Sports and spirit teams unite to improve gameday experiences

Mitchell McMillen | The Chronicle

In previous years the Black Hole, cheerleaders, band, and football players have all worked separately. These groups were seen as unconnected with their own ideas. However, a new coalition is working to unify these groups to improve the atmosphere in Comet Country.

The new Mason Student Leaders Connecting Energy Group has its sights set on improving Mason’s athletic atmosphere for all groups. Their first goal is to align the Black Hole student section, cheerleaders, band, and football players to create a more unified Friday Night experience for students.

Head football coach Brian Castner brought together leaders from the four student groups to align their visions. Castner said that he hopes the coalition can create the most electrifying gameday experience possible with a united student body.

“I think the biggest thing is trying to get all four identities all on the same page, having alignment, and trying to really get energy going,” Castner said. “Just trying to get that all going in the same direction and unifying it, uniting it.”

Castner envisions a similar environment to college football gamedays, where the band, cheerleaders, and student sections all collaborate to create a unique atmosphere. Senior Drum Major Maddie Wielinga said that the band shares Castner’s goal to unite Mason’s spirit.

“At the first meeting, Coach Castner came to us and he said, ‘I have a dream of what I want Mason’s spirit to look like,’” Wielinga said. “He talked about comparing us to college football games where the entire crowd is filled with school colors. He said he wanted us to be very unified as one.”

A big change resulting from this unification is a more aligned Black Hole with the band and the cheerleaders. Leaders in the Black Hole will be incorporating chants and songs mirroring what the band and cheerleaders do in their routines. Senior Black Hole leader Alex Koelling hopes for a significantly noticeable change in the energy of the Black Hole this year because of the changes they are making.

Through the partnership, the Black Hole is now color-coordinating with the football team for home games to match certain themes with the team’s jerseys. That way, the group is not only aligned with their energy, but they look the part too.

The group is in its testing phase right now, focusing on football, soccer, and volleyball with plans to expand into more sports in the wintertime and spring. Although the band and cheerleaders are not present at these events, those groups’ dedication to uplifting school spirit is making an impact on the Black Hole. Senior Black Hole leader Alex Koelling said he has noticed an increase in attendance and participation in the student section across all sports since the meetings began.

“The volleyball games and soccer games that we’ve had so far have been successful turnouts,” Koelling said. “Several players have told us it’s changed a lot. It helps to have a student section that brings the energy and is loud and all together.”

Another big goal the group has is to get underclassmen to get them more involved in the athletic atmosphere. By doing this, the group believes the whole student body will get involved. They hope that this commitment to underclassmen will help extend to an improved atmosphere across all sports and in years to come.

An issue spirit groups like the cheerleaders and black hole have noticed in the past is a lack of engagement from underclassmen at games. The group wants to do a better job of getting all grade levels invested in the game day experience. Current senior leaders are now inviting underclassmen in their program to Connecting Energy meetings to get them involved in the process. Senior cheer captain Maggie Kruse hopes this will encourage underclassmen to fill up the student section at more games.

“In the meetings, we were talking about how we are going to bring two underclassmen next time,” Kruse said. “So that will give them more inspiration on how and what they can do. Even if they just tell their friends, ‘yo come to this volleyball game,’ it’ll help.”

The coalition also hopes that by coming together, each group will support each other. The band and cheerleaders support the football team on Friday night home games by performing before the game, at halftime, and during the game on the sidelines and endzone. The football team is going to return the favor by supporting the band at their Mason Marching Band Invitational and attending the annual Greater Miami Conference cheer competition.

Senior Drum Major Alex Riley believes this collaboration between groups will help foster a stronger bond and culture that will spread throughout the entire school.

“The nice thing about this is that this will go both ways. We will all support each other,” Riley said. “We will support the other groups and they will come to support us; and through that, we will have a more unified school and a more unified identity as a student body.”

The energy that the group hoped to bring is already being seen. The alignment of chants between the Black Hole, band, and cheerleaders is especially being felt by those on the field. Senior football captain Liam McManes has noticed a significant difference in the atmosphere on Friday Night as compared to previous years.

“The last couple of years I remember playing, so locked into the game, I don’t really pay attention to what’s going on around me,” McManes said. “But the first home game this year, I could feel the crowd yelling, I could feel the band behind the endzone screaming at the quarterback. The band playing their drums as loud as they can is the kind of energy we feed on.”

McManes believes that the group is making Friday nights a better experience for everyone. He said by showing support for each other, the energy at games has increased; the group provides a way to give back to each other.

“I think it’s just repaying how they do it for us,” McManes said. “They give us that energy. It’s only fair that we give it back to them.”