High school activities are an extension of the classroom, and many of life’s lessons are learned while taking part in an activity during the years of high school. As students try to determine the groups in which they want to be involved, it is important for the school to promote and support all activities. One way to do this is to interchange the arts and athletics to show mutual support. Finding ways for students to support each other is a great way to build a positive culture.
The first task is to create an environment where the two activities interchange. The hallways where people enter for a sporting event are an ideal place to display artwork created by the students. Promoting the artistic abilities of students builds them up and creates acceptance.
One way to promote artwork is to have a “gallery reveal” before or after an athletic event. Display “teasers” and parts of the artwork that has been created, but do not show the whole piece. Have people stay after the event to see the creations of fellow students. The reason for having the event back to back with a sporting event is to provide support and push the cultural exposure of athletes and artists. The reality is some of the athletes may be the artists.
At the gallery opening after a game, change the atmosphere from “game” like to “artistic” like. Allow students to play live violin music in the background. Have snacks and embrace the students and fans coming from a game. The goal is to embrace the abilities of each student, whether an athlete or an artist or both. The impact could be huge for everyone involved.
Most sporting events allow for the use of a pep band which creates an upbeat atmosphere and has the ability to change the mood in a gymnasium in a heartbeat. Home court advantage is evident when the pep band is present, and the pep band should be acknowledged by the public-address announcer.
The pep band can bring its own creative flair whether it is the music chosen or the “theme” for the night. A fun-dressed pep band can really be the heart of the night. Also, an upcoming concert by the band can be promoted. The promotion of the musical arts embodies a culture of support. Remember, some of the athletes may be musicians.
The orchestra could play an upbeat musical piece before a game or at halftime, which exposes what the orchestra can do. It does not mean the orchestra has to sit properly and wear black. Giving each artistic group an opportunity is a great way to build the cultural support. The fans and community will also love the exposure of getting a “two-for-one” deal – basketball and a concert.
Another opportunity to promote the artistic side of the student body is through theatre. During a sporting event, have students in the drama department dress in character. They can intermingle with the crowd right before half time, and then at half time, the students can act out a scene from an upcoming show. It will be a fun experience for the actors to be surrounded with the audience on every side. Also, it can promote an upcoming theatre event. Many times, students may not see their peers in the theatre because the productions are on weekends and not in the repertoire of weekend activities. Athletes who are also actors will be honored to be supported in a different environment.
Another way to impact cultural change is to have the coaches bring a team to the theatre. This could be a team building event, and it would allow for students to be exposed to the theatre. Support happens when people understand how something works. If it is unknown, then there is no support. The goal is to bring two sides of the student body closer together. It allows for students to see the differences but respect each other’s abilities.
Another out-of-the-box idea is to tap into students who may have their own band. Allow a student to play the National Anthem with an electric guitar before a basketball game. This combines a cultural tie-in of students who may not normally come to a sporting event, and students who have never heard the band member play. It breaks barriers that may exist with students not really knowing each other.
A final thought is to introduce other groups at a sporting event, such as the theatre cast or the gallery artists. Let them run through the team and be on the court for the National Anthem. That introduction can be extremely impactful to everyone involved. Embrace the audience at a sporting event and expose them to other aspects of your school.
It is well known that each of the artistic endeavors can stand on its own. Concerts, theatre productions and art all have the ability to draw huge crowds without being promoted at an athletic event. However, incorporating athletics and artistic events builds a culture of support for each other.
Creating a culture of acceptance is not easy. Ideally, the buy-in needs to happen with coaches, advisors and staff. A student body and a community that values athletics and the arts is a treasure for students – it will stay with them beyond the walls of the high school.
Lisa Myran-Schutte, CAA, is the athletic/activities director at Pine Island (Minnesota) High School after serving in a similar capacity at Houston (Minnesota) High School for several years. She is a member of the High School Today Publications Committee.