Pace: Grand County, your fandom is on display
After starting in sports, athletics have followed me across my career. In Greeley, I began by taking calls from well over a dozen high schools to get their football games, volleyball matches, wrestling tournaments, swim meets and any other sanctioned sport in the paper.
By the time I made my way to Kentucky, I was squarely on the news side of the editorial department, but sports remained a major piece of our coverage plans, nevertheless.
In Kentucky, there is nothing bigger than men’s college basketball. Event organizers even schedule around Wildcats’ games because if they don’t, they run the risk of no one showing up.
Perhaps it’s because UK basketball is the closest thing the Bluegrass State has to a professional team, but regardless of the reason, that extreme enthusiasm trickles down to the high school level.
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And that brings me to one of the teams I had the supreme pleasure of covering in Kentucky — the Christian County Colonels — a large-sized school that enjoyed a bastion of support from a spectacular fan base.
In the student section, they ran choreographed cheers, made hilarious poster board signs and playfully heckled their cross-town rivals in the most heartwarming of ways; these kids were on point.
Those hooligans even managed a Twitter account solely dedicated to their antics, and before any given game, they would post the night’s theme, be it showing up in Hawaiian shirts, dressed out of the 1980s or any one of many color-coordinated instructions they produced.
From the stands, those students made the games more fun. They would do things like all pretend they were riding a rollercoaster together, hands in the air, screaming and waving, as they made the same directional changes in unison. These cheers had names and could be called up at a moment’s notice.
And it wasn’t just the students. The players’ parents, school staff and administrators, and the Colonels’ faithful always arrived hundreds deep to claim their piece of the gym for every game.
If my compadres in college had only been so enthusiastic, I might have attended more games at the University of Northern Colorado because these kids in Kentucky put my college’s fandom to shame in just about every measure — attendance, intensity and style.
Within all of that student-led rowdiness followed a true community of support — from the parents who made T-shirts with photos of their children on them, to the larger-than-life banners hung in the gym and townies who didn’t have children but celebrated the school’s victories like they did. The atmosphere around these games was absolutely palpable.
I say this now because Grand County has started a new school year and there is no shortage of teams here to get behind — from the football and volleyball squads to the cross country and soccer teams.
Moreover, I really hope that everyone understands how important it is the fans come to play just like the athletes do. People need to remain within the confines of good sportsmanship, but that leaves plenty of room to root on the home teams like a champ.
These boys and girls are becoming young men and women, and the courts and fields offer many valuable lessons in teamwork, what it takes to succeed in a competitive environment and that every bout won’t end in victory. While these student-athletes put on spectacles in sports, the real reason we should back them is the character development.
At Middle Park High School, more than 60% of the students are involved in some kind of athletic extra curricular activity. Likewise, West Grand has no shortage of teams, either.
As the summer comes to an end, the lineup of activities going on in Grand County might be slowing, but that’s not at all true for the schools, where the Mustangs and Panthers are just getting started.
On the field, they are learning valuable lessons about the game and about life, but these young people are also learning about the community the live in too. Just because they focus on the games doesn’t mean that your and my attendance won’t go unnoticed.
These students have put in a lot of hard work to get where they are, and I deeply hope they will feel the full support of the community behind them with all the volume Grand County can muster.
The Sky-Hi News has a small staff, but we’re committed to providing the best coverage we can of these games as the fall season progresses, and I really hope to see you at some of these games too.
Eli Pace is the editor of the Sky-Hi News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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