Sports / November 2, 2011

A fire is building

As a tennis player, junior David Ham is often less than inspired by the number of fans present at matches.

“Hardly anyone shows up to our games,” he said.

Sophomore football player Adam Brooking saw a similar trend at his own games.

“Last year, it was horrible,” he said.

Knox students cited several potential reasons for a lack of participation at sporting events.

“I’m a senior, so most of my focus is on life after graduation,” Christina Warner said. “I’m more focused on what happens after [Knox.]”

“[There’s] a lack of information about when events are going to happen,” Ham said.

The Fire Pit

This year, however, school spirit seems to be picking up. A new student organization, the Fire Pit, was founded with the express goal of increasing student attendance and enthusiasm at Knox events.

“There’s been a lot of support so far,” junior Quentin Gittemeier said, one of the students who founded the organization. “The week of the [Homecoming] volleyball game … there was a huge number of people there. It was just an amazing turnout. It was really inspiring.”

The Fire Pit has been focusing on publicity, encouraging students to come to games through Facebook statuses, emails and tabling. In the future, they plan to charter buses to Monmouth games and offer “punch cards,” a reward system under which students can receive prizes for attending a certain number of sporting events.

Gittemeier felt the group has already had a positive influence on Knox participation.

“School spirit — it was a little lacking, but it was there,” he said. “The Monmouth game was huge.”

Assistant Director of Campus Life and Homecoming Coordinator Kathleen Drake noticed a similar trend. According to Drake, Monmouth said they were “kind of intimidated by the large crowd,” at Knox’s Homecoming football game.

Coordination between a large number of student organizations for this year’s Homecoming also led to an increase in school spirit. Drake included such diverse groups as Union Board, Resident Advisors, Student Senate, Knox Ambassadors and Greek organizations, among others, in the planning.

“There was a definite increase in participation,” Drake said. She viewed this participation as crucial for developing the memories that students would later cherish as alumni.

“A student can associate positive things with their university,” she said, in regard to the benefits of school spirit.

One main event Drake and the Homecoming Committee focused on was increasing attendance at the Homecoming volleyball game.

“It shows a culmination of school spirit,” she said, noting the success of the event.

Other sporting events have also seen increased attendance and enthusiasm throughout the past year.

“When I come to the game, there’s a lot more people than last year,” Brooking said. “It helps out at home games, to have a bunch of people there. Then you can rally your team.”

Beyond athletics

For many students, the idea of school spirit extended beyond the Athletic Department. Ham considered school spirit to be “people support[ing] each other — in anything a student does; it doesn’t have to be sports.”

Gittemeier said the goal of the Fire Pit was to increase attendance at all Knox events, not just athletic games.

“That’s what we’re trying to change — getting a huge turnout to events, no matter what they are,” he said.

Although Ham and Brooking commented on the lack of spectators at athletic games, other non-sporting events appeared to have strong attendance. The spring performances of Terpsichore Dance Collective drew 700 total viewers; “Cleansed,” the most recent performance in the Black Box, reached capacity and had to turn away potential audience members.

Drake simply viewed this as another way students could express their Knox enthusiasm.

“Knox shows its school spirit in different ways,” she said. “It’s not the typical events. It’s the academic, the service.”

Maintaining the fire

No matter how students show school spirit, Gittemeier pointed out that there is still much to be done.

“We’re just getting started,” he said. “It’s just at its beginning … I guess we’re kind of starting with sports and really hoping that it will expand.”

In Drake’s view, the key to maintaining school spirit is the initiative taken by the individual student.

“I don’t want to be the one planning it,” she said. “I want interested people who are interested in putting together an event … for every student.”

Senior Brandon Paraharm saw school spirit as something requiring active participation, not just attendance.

“Common Ground … or Student Senate or Union Board have school spirit because they make things happen on campus,” he said.

Ham’s solution was most pragmatic.

“Free face paint,” he said. “People love face paint.”

Katy Sutcliffe

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