SALT LAKE CITY — "R-O-W-D-I-E! That's the way you spell rowdie! Rowdie! Let's get rowdie, rowdie, rowdie, rowdie!"
Now, besides the fact that this is not the correct spelling of rowdy, if you read that in collective high school cheerleader voice, you can officially count yourself among the blessed individuals who have attended a high school sporting event. Furthermore, if you felt the sudden urge to start a mosh pit with your high school buddies, you have likely been a spectator in the student section of the bleachers at one time in your life.
For the past several months, I have been lucky enough to attend some high school sporting events in support of my daughter who is on her school's cheer team. Being put in that situation has brought nearly all the feels back: the smell of the gym, the lights, the sound of the referee's whistle, the buzz of the scoreboard, the squeak of grippy shoes on a polished wood floor, the echo of the ball bouncing, spectators clapping — and booing.
And of course, there are the cheerleaders keeping the energy of the crowd and players at a positively exciting level with their cheers and superhuman stunts and tricks.
Over the past several months, however, there has been something missing, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It was a level of energy — a youthful spirit. School spirit!
School spirit was missing!
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, students have not been allowed to watch the games.
And I get it. I GET IT. Having recently had a terrible bout with the virus that I still feel lingering effects from, I get it. But that doesn't change the fact that there has been something missing from these events that makes them what they are.
Now, if you're unfamiliar with school spirit, it is something that cannot be replicated. It is something that is brought only by those who attend the school proudly — those who love their fellow students and want to watch them succeed.
School spirit is what brings the school to life.
Recently, the Utah High School Activities Association has allowed a limited number of students to attend winter sporting events, still keeping at the 25% capacity rule, with individuals maintaining physical distance, and wearing masks.
I was able to attend the first game at my daughter's school where students were allowed. There were 15-20 students spread out, dutifully and purposefully wearing their masks. Yet, even with the changes to their perceived game-day normal, their school spirit was alive and well.
They cheered for the home team. They chanted and stomped loudly during free throws for the opposing team (something you do because you do it, and it's OK). Collectively, this group of students brought the game to life.
And then there it was: the cheer I had heard several times before. But it didn't have the effect it was meant to have until this particular game.
"R-O-W-D-I-E! That's the way you spell rowdie! Rowdie! Let's get rowdie, rowdie, rowdie, rowdie!"
The cheerleaders circled around each other in choreographed fashion. And the students? They jumped and jumped. The bleachers rumbled, and that small group of students brought so much life to the gym that missed them sorely.
As I witnessed this event, I got a glimmer of how things could be — how they should be. I saw students having fun during a time in their lives they will never get back. It is a time in life that I had, and miss very much.
The school spirit that was felt that day will live on and build upon for generations if we allow it to be there. And boy, am I glad it was able to be alive and well on that day.
Have you felt school spirit lately at your school? Has it been noticeably gone? Let us know your experience in the comment section.