A December Peabody-Burns middle school basketball game left seniors Brandon Entz and Dakota Reynolds sobered.
“When we left, we talked about how quiet it was in the gym during the game,” Entz said. “We were almost embarrassed to yell for the team. There was no enthusiasm among players, the crowd was small and quiet, and the gym was just dead. I’m not criticizing kids, coaches, or fans, but this is something that is supposed to be fun, but it just wasn’t.
“And, quite frankly, the problem wasn’t just at the middle school level,” he said. “Our high school games were quiet too. There just didn’t seem to be any crow involvement.”
Entz and Reynolds talked to classmates and teachers during the next week or two about trying to come up with something to rekindle pride and excitement for home teams.
Teachers and administrators challenged Entz and Reynolds to be catalysts for change. They encouraged the boys to use their influence as members of the senior class to make a difference and come up with a plan to spark some school spirit.
“That wasn’t really what we had in mind,” Entz said. “I guess I thought they would do something. But they kept after us. Coach (Chris) Young sent me text messages over Christmas break, encouraging me to get some kids together and get something started. So we did.”
Before the first middle school game after the holidays, a group of high school students played host to a middle school pep rally to explain how they planned to fire up fans at the next home game.
The high school group selected a superhero theme to keep it simple. They encouraged middle-schoolers to dress in red, white, and blue for the game and showed the younger students what they had in mind with simple cheers and synchronized group bleacher activities.
“About 50 kids showed up for the game and they really got into it. They had a great time and the gym was rockin’,” Entz said. “The teams loved it. They got fired up with the noise and obvious support.”
The high school students call the student section the “Hype Squad.” They occupy an area that serves as home base for cheers, noise, and group activity in the bleachers, much like areas occupied by pep clubs several decades ago.
Organizers plan to use general themes for the rest of the home games. They will post a schedule of themes on social media and encourage parents and adult fans to participate.
Esther Brooks, grandmother of three students, said she thinks the new enthusiasm for Warrior teams is great.
“I started watching my own girls play in the late 1970s and there have been a lot of changes in what fans are allowed or not allowed to do,” she said. “I’m all for what the kids have put together. It is fun for teams and fans.”
Dakota Reynolds moved to Peabody with his family when he was in eighth grade. He thinks the effort to bring out students’ school spirit has been a plus for the community.
“I think there are adults who really support this kind of activity,” he said. “There were community people who helped provide old jerseys and letter jackets for students and fans to wear on Friday.”
Entz said he was in a Newton restaurant after the PBHS home game against Elyria Christian and a man who had been at the game stopped by Entz’s table to congratulate PBHS students for “doing a great thing for your school and community.”
While the Hype Squad has no official status in the school district and no sponsor among staff members, Entz and Reynolds hope the squad is a building block for the future, something to create enthusiasm for their school and community, and something to help people be involved.