By Kate Boyd
Tradition is an important part of sports.
Redskins fans in FedEx Stadium sing “Hail to the Redskins” after every touchdown, Notre Dame players touch the sign that reads “Play Like a Champion Today” as they run out of the tunnel and onto the field, players pour a bucket of Gatorade over their coach after a victory. The realm of sports is flourished by traditions. They’re seen on all levels of every game, whether you find yourself in a Major League Baseball stadium, on a college football field, or at a high school lacrosse game, tradition is there and vital to the game. It’s these traditions that bring fans together. Each tradition is special in its own way. Whether it was started over a hundred years ago or still young and in the making, each tradition holds a special place in sports fans’ hearts and is an expression of loyalty to their team, or to sports in general.
Professional sports are filled with traditions. Every year on Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys and Lions make their appearance on many Americans’ TVs. It’s an American tradition to sit at the table, eat some turkey, then watch some football. There’s also the tradition of the Washington Hogettes. Back in 1982 Joe Bugel called his Washington Redskins offensive linemen “hogs.” Ever since, grown men can be spotted in the stadium wearing pig noses and dresses, known as the Hogettes. Then there’s the hat tricks in a hockey game, which often involve fans throwing their hats onto the ice. It’s a fun tradition, but you wouldn’t see me throwing my hat out there. If you’re an NFL fan then you probably know that the Jets are known for one of the most traditional chants in the NFL. If you aren’t a New York Jets fan, you may be familiar with the the Philadelphia Eagles popular chant or perhaps the Pittsburgh Terrible Towel, the Green Bay Cheese Heads, or Raider Nation. All long standing, well know traditions in the NFL. The list of traditions within professional sports teams is endless. Teams are always living out their traditions while creating new ones and passing some along to other teams as well, even down to the college or high school sports levels as well.
On the college level we almost see even more tradition. Some sports fans even prefer to watch college sports over professional sports because they say the game is filled with more passion and tradition. No matter what sport or what team you like, you will find tradition here. Ivan Maisel writes in an ESPN article “Checkerboard end zones. Aggies, kissing their girls after a touchdown. Nittany Lion roars. Boats on Lake Washington anchoring at a Husky game. The flaming spear at midfield. The Sooner Schooner. Touchdown Jesus.” He gives us just a handful of some well known traditions we see in our favorite college teams. We also can’t forget the songs. Just like professional teams, college teams have songs well known by their fans and sung at every game. For example, Happy Valley fans coming together to sing Sweet Caroline at Penn State or UVA football fans singing The Good Old Song.
Traditions are also vital to sports at the high school level. With a much smaller fan base for high school athletics compared to college or professional sports, it is important that at a high school level traditions embody the school’s values and help to create a positive identity for the school and team. Around the country there are all kinds of high school traditions revolving around athletics. During football games, when the team scores the cheerleaders will get down and do push-ups equal the number of points scored. Some schools throw streamers around the student section in the bleachers when their team scores or even silly string. A not so positive tradition seen at the high school level is that when the away team is being announced prior to the start of the game, the student section will all hold up newspapers in disrespect to the opposing team. It’s important that schools have positive traditions unlike this one because high school is such an important time for not only students, but athletes to learn and grow. If an athlete is taught that certain negative traditions are okay in high school than they will move on to college thinking those things are okay too.These traditions reflect on the schools and the teams, and ultimately create an identity for them.
Riverside high school is Loudoun County’s newest school. The school opened up this fall with a little over 850 students. Along with new classrooms, new teachers, and new students, the school also has all new athletic teams. As Loudoun’s School Board Chairman Eric Hornberger said to the Riverside students, “You are the future of Riverside High School and it is up to you to fashion its climate, to collect its accolades and to build its reputation to –not only be a unique school in Loudoun County – but an exceptional.” This school has the opportunity to create an identity for themselves. They are the first students, first teammates, first Rams to go to Riverside high school and make a name for themselves. This is especially unique and exciting for the school’s sports teams. Rob Polk, a member of Riverside’s new lacrosse team said, “I’m excited to be part of a new team, but it’s not going to be an easy start for us. Without a senior class it was hard to fill the team, so we have some kids on the team who have never played before. It will also be tough because the other teams we will be playing have players who have played together for three to four years and we just don’t have that here yet.” Riverside was filled by an incoming Freshman class from Belmont Ridge middle school, and then Sophomores and Juniors from Stone Bridge, Broad Run and Tuscarora high schools. They won’t have a senior class until next year, so their number of students participating in athletics is much lower than the other schools in the county.
The team however does have its advantages. Polk tells us “We get to shock new teams because other schools don’t know what to expect from us. We can focus on the other teams’ strengths and weaknesses, but they don’t know ours yet.” So far, the Rams are undefeated this season and have high hopes for making it far into playoffs. Polk also tells us, “There’s no new kid on the team because we’re all the new kids. Everyone is treated equally and we’re all on the same page.” Being a new team these kids get to start this journey together on the same level. Polk then goes to tell us his favorite part of being on a new team. He says, “We get to start our own traditions for the team. We’ve talked about it and would love to start a new tradition that we can leave behind, but we haven’t thought of anything original enough yet. We like to go to Bwings as a team or have some sort of team dinner, hopefully we can continue that. After a win we like to take the field and tackle our goalie in celebration, I hope this continues too.” The young lacrosse team is making new traditions without even knowing it. In time, these little team acts will catch on and the boys will be able to leave a legacy. This is great and ultimately the way to start that “climate” and “reputation” that Hornberger spoke of. These boys have the chance to make a lasting impression and introduce traditions for the team to guide its future, something that you can only find this year at Riverside.