Dress Well, Play Well

by Marisa MacDonald, Sports Editor
photo contributed by Sydney Finkelstein

Unlike the high school movies of childhood nostalgia, South doesn’t have huge pep rallies, homecoming games or giant cutouts of star athletes plastered to the school walls (looking at you, Troy Bolton). 

Despite the lack of fanfare around weekend games, senior and boys cross country, indoor track and outdoor track captain Brendan Weissel—also the co-winner of the ‘Most Spirited’ superlative in this year’s yearbook— said that South has more school spirit than one might think. 

“South doesn’t have the biggest spirit for football games or stuff like that in the traditional sense,” he said. “But I’ve always thought of South as having pockets of spirit in the specific communities that people are in. When people do something, they’re going to put all their energy that they have into it. You have a lot of spirit from and community coming from those spaces.”

There is no denying that South students are passionate about their various teams and extracurriculars, Weissel said. 

Instead of having a deep passion for the color ‘blorange,’ students demonstrate their pride from dressing up in crazy outfits on the day of their games, like businessmen, in onesies and even as the team coach, to uplifting athletes and teams through vibrant social media posts and accounts.

Freshman Aoba Fujita joined the girls indoor and outdoor track teams this year. She said that she felt at home in the tight knit community because of the camaraderie created by spirit days. 

“Most of the time, freshmen gather with freshmen and sophomores gather with sophomores and so on,” Fujita said. “But whenever we do spirit, we take pictures with upperclassmen and we get to know each other a little bit more. It’s a great way to connect with other great people.” 

Swim and dive captain senior Sydney Finkelstein said that seeing her teammates in the halls on spirit days excites her for the meet later in the day. 

“You’ll see people walk down the hallway in the same weird outfit as you, and you’re like, ‘Ay! Swim! Yeah!’” she said. “It’s just fun. It builds community and gets you pumped up for whatever you’re going after that day.”

Despite the perceived embarrassing nature of ‘spirit’ outfits, junior Bria Abbiati, a member of the girls varsity soccer team, said that the days only further unite the team.

“You see someone dressed up in the same outfit as you, kind of looking like an idiot, but it’s fun anyway,” Abbiati said. “It really brings the team together under one slightly embarrassing but still really fun cause.”

The boys running teams famously forgo the traditional spirit themes; instead, they opt for a professional look in a button-up shirt the day of every meet, which Weissel said has been a longstanding tradition of the program.

“It started before I got here and it’s been a staple of the team. We do the same spirit every time so people know that there’s a meet,” he said. “We keep it fun, and I think that dressing nice in general is a good thing, especially to get in the right mindset for a meet.”

A rise in sports and team-themed Instagram accounts has also contributed to an uptick in team spirit. Weissel said the social media pages have brought South together, rallying the student body behind teams and athletes as well. 

“The more access people can have to other people’s success and other people’s games, the better,” he said. “I couldn’t say enough good about how social media can help us come together as a community.”

Finkelstein said that social media doesn’t just rally support for the team, but it also cultivates a stronger pride within the team. 

“I think the benefit of putting things on social media, especially for swim, is that it gets people more into it,” she said. “People can send in photos, we’ll put them on the story and everyone republishes it.”

The most creative development in the social media craze is a by-the-students, for-the-students athletic page, @nshslionspride on Instagram. 

The account posts almost daily updates that fans or athletes send in, ranging from game scores to freelance sports photography. Their segment called ‘Athlete of the Week’ highlights a diverse group of student-athletes and accepts nominations from followers, who submit names of athletes they believe deserve acknowledgment. 

The account is co-run by juniors and student-athletes Hadley Conroy and Daniel Gelbert. Conroy said she is proud of the response the account has gotten from students, especially those beyond the athletic circle.

“It’s cool because so many different students get involved, not just athletes,” Conroy said. “We get DMs from different photographers and lots of other people who want to be involved in different ways. So it spreads a lot of spirit and excitement to everyone.”

Abbiati said the recognition that comes from the account motivates athletes to perform better because they know the school is behind them. 

“It adds to a more exciting environment around athletics, to see your teammates and friends get recognition on social media. It hypes up the team and makes everyone feel recognized and excited to play and perform for the school,” she said. 

Gelbert said his desire to spread his pride for the school across the student body motivates him to run the account.

“I’d like to just make people proud of where they go to high school,” he said. “We’re looking for more ways to get people involved, and to get people motivated about not just sports, but South in general.”

There is always room for more school spirit, and Weissel said he has faith that South spirit will continue to grow. 

“I would say that spirit at Newton South is a process,” he said. “Whether it be on one team or the whole school, I think that as long as we commit ourselves to being community members and commit ourselves to building up the other members in our smaller communities and our big community, the better it will be.”