Last year, the stalls at Steamboat Springs High School sporting events were mostly empty. The lack of fans made the victories unattractive and the losses devastating. There was no energy in the gym or on the pitch.
This fall there are few restrictions for spectators, so they have returned in droves. The loyal Sailors arrive with adoration and excitement, which they share with players over and over again, through shouts, signs, stomping and shirts.
“It has a huge influence and impact on our games,” said Jay Hamric, head coach of Steamboat Springs. “When you look at the crowds and see hundreds of kids joining in the cheers, chants and songs, it gets everyone excited. This is the reason why we play sport – the community spirit, the feeling of being connected and united. It just motivates our players to train harder, play harder and live up to the expectation of “we’re going to do it and we’re going to win”.
Change the culture
Hamric’s decision to take on the role of head football coach has been one of many factors that have aligned this year to take student pride to a new level.
Before the team even started to win, Hamric helped boost enthusiasm for the team among players, parents and the student body. His attitude, his coaching style and the invention of the motto “Be the Change” were enough to motivate and rejuvenate the players. With their optimism and passion for the sport rekindled, the Sailors posted flyers and asked everyone they knew to show up for the season opener on August 28, and a lot of people showed up.
This first victory created a momentum that generates more and more euphoria every day. The students are proud of the team now that they are winning for the first time in over a decade. This pride has spread to their peers and parents and multiplies with each victory. The happier the fans are at the games, the better the team wants to play.
The same has happened in hockey games. Yancey Rushton took over the team last year and started to pull them out of a crisis. In the first week of the season, players were already citing a culture change. They were excited to play hockey again and it rubbed off on the student body.
This fall, with the full capacity allowed at the rink, the student section has grown from a dozen devoted friends to a crowd of more than 50 people in coordinated colors.
“I want to warmly thank the seniors at our high school,” Hamric said. “They are the ones who orchestrate the support and ensure that all sports teams have a strong, enthusiastic, loud and engaging student section. Kudos to the senior class for leading this. Last year, with COVID and the cancellations of games and sports seasons, they realized how lucky we are when we have these opportunities. They just wanted to make the most of the season.
For seniors, the last “normal” school year they had was their first year. Their sophomore year was cut short in March and their junior year was out of whack with weird schedules and no events. It is not surprising that they took every opportunity to encourage their friends.
Hamric just hopes that this energy can continue in the future.
“It will be the challenge to maintain that,” Hamric said. “And to create the environment, support and leadership at all levels to continue not only the rest of our season, but the winter season, the spring sports seasons and next year.”
Invest in the spirit of the school
Making the most of the year, the Steamboat Springs High School Booster Club decided to take their work one step further and strengthen the spirit of the school in every way possible.
The club raises funds for sports teams and athletes and covers costs not paid by the district. In the past, it paid for ice time for the hockey team. Now that the district has covered these costs, the club has decided to invest in the spirit of the school.
This has taken the form of a partnership with the Spirit Club to host the tailgate that will precede Friday’s homecoming soccer game. The recall club helped reach out to donors and make the event a success, complete with make-up and sign-making stations and a corn hole. The club also purchased sailor shirts for each freshman this year.
“Last year one of the things we noticed was that if you don’t participate in a sport or a club, you don’t really have access to the equipment of the sailors in high school,” said Jen Hubler, president of the recall club. “What if they don’t play sports at all?” Then they’ll never get a piece of sailor gear. We wanted all the kids to have something to wear to a soccer game, a volleyball game, whatever it is, just to show off their school spirit.
The recall club has partnered with Dan Hagney, parent of the sailors and owner of B Marked Promotions, to design and distribute shirts to each freshman. This partnership continued in the form of a seasonal Sailors spirits store. At the start of each sporting season, the “store” opens and orders are collected.
The investment is well worth it for Hubler, who has family in Highland Park, Texas. She travels to watch the historic high school football team play and is in awe of the entire community’s passion for the team. If the Recall Club can help bring some of that devotion to Steamboat, it’s worth every dollar.
“Giving children spiritual equipment to make them feel like they are part of something just helps the school community and the school spirit to grow,” Hubler said. “Especially coming out of COVID when so many children have been isolated. … If the reminder club can do one thing to make sure that a child feels like a part of something bigger than them and that they belong… that’s something I’m happy to do.
Another reason more people can show up to the games is that the district has made admission free to limit the exchange of money, among other reasons.
The district and the booster club may provide opportunities to come alive, but it is up to the students to accept these offers and encourage their peers to take advantage of them. The Spirit Club and Leadership Class feature the most spirited sea students who help organize activities like powder football, a boys’ volleyball game and more.
Leadership is a course led by Kari Faulk, who asks students at the start of the semester what is important to them, what they have responded to in school spirit. She had no objection to the cause and let them run with her. Leadership has a big part in the daily activities of the reunion week and the dance.
“This is their school. If that’s what interests them, then that’s what they should be focusing their energy on, ”Faulk said. “I really believe that the spirit of the school matters. The spirit shows up to support each other and feel like you belong. … This is what the mind is. It’s not just about screaming loudly during football matches. ”
Shannon King Utu and Sara Stout are the sponsors of the Spirit Club. King Utu saw the spirit weaken over the years and wanted to play a role in bringing it back.
“I grew up in Steamboat and graduated from here,” King Utu said. “When I was here, the school spirit was a big problem. Everyone went to games, painted their faces, and it was really fun being a sailor.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.