If Monday’s event at Sheffield High School has the desired effect, volleyball will be a key to better test scores and increased community spirit.
When Sheffield Volleyball Coach Scott Olson scheduled a home match for noon on a school day, he was trying to get more people interested in and involved in the sport. “We wanted a way to promote the sport and get the student body involved,” Olson said.
It worked. The estimated crowd of more than 400 was loud and involved.
Brockway brought a team of about 30 to Sheffield with the junior varsity match starting at noon. They were very loud, especially while the gym was empty. When hundreds of Sheffield students in grades four through 12 arrived at about 1 p.m., the Brockway team members were still loud, but the home fans were far louder.
Chants of “We are... Sheffield” and “Let’s go Sheffield” rocked the gymnasium.
With the Wolverines up 18-13 in the second game, Brockway’s bench challenged the senior section by starting a cheer of “We can’t hear you.”
Seconds later the Sheffield student body, led by a group of boys with the letters of “Let’s go Wolverinez!” painted on their chests, responded with a thunderous version of the same cheer.
After Brockway won a closely contested first game, the first referee for the match, Kelly Ely, had no problem with the boisterous fans. In fact, she was appreciative.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd this loud and this big,” she said. “They’re being respectful.”
Like Olson, Ely was looking at the volleyball impacts. “Maybe some more people will get involved,” she said.
When the administrators at the school approved the idea, they had something more that volleyball in mind.
“The entire student body is learning about camaraderie, mutual support, sportsmanship, and the importance of school pride,” Principal Amy Beers said. “Tomorrow morning I will challenge the students to put the efforts that they have put into this event into practice by supporting one another in their academic endeavors.”
“School pride can and should work this way,” she said. “This enthusiasm should go into academics and PSSAs.”
“Our athletic coordinator, Corey Copley, brought it to me for consideration,” Beers said. “I approved it with the tie-in to academics and community involvement in mind.”
“A sporting event during the day includes all students in the experience,” she said. “Inviting the elementary students allows them a sneak peek into their future school culture.”
The fourth- and fifth-grade classes from Sheffield Elementary School and Allegheny Valley also attended the match.
Those students weren’t just there to fill up seats.
“Eventually, this is going to be their home school,” Sheffield Elementary Principal Steven Parinella said.
Bringing the students into the school early and making them more familiar and comfortable with the environs will give them a head start.
“They’ll be able to take off learning right from the get-go,” he said.
The pride will stretch beyond the school. “They are not only part of the school, but part of the community as well,” Parinella said. “That’s something we’re really trying to do with Allegheny Valley, Sheffield Elementary School, and Sheffield High School — make that connection.”
Throughout the stands, students were also getting the message.
“It’s good for Sheffield spirit,” Cale Albaugh, a fifth-grader at Sheffield Elementary School, said. “I like it.”
“This is awesome,” freshman Wes Byers said. “Good game, good spirit. I’m losing my voice a little.”
“I’m enjoying everything about the volleyball game,” ninth-grader Kyle Burge said.
“Love it,” senior Devin Borden said. “I love volleyball.”
When asked if the event was worth missing a few classes, Borden, who was the ‘Z’ in Wolverinez, said, “That’s OK with me. It’ll get more people going to the games.”
The lost class time was a good trade, according to Beers.
“They’re excited. They’re showing a lot of school pride,” she said. “We’ll turn that into academic pride. ‘Remember how pumped up you were? We’re going to apply that.’”
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Sheffield High School students do the wave before a volleyball match held at 1 p.m. Monday at the school. Administrators approved the school time event as a way to raise school pride and community spirit.