Where Is the Spirit?

What will it take for Spartans to fill the stands?


Photograph by T Strouse

Bleachers during final Girl’s LAX home game — typical crowd, typical turnout.

March Madness brings out the enthusiasm in every basketball fan. Pro post-seasons, same thing. Watching athletes, who they don’t even know, compete at the highest levels is thrilling to supporters. But here at Country Day, the spirit is lacking. Students don’t even support the people they see every single day.

At the senior night game for the Boys Varsity Basketball Team, only about 30 people were in the stands, most of them parents, watching the Seniors’ last home game ever. Our Boys Varsity Tennis Team has been District Champions 21 straight times, but there seems to be no recognition for them. Girls Varsity Lacrosse just won their first game, but no one other than the players and coaches seemed to care. This prompted Rachel Hodes, the captain of the team to say to a friend, “Of course nobody showed up to the game we really dominated.” What’s going on? Where is the spirit?

Sammy the Spartan is Lonely!

Upper School Athletic Director Charles Sennett is well aware of the obstacles he faces to get people out to athletic events admitting, “it’s something the athletic department has battled for years.” The nature and culture of our school, he argues, is at the root of the problem. “We are an academic institution with an athletic program,” meaning some of the problems recurring around this issue stem from students being involved in other activities. Sennett claims that students not involved in sports “don’t feel connected” and don’t think the games are “important enough to attend.”

How do these problems affect the game and the athletes who play their hardest? Alyson Rodriguez, a member of the Girls Varsity Soccer Team, shares Coach Sennett’s view. “There is no real school spirit and not as much energy,” she laments, going further to say that the home-field advantage at her games is lost. “It’s no different than going to any other school” to play a game. Girls Lacrosse Team leader Hodes feels that there  is a loss of a home-field advantage too. She says, “I notice a lot more people for the other team out to watch when we play away.” Moreover, she wishes more fans would come out. “When there’s a big crowd, it pushes the game and people want to work harder.”

This is a dilemma for our scholar-athletes and even our school’s reputation. What can we do to try to resolve this? Everyone in the school seems to have an idea on this issue, whether it’s getting a cheerleading team, bringing back food trucks, putting up more advertising around campus or having pep rallies. And it seems everyone has an answer. “As a department,” says Sennett, “we’re willing to try anything.”

One idea he has to improve attendance at sport events is for more clubs to get involved. “There are opportunities for fundraising at games. If they could use our events as a way to draw people to them, it wouldn’t hurt.” Any time attendance can be increased, he says,“ [he’d] love to be part of it.”

One proven method to help put people in the stands is a strong Booster Club. Miami Country Day’s Parents’ Association has started its own club. Caryn Lubetsky, President of the Booster Club, by her own estimation, claims that attendance at the games increases by over 50% when they barbecue and sell food and drinks. Lubetsky states, “We have been working hard to increase attendance at events and we are very excited about the progress.” The next step for the Booster Club is advertising these events so that the students are aware of them.

Booster Clubs at other schools do a lot more to promote their athletics. North Miami High School (which, by the way, is not in North Miami, Florida, but actually is in Denver, Indiana) has had remarkable success. Booster Club President David Floyd told us they “make the games more enjoyable and give a better experience to the fans.” On their Facebook page, they highlight everything about the school’s athletics including game scores, awards, and even training schedules. They have done youth cheerleading nights, free dinners and served pizza and hot dogs during the games. Achieving a successful Booster Club is not far-fetched.

When discussing the greatest challenges at Miami Country Day School, it is hard to look past the lack of support for the athletic program. If you don’t know how serious this issue is, take it from Coach Sennett who pleads, “I wish I had the answer.”