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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spirit Searching

We have no spirit.
That's been the complaint for as long as I can remember. A recent Trinitonian story explored why we are lacking in this area. The conclusion, I think, was that we need better publicity. I don't agree with that. Every once in awhile it is good to do some soul-searching on this topic, because being told we have no spirit can feel like an accusation or judgment. In the end, we have pride, and that means something, maybe more. More on that later.

So here are my theories:
1. It's about scale
We have about 2,400 students and 500 employees. we simply have a smaller audience to draw on for fan support at athletic contests.

2. It's about time
There are other small schools that have smaller numbers but better fan support. At Trinity, we have very involved and academically-driven students. They only have so much band-width and given that there are many athletic contests in a given week, they simply don't have time to attend. 

3. It's about location
We are in a dynamic city. Unlike rural or small-town campuses, students have lots of choices related to how they spend their time. We are not the only busy campus with a rigorous academic culture, but we have plenty of other options for students to consider.

4. It's about competition
Obnoxious Bronco fan Eric Engle was quoted in the article, and this time made a logical case, that we excel in our conference. There is little drama. We expect to win and it is horrible if we lose, so why attend?

5. It's about Division III
We cannot compete with Aggies and Longhorns for game-day pageantry, hype, and excitement. Even though the quality of our athletes is high and their skills are strong, we will almost never land on ESPN. When we did, for the Mississippi Miracle, many I knew recognized the famous play, but had no idea it was us. A national championship in baseball this year barely scored a blip on our own Web page.

6. It's about interest
For most, there is football and basketball. Here, soccer is in that same class. When I attended a Big Ten school I went to maybe four basketball games and most football games. I never went to a track or swim meet, a baseball or volleyball game, or a regatta. For some of these sports, friends and family of the athletes and occasional fans will come out. That's how it is.

7. It's who you know...
I don't see a lot of theater people at football games or a lot of basketball players at recitals. Generally, students go to support their friends. Sometimes many of our athletes' best friends are in fraternities and sororities or on their team. There is nothing wrong with that, but this is who will be at their games.

8. It's not who we are
After TLU brought more fans to our gym for the basketball conference tournament a couple years back I was frustrated. How could we get out-shone in our house? The Athletic Director talked ME down. He was happy with any crowd we could get and liked the atmosphere. He knows who we are and I have to accept that too. 

When we hosted the national championship women's soccer game a couple years ago I would say that at best a quarter of our students went to the game. We even offered free buses to go to the stadium on the north side. We are not a rah-rah place. If our students wanted that they wouldn't have come here.

9. It's about pride
People love it here. They love to go to school here, to learn here, to work here.  The #TigerPride and maroon Friday campaigns have ignited some of that pride. Rarely do I hear alumni reflect anything but a sense of pride and loyalty in their alma mater. That people don't show excessive spirit and support doesn't mean anyone loves it here any less.

10. It's time to to accept our destiny
I have turned gray sitting through student government meetings about tailgates, and t-shirt giveaways, and spirit and ways to create what we are not. Small schools try to be like big ones in this regard. On the other hand, big schools try to be like us in residential colleges and in the classroom.

Go to the bookstore and buy a championship baseball shirt. Go to a game once in awhile. The institution and the athletes have done their part. The game schedules are posted on bulletin boards, in LeeRoy, online, and in the Trinitonian. The issue isn't a lack of publicity. Community is as community does. It's simple: If you want spirit, show spirit.


Tracy Nelson said...

Great article! This was an issue when I was a student there, 30 years ago. (sadly, the halftime activities at the Homecoming football game drew more of a crowd than the game itself...And those who were there back then will remember those halftime activities... that just can't be unseen...).

#8 resonated with me... As my daughter (now at Trinity - yay!) began her college search, I was surprised to hear that many of her peers would only consider big schools with a lot of that "collegiate school spirit," complete with big football games and all the hoopla. So you're right -- the students who choose Trinity have different priorities and objectives.

I was wondering if Trinity has ever recognized its students and faculty with lighting configurations for the Murchison Tower, similar to UT? It might be a way to get people (on campus and off!) talking about recent achievements and generate more awareness and school spirit/pride.

David Tuttle said...

Tracy, we have put lights in the four tower windows and they are various colors for different holidays, Spurs playoff wins, breast cancer awareness, etc. Reviews have been mixed. Some feel like it is too commercial. I feel like they are "accent" lights that are visible from the highway and show community connection. I doubt we could go as far as what UT does. We do have a Go Spurs Go banner we hang during the playoffs which people in the community really love. Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment!