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The Paw Print

The Paw Print

A more expansive vision of school spirit

Picture what you think of when you hear the words “school spirit.” Perhaps you imagine a huge, cheering crowd with everyone decked out in school colors. But what sports team is the crowd watching? Do certain ones come to mind?

When I moved from Hollywood to Pasadena in October, I decided to regularly attend Poly sports games, since it’s easy for me to do so now that I live closer. At the time, the winter season was just gearing up, so I made it my goal to watch every winter sport. As I went to each game, I noticed that some sports have large student sections while others do not. At a fencing tournament held on our campus on Jan. 13, for example, my brother and I were the only Poly students who came to watch.

I began to wonder about the cause of this disparity. Some reasons are intuitive, like the fact that certain sports are just more well-known than others. Football is regularly on TV, so it makes sense that students would gravitate toward watching a Poly football game. Another factor is tradition: certain sports, such as basketball, have long-standing rivalries against nearby schools, so those games draw larger crowds. On the other hand, some of the less popular sports have to play teams from farther away since few or no nearby high schools field teams for those sports. Students may feel less invested in the outcome of a game against a school they’ve never heard of.

Junior Olivia Arteaga-Johnson suggested that lengthy tournaments also deter spectators: “Badminton has never had a strong student section, likely because our game days can last up to three hours.”
While some students might feel hesitant to attend a tournament if they can’t stay the whole time, isn’t it better to attend part of a tournament than not to attend at all?

Since Spirit Days, such as the one held on Jan. 19, draw large crowds of not only Upper School students and parents but also Middle and Lower School families, they offer opportunities to showcase the range of sports to the Poly community. Currently, though, these events often only include the same sports: Winter Spirit Day has only consisted of basketball and soccer for the past two years.

Director of Athletics Scott Bello said he likes the idea of alternating which sports play at these events each year. “That’s definitely a possibility. We want to make sure that, in a rotation, everyone gets represented,” he said.

Another factor of game attendance to consider is this: the cross country, track and equestrian teams all compete off-campus, and often far away, so they’re harder for students to attend. Poly should see if there’s interest in providing transportation for students to watch these sports, even just a few times a year, as they have done with football away games.

Larger student sections across all Poly sports would benefit both the athletes and the spectators. Having more fans at a game helps motivate a team. Notably, this theory was proven during the COVID-19 pandemic: when there weren’t crowds at home games like usual, social scientists found that having more fans does in fact contribute to a team’s wins. This makes sense — I can personally attest that having people cheer me on propels me to run faster at cross country and track meets, and I’m sure any athlete would agree that fans improve their performance.

Beyond the practical benefits, having supporters at games can be personally meaningful. Student-athletes devote countless afternoons to practice; the least we can do is show up for an hour or two to recognize their hard work.

For spectators, attending the games, including the less-recognized ones, is truly enjoyable. Although I arrived at every game excited to watch, I left each one even more impressed than I expected. I learned about sports that I wasn’t very familiar with beforehand and, most importantly, I learned about the Poly community. Because there are so many opportunities to take part in during our time in high school, our individual experiences in high school can feel unconnected and disparate. By attending various Poly sports games, one gains brief yet compelling insights into the talents and interests of our classmates.

Ultimately, it may not be feasible for everyone to show up to Poly’s wide variety of sports games — but for those who can, I strongly recommend doing so. As the winter season draws to a close and the spring season begins, I once again plan to watch every sports team, and I hope that others will try to do the same. Together, we can create an environment in which all student-athletes feel recognized, encouraged and supported.

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About the Contributor
Madeleine Kashkooli
Madeleine Kashkooli, Editor-in-Chief
Grade: 12 Years on Staff: 4 Fun Fact: I enjoy writing on my 1960s typewriter. Favorite Movie: All the President's Men
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