no clue what I was doing but I’ve never had more fun on a field before in my life.
To steal a quote from the movie Grease, “If you can’t be an athlete, then be an athletic supporter!” I get it now. I still don’t like pep rallies but I’ve gotten a glimpse into the fun that can be had by being on a sporting team. There’s a huge difference between being in the stands and being in the action. The school spirit I felt was real, and I learned that sometimes you have to give in to something new – even if it’s not in your wheelhouse. There’s always something new t learn around here if you keep yourself open to it.