Chaparral never has a problem showing up to support its athletic teams. The student section tends to be loud, giving the Wolverines a distinct home-field advantage.
And sometimes it even travels on the road.
Athletic director Rob Johnson speaks with pride when he talks about the support his students offer to each other in various athletic contests. In a chat with CHSAANow.com, Johnson talked about what makes Chaparral special, the importance of general school spirit and how essential it has become with everything happening in the world today.
Question: As an athletic director, what is the biggest embodiment of school spirit in your eyes?
Johnson: Participation I think is number one. It's getting kids involved in not only athletics but just involved in the school and whatever opportunities there are for kids get involved, whether it be a Red-Blue Crew, which is basically a group that kind of heads up our spirit and getting involved in those kinds of things.
So getting involved is number one because you need numbers. Spirit comes with numbers and that says to me as an athletic director, I think that's one of my top priorities is to create a good energy, promote it and get kids involved in any way we can to can to have good school spirit.
Q: I've been to some of your away games, like an away volleyball game at Lewis-Palmer and I'm always kind of stunned with the turnout of your students for an away game that's not Legend or somewhere that's right next door. Why is your school a school that's able to travel so well?
Johnson: I think a lot of is that it's a culture and specifically you talk about volleyball, having that culture. And then part of that goes back to T.R. Ellis, our original volleyball coach, who created this super fans group who's also part of the Red-Blue Crew. That started with volleyball and they kind of just transferred throughout the whole school year.
Volleyball itself has a culture of creating that. It's in the fall so it's during football and it's a really good time to create that early energy for the kids to travel. And part of the rules was if you're going to be officially be a super fan and get a super fan t-shirt, then if there were some rules that you had to go to certain away games and be involved in all these different things. So there were some expectations with it, which is good.
I think you needed to kind of give them that little push and then the goal is to get that energy to go to every sport throughout the year, which it doesn't always happen. There are times where you know not every team that's playing is going to have an away crowd. Some of it is just the culture of the specific program too. That's, that's where the coach has got to come in and create that culture.
Q: What makes your group of student fans so unique from others that we see throughout the state?
Johnson: It's our kids. There's a pipeline of these kids that have come through with younger siblings and they see that energy. They see those volleyball games. And then you have middle school kids sitting in the bleachers of a basketball game and football games, they're seeing how it happens. That goes back to our culture and then really honestly the best years we ever had with spirit is junior and seniors who just literally take it over and it's never an adult pushing it.
It's eventually the kids who really care about the school, care about their culture and and just want to have fun and they engage other people. Those are the kids that in groups that really take our school to another level in terms of school spirit engagement. It comes down to our kids for sure.
Q: If there are no adults involved, how are you making sure that they maintain that high level of spirit while also maintaining the core of sportsmanship and values that come with educational athletics?
Johnson: That's a good point. We have a great administrative staff. Our student government representative was a huge part of the Red-Blue Crew. There's definitely an adult presence for sure with all of us adults being on the same page and connecting and communicating well, but just being present, being with the kids and when they see our admin team and on the road they realize that we're in this with them.
We're in this together. So it's a team effort for sure. Just presence. You have to have a good presence.
Q: How vital do you think school spirit is in a time like what we're living in right now?
Johnson: That's a good question. I think it's going to even improve it. I think kids are realizing how much they missed the school. They miss their friends and being around that energy you talk about. So, I think it's going to improve and it is vital. I think kids need it right now more than anything. And by the time fall hits and I hope to gosh we're playing games, I think for every school it's going to be real exciting for all of us.
Q: Do you see any incoming juniors or seniors right now trying to take that on and maintain that Chaparral camaraderie, even though the kids can't quite be around each other or be around their coaches or be around their teachers?
Johnson: Yeah, there's definitely a group of them. I don't know if I have that list of names yet. We're always looking at who's going to be next year. You can kind of tell by the way they manage the crowds and how many games they go to. That student government and that Red-Blue Crew, those two different groups are always setting the stage for that. And that's already starting for sure.
There's always a small group of probably five or six kids that just kind of take it over here. So yeah, I can picture them right now and we'll see. Again, that's one of those things we try to lay back and not force it because then all of a sudden it feels forced. We want the kids that if that's their passion and they want to run with it, we'll support them. That's where their buy-in comes from.
Q: What is your vision of the first Chaparral sporting event look like after all this?
Johnson: Whatever one it is, I envision it with adults as well, but a really big turnout which will have really good positive energy. I don't think it will be anything of an "Us versus You" situation. It's just that we're all — both schools — are in this together. Let's have a blast and just make some noise.