Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

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Column: Sporting Spirit

The+student+section+celebrates+at+a+Central+Basketball+game+versus+Oswego+on+Feb.+19.
Maeve Shamo
The student section celebrates at a Central Basketball game versus Oswego on Feb. 19.

This month, we at the Central Times have been focusing a lot on school spirit. From the lack of attendance at the winter dance to the death of Dynamic Duos and other pageants, there is no shortage of evidence of declining spirit at Naperville Central.

The one place where there was still clear evidence of school spirit? Sporting events. From raucous football student sections to turnout at volleyball and basketball games, there seems to be a great deal of support lent to our teams.

School spirit, in my eyes, is patriotism and nationalism on a much smaller scale: believing your institution to be the best, taking pride in it and identifying with it. What does that sound eerily similar to? Sports fandom.

If our school wants to address its spirit shortage — as they should, since taking pride in one’s school can increase students’ sense of belonging, which in turn can boost academic achievement and well being, according to MIT — then sports seems like a great way to do so.

If we’re using sports to create school spirit, then first we should understand what drives professional sports fandom in the first place.

Most people, I would say, are born into a sports community. For example, I was raised in a family of Chicago Cubs fans, and as a result I am a Cubs fan.

It’s a little more difficult to get parents to socialize their kids into a high school they probably didn’t go to, so maybe that avenue is out. There is something, though, to getting kids into rooting for a sports team when they’re young.

It’s difficult to walk the track at a Central football game without tripping over a crowd of middle schoolers. If we make efforts to bring that crowd to swim meets or baseball games, we can foster a fandom culture before those kids even get to Central, building sporting spirit.

For fans who aren’t indoctrinated into a team’s culture at a young age, a charismatic player or a good team may attract their fandom instead.

High schools can’t exactly create this sort of draw regularly. While most major high school sports do have stars (top college recruits, draftees, etc.), there is no real way for a public school to consistently recruit these kids legally, and consistently winning programs are rare.

There are two ways to harness the power of good players and teams: showcasing athletes and promoting good teams in-season.

Showcasing players should draw people in for one pretty simple reason: just about everyone has a class with a student-athlete. Maybe you can’t go out and watch Shohei Ohtani play in Dodger Blue, but you can go see Jay from math class wear Redhawk gear on the cross country course. Supporting and seeing classmates compete can help draw crowds. It also builds community.

Most sports at Central charge an entry free, which may prevent the less invested fans from coming. A rather easy way to get more people involved in the sports fervor is to offer free admission with a student ID to one or two games a season. That way, less invested people will get in the door and will be able to experience the excitement of a big-crowd sports game.

Sports fandom is a perfect avenue for building school spirit, so why don’t we use it? Get more students through the doors, build a culture around sports and get people involved. It’s pretty simple, really.

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About the Contributor
Jake Pfeiffer
Jake Pfeiffer, Editor-in-Chief
Jake Pfeiffer is a senior, entering his third year on the Central Times staff, this time as Editor-in-Chief. Jake joined CT as a sophomore because he wanted to write news, but since then he has grown to love just about every element of journalism. While it is rare to see Jake anywhere other than the CT office, occasionally you can find him captaining Central’s debate team, watching baseball, listening to a seemingly endless amount of podcasts or drowning in college applications.
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