Activities set the tone for incoming athletic year

Phoebe McMillan

Fall sports set the tone for the athletic year. With the intensity of the fall season comes many long standing traditions that bring the team together and help new students feel comfortable in their new community.

Football is one of the fall sports with the most participation. The team, like many teams at ESD, does not have cuts which contributes to why there are so many people on the team. As well as football, the cheer leading field hockey and volleyball programs also attract a lot of upper school students. Beyond just these four sports, cross country, crew and mountain biking are co-ed sports that have smaller teams. Preseason for these sports is important for the development of the teams in skill and teamwork. Along with all the hype and excitement from fall sports, the teams themselves experience unique traditions that have been going on for many years.

The school’s football program has many traditions of its own. One of their main traditions is the varsity team’s retreat to wolf run. This year, the retreat took place from July 27 to 29. The team spent two nights together, bonding and improving their skills. On the last day, they visited The Star, the training stadium of the Cowboys, for an eight-hour intensive practice.

“The football retreat is important to our team because it helps us bond and develop better teamwork,” Varsity football player Sebastian Guzik said. “My favorite part was having dinner all together. It helped us become closer as a group.”

Like the football team, cheer also goes on a two-night retreat that doubles as cheer camp. This year the retreat was spent at the DoubleTreehotel at Love Field, and the camp was held at Express Cheer. At camp, Junior Varsity and Varsity cheerleaders choreographed routines, which would be performed in front of parents and friends at the end of the final day. This tradition has been going on for over a decade at the school.

“A lot of our traditions in cheer are about team bonding and trust building,” sophomore and Varsity cheerleader Ivy Runyon said. “That’s exactly what cheer camp is all about. It’s a couple nights for us to get closer and make new friendships.”

Another unique tradition carried on by the cheer team is The Cheer Family Program. Each year, an upperclassman is paired with one to two underclassmen who are their “Littles.” This is to help the team feel connected with people outside their own grade level. Bigs drive them to things like team dinners and practice when it is held somewhere other than school.

“Cheer family program helps to bond not only just team members on varsity but both JV and varsity,” senior varsity cheerleader Emma Konen said. “I love how it makes the underclassmen feel like the upperclassmen cheerleaders have their backs.”

And the varsity cheer program also has a team sleepover each year. The sleepover is often held at one of the captains’ houses and hosts the entire varsity team.

The sleepover is held during  mid-season. This year, the cheer squad is holding their sleepover in mid-September before their football game at the Star.

“It’s important to trust each other since we literally hold each other up in the air,” Runyon said. “In our stunt groups, if the flier doesn’t trust her bases, then there’s no way the stunt will be successful. We don’t compete during the fall, so we don’t get the effects of going through wins and loses together, but because we do all [of this] team-building, we’re really connected by the end of the season.”

Football and cheer are the sports with the most participants during the fall season. This year, there are 50 cheerleaders within the high school program, and there are 43 football players on varsity. The football and cheer teams are connected through football and cheer buddies. Each player is paired with someone in their grade from the other team. Each Friday, buddies exchange small gifts like candy, snacks or drinks to show support to the other. One unique thing about this tradition is that it is organized by the players, not the coaches or the school. Freshmen and sophomores are paired randomly, while juniors and seniors can submit buddy requests.

“I really like that we have football buddies. Mine are Brady Miltenburger and Landen Capetillo,” Runyon said. “It’s fun to have someone show a little appreciation and support for me on game days. Even though I know, we’re assigned to each other. It still means a lot whenever they give me something like a note or a snack.”

The varsity volleyball team has a unique tradition of what they call “kidnapping” their new teammates. When someone new joins the team, returning players pick them up from their house, blindfold them, and drive them somewhere where they are surprised by the rest of the team and congratulated for making varsity. Sophomore Dana Fredrich made varsity her first year.

“I was excited when Gomez told me I made varsity, but I was also pretty nervous because I was new to the school and I was the only freshman on the team,” Fredrich said. “I thought it would be weird since everyone was already so close, but I was wrong. I quickly became friends with the rest of the team since there aren’t many players. All the girls on the team were super welcoming to me.”

The school’s cross country team gets a fair amount of participants each year, however, cross country is an individual-based sport and doesn’t have many team traditions. However, even though they may not have any long standing traditions, doesn’t mean they don’t work as hard as others. During the month of August, Cross Country, like most other sports, began its pre-season. In order for these runners to compete and run the long distances that they do, it is important that they take the time to train their bodies to withstand the strains.

As for crew and mountain biking, both teams are relatively new to the school, and neither have any recent or long-standing traditions. Mountain biking was added to the school’s list of sports only a few years ago, and didn’t gain much popularity when it was started. This year, however, their numbers doubled from years past.

Field hockey is another of the school’s more popular sports; this year, the program has __ girls participating. Junior Varsity coach Laila Kharaat brings many of her traditions to her team as the coach. At the beginning of practices, the players participate in a meditation to visualize their victory and help them gain confidence to play better and more aggressively. Sophomore Kate Kornman, who is new to field hockey this year, plays on the JV team.

“I didn’t know this was a thing until I made the team and we had our first practice,” Kornman said. “She tells us this is her method of helping us get better in a more relaxed and calm way. I think it has definitely helped with my confidence during games. I also feel more connected to my teammates around me afterwards”

Most ongoing traditions in fall sports are connected by the principles of teamwork and bonding. Each of the players agreed that one of the most important aspects of being part of a team is being connected in some way, which is what keeps these traditions going each year.

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