Has Spirit at SSSAS Dropped?
St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School has been full of school spirit for many years, but lately it appears that the community has taken a step back from that part of the school’s culture. The Voice’s Harrison Brown ‘20 and Nicole Kiama ‘23 discuss the recent dip in school spirit with the senior class presidents, Coach Koroma, and other students from the upper school.
In a poll asking about school spirit this year, most of the 77 students who answered ranked school spirit somewhere between 3-8 on a 1-10 scale and sporting events attendance between 5-7. While the results of those two questions were a bit of a mixed bag, 42.7% of the people who responded said that they have attended five or fewer Saints sporting events since the beginning of the 2019-20 school year. A combined 92.5% of responders thought that school spirit is defined by either being there or cheering instead of being consistently loyal to the teams.
Although school spirit appears low right now, senior class president Ryan Vuono '20 feels like it hasn't changed. Still, it's not as visible because the new schedule doesn't allow for the community to get together as much as it did in previous years. He called the crowd response to athletic announcements as "similar," but "it just feels smaller because we have a lot fewer people there [at community time] (with students out for sports or other commitments)…I would say the individual people have made it exciting as it has been."
"I wouldn't say the spirit has decreased, but you don't get the opportunity to see it [in the way] you maybe were able to last year. I would say come Sleepy [Thompson] time, you'll be able to see that people have just as much spirit as they always have. Seminary Hill Cup was a time where I felt the spirit was super strong and inspiring to me," Ryan said.
Ryan told The Voice that something is in the works among the class presidents to get the school spirit back up but didn't want to reveal any details. He admitted that the trickle-down effect of 'if I have energy, then that'll [spread] is definitely something that's on his mind a lot.'
Mary Adeline Stiers '20, the president of the Saints Hype Squad, thinks that the community needs to start supporting the "non-main" sports teams like hockey, lacrosse, and soccer. "It would be a lot better if we could start expanding our horizons to other sports, and I think just the 'show out' at certain games, especially from the seniors. It's important for [them] to lead, and I feel like sometimes, we forget that [the underclassmen] look up to us, and we're there to set an example as a hype squad," she said.
She said she feels like it's essential to get the attendance at Saints football games back to where it was when she was a freshman when the seniors "did a really good job of getting everyone together.”
"A lot of us have a group chat, and we would work together to create themes and hype and make sure the underclassmen had rides…I think we have tried to make football a school staple again," Mary Adeline said.
Mary Adeline feels like the support from the student body has gotten "better-ish" since the fall sports season is in the books. To make school spirit fun for everybody, Mary Adeline said that she has made an emphasis on including everyone in the community, especially underclassmen, regarding decisions such as themes, which get picked based on things everyone has and were done in the past in addition to the school colors.
Mary Adeline added that being the president of the Saints Hype Squad comes with a lot of complaints from players and coaches about attendance.
Even though this is Mary Adeline's senior year, she wants her impact to go beyond her final days at St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School in May. "I went to every home football game this year, and I absolutely love it when people are coming to me, asking me [questions], making the posts, and it's so high school, but that's what I love about it - attending these games and going all-out with themes is such an American staple. I really hope that once I do leave that I'm someone the underclassmen can look up to and be like 'What did Mary Adeline do?,' like 'what should we ask her?' Stuff like that."
When speaking about spirit and attendance for the Saints’ football games this season, quarterback Tison Hill '21 thought that when the game was big, everyone would show out, but when it wasn't, there was a small turnout. "I feel like we only had one, maybe two games where there was a crowd of 30 or more people. [In] the double-overtime game against [the] Landon [Bears], people didn't show up until overtime and then Episcopal, of course, but that's it. … In a game against Georgetown Prep where we have like two fans in the crowd, there's a big, noticeable difference," he said.
"I did [expect a much higher energy level from the crowd] because PVI gets a lot of fans, and there was a decent amount of [them there]. Then we went to St. Chris in Richmond, so I didn't expect a lot of people to come. Then the third game, we did get a decent amount since it was the first home game. Then, it dropped off from there to like under 20 people," Tison said of his expectations for the crowd going into the season.
Despite the decline in attendance this season, Tison was optimistic that next year would be a lot different. "I feel like Malcolm [Johnson' 21] will bring a lot of big-time hype with college offers. I'm going to make sure that I hold myself and my teammates accountable to put the team on the map to bring in recruits to make sure [that] I'm up to par with my skills and everything. Hopefully, I bring in some offers myself to get attention to our school,” he said.
Tison said the team was hopeful that this season would be one to remember, but the crowd got smaller after the first few games because "I feel like people didn't see the talent that we had." When the football team did manage to turn it around, Tison felt like the team was under the radar and that the talent was going unrecognized.
"Definitely [the crowd affects the team's performance], when you come out, and there's a whole bunch of fans, and they're cheering for you, they want you to do nothing but good things. You just get that burst of energy in the game and that adrenaline rush that you don't feel in another place. It just feels good out there," Tison ended with.
Indi Clayton' 20, senior co-president, definitely feels a different vibe when the topic in community time shifts towards athletics, partly because of the change in schedule that Ryan spoke to. "I don't know if it's because students don't think [having school spirit is] uncool to have a lot or it's just a time management-type thing. There's not that big of a show out at football games like last year. … I'm not sure [why], but I think the new schedule [is a big reason for it.]”
She feels that whenever students make an announcement regarding an upcoming sporting event, they need to be as enthusiastic as can be to expect a big show out.
"It's Ryan’s and [my] job to help the school remain a community and that the spirit is student-driven, so … I'm excited to just go into this basketball season and see how we can keep this a prevalent thing [here]," Indi said.
Coach Koroma, SSSAS girls’ athletic director, was also asked for her opinion. She thinks there has been a slight drop in attendance for football games, but she thinks it’s because there are a lot more Friday football games as well as other sports that now have games on Friday, so there’s “a lot more happening and there’s not that much ability for students to attend every game that’s happening."
Similar to Indi and Ryan, Coach Koroma thinks part of the “slight drop” of attendance is the new schedule. She understands students are going through an “adjustment period” and it’s hard to make time for all these events. The old schedule had community time meetings in the middle of the day where it was easy to gather the entire upper school and make any necessary sports announcements. Everyone was in one space with captains and team leaders “so the word spread a lot better and it was easier to stay informed." The new schedule, on the other hand, has community time meetings at the end of the day. Students sometimes have to leave early for sports events of their own or even other academic events that require them to leave before community time, as a result, it’s not as easy to gather the entire upper school and fewer students are hearing the sports announcements.
She did mention that the spirit at Seminary Hill Cup was great, and there was no drop for that specific tournament. She was happy with how many people showed up for the games and she’s especially proud of the girl’s teams for winning this year’s Seminary Hill Cup. Coach Koroma told The Voice that she hasn’t heard any athletes mention anything about low school spirit and she thinks the slight drop in spirit hasn’t had an effect on our players, as “the athletes are used to playing in front of parents and not too many fans ... I don’t think performance was impacted much but … if there's more people [at games] it might boost and motivate the players.” She thinks SSSAS had an overall successful fall sports season and she’s happy with how this first quarter went.
Coach Koroma explained that there’s also “been talk of relaunching the Saints Pride app to try to boost performing arts and sports events” which she says is because “there is a little sense that school spirit is lower, but it’s not because there's no desire to support [athletes] … it’s just because it’s harder to spread the word and make time with the new schedule.”
SSSAS’s athletic pages on social media have “remained pretty steady and consistent
in terms of interactions and [Coach Koroma] think[s] that’s related to teenage behavioral patterns and activity.” She has started to target more activity on Instagram than on Twitter because she thinks that’s currently the most popular app. She also said that “with the new schedule, it’s critical that we continue to do gameday graphics and announce how teams have done and the scores of each game to keep everyone informed.”
The athletic department has a lot of big things coming up for the winter. They are trying to find time to talk with student leaders to “start the buzz” for all the big sports events after Thanksgiving break to make sure there’s a lot of energy for this upcoming sports season ”which will hopefully trickle over to having a successful winter sports season.” They have been meeting with student leaders as well to discuss themes and cheers, and Coach Koroma said she’s excited for this winter season.
To hear the opinion of a student new to the SSSAS Upper School scene, Myles Sandy 23’ was also interviewed and asked to share his opinion. When asked about his expectations for sporting events and school spirit going into the upper school, he said his “expectations [for school spirit] were high, because in high school you actually know the people who are playing,” therefore making it more fun.
When asked if his expectations were met, he replied, “I feel like my expectations were generally met” and that according to him, “school spirit … is very high in school events that you’re a part of,” which for Myles, is varsity soccer, because “it was very fun playing with upperclassmen and growing a strong bond with them.” He explained that the “spirit and excitement of every goal was ecstatic, from someone's first goal to someone's tenth goal to a game winning goal.”
He is happy with the school spirit for soccer, but had a mixed reaction to other events such as Sleepy Thompson. Myles has been attending Sleepy Thompson games since he was in Kindergarten, and he attended two this year. He says that “a lot of people were attending [the Sleepy Thompson games] which was good, but … during the past years people were a lot more hype at the games, and the leading of the school cheers were a lot more hype.” He states that he “feel[s] the excitement of Sleepy Thomspon wasn’t as [strong] as past years.” He also mentioned that some freshmen thought “the Sleepy Thompson hype was low [because] they felt that looking over at the student section [when the freshmen were still in Middle School] made it look more hype than when [the freshmen] actually participated in it.” He was still happy with the overall crowd though.
Myles added that the only time he heard other freshmen comment on low school spirit was “in the beginning of the school year [when] people were supposed to decorate the grade hallways and no one decorated,” which was definitely disappointing for a lot of freshmen.
Myles thinks one way to boost school spirit would be “if upperclassmen could be more hyped at pep rallies” and encourage cheering and school spirit. He also thinks “faculty … could maybe not assign homework because some students have after school activities, and with no homework, [the students] could maybe come to more events.”
Hopefully, St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School can regain its spot at the DMV school spirit pedestal and we as a community can get back to where we once were. Show out to football games and other sports events and encourage your friends to do so as well. Going to sports events as a group is always a blast, and if we can lift the school spirit a little, it will make everyone’s high school experience so much better.