School Spirit: More Harm Than Good?


Kirsten Boyer

Boulder High’s sports teams often get more attention than other programs.

During the most turbulent time of the school year, when class expectations and school year norms are still being solidified, when people are trying to settle into the academic year and prepare themselves for what’s to come, the administration at Boulder High School decided to lead us through an apparently unmissable 50-minute presentation on how to be a good sports fan. After a long (and painfully loud) sermon on the subject, the student body was released back to their regularly scheduled learning, and it left me wondering:

Is school spirit alienating more students than it’s uniting? 

School spirit is defined by Wikipedia as “the sense of identity and community shared by members of an educational institution.” This can be a good thing — having a community and support system is arguably integral to making it through high school in one piece. But recently it seems only certain things qualify as having “school spirit.” It feels like you’re not considered a part of your school community if you’re not screaming your heart out at every football game. But there are other ways to love your school, even if the school doesn’t acknowledge them. Being a participant in Art Club, a member of the neglected volleyball team, or a techie for the school play are all activities that many students at Boulder High School enjoy. They are all things that generate community and identity within BHS, so why are those things not included in the “school spirit” that BHS raves about? Why do we only value activities when we have the chance to win at something (or lose), and why does it seem like school spirit is only valued when it’s a male-driven sport? Sports like Volleyball or Softball games are never as crowded or talked about by the student body or administration. 

As much as Boulder claims to be a progressive school, we do still take our cues from that same old high school archetype TV is so fond of portraying. We don’t value our football team because we’re a good “football school,” we value it because we’re a high school, and that’s what high schools do. The support for certain sports and clubs isn’t inherently bad. If you like football, there’s nothing wrong with supporting our football team. But the issue comes in when that becomes the only apparent way to support your school. Ami Diatta, a BHS senior and champion of the volleyball team noted how, “when teachers say ‘go show school spirit,’ what they really mean is go to the football game or soccer game. It’s not school spirit, it’s sport spirit.” The constant advocacy of certain athletics steamrolls other important aspects of school. Some kids just don’t like going to sports games. 

I have had numerous friends and teachers alike who would always admonish me for not going to any of the school football games, I’ve been to maybe one football game in the entirety of my time at Boulder High School. But I have seen every school musical and play. I did makeup and costumes for the Haunted House, I’ve attended numerous choir, band and orchestra concerts, and many different non-sport-related clubs. Yet school administration still constantly told me to show more school spirit. Why are my contributions not seen as valuable? Despite the constant encouragement of school spirit, the school has an awful lot of opinions on how exactly to show it. 

School spirit does do a lot of good. Having trusted relationships with other students is unparalleled in having a good high school career. Still, there is a lot of work to do to make it inclusive to the vast variety of students that attend Boulder High School. We need to not only help cater to different kids’ interests but also their financial levels. Team Rowdy jerseys are 50 dollars, which is a pretty steep price to be a part of a time-honored BHS senior tradition. This problem still goes further than that. The truth is, some people have a better high school experience than others, and a major difference between those two experiences is the community that they have access to. People in sports have pre-built school-wide connections. The same can’t be said for other programs. As Priya Devaneson, a 4th-year art student noted in an interview that “it’s not that there isn’t a strong art community. I mean, we’re all taking the same classes for four years. But the school doesn’t care about what we’re doing. We put projects out in the halls and nobody talks about them. Has anyone actually looked at the paintings in Harmony Hallway? Put that down- those paintings are cool as hell.” 

BHS overlooks a lot of incredible things about our community when they deserve a much greater spotlight. Instead of forcing kids into certain ideas of what school spirit is about, we need to allow them to express school spirit- or lack thereof -in whatever way makes them happy. We need to be actively supporting these interests and give them the same importance in our community. School spirit is ultimately whatever gets kids excited about coming to Boulder High School and being a part of our community.