The Dilemma of Rooter Buses and School Spirit

Photo courtesy of Ross Mortensen

School spirit is a pivotal aspect of student life and must be sustained by and for the students.

Any student-athlete knows that away games can be tough, whether it’s because of the bus rides, the foreign locker room, the SAGE bag lunches, or any of the other inconveniences that come with playing at another school. Perhaps the most unnerving aspect that comes with playing away from home, particularly in prep school, is dealing with the home school fans.
Of course, fan support varies from school to school and from sport to sport, but for rivalries, playoffs, or any other big games, when Choate athletes play away, they can expect the stands to be packed in the other school’s colors. Unfortunately, there seems to be a trend of Choate athletes seeing little representation from their own school opposite the home crowd, no matter how important the rivalry, no matter how crucial the playoff matchup.

Why does Choate not regularly send rooter buses to support its student-athletes when so many other schools appear to do so? Deerfield Day is the obvious exception, but, as fun as it is to sweep Deerfield in varsity sports every fall, there are many other games that are just as entertaining, as well as important. Choate athletes need greater fan support.

Head of Student Activities, Mr. Jim Yanelli, has given a lot of thought to the matter. “We tend to run the rooter buses by request,” he said last week. “The complication is getting chaperones to give up their Saturday, or at least a major piece of it, to accompany students.”
He went on, “Other times, there are so many kids travelling on teams that there aren’t enough kids left behind to be on the rooter buses.”
Students cannot control what faculty members do with their weekends. For faculty, it makes sense that they would rather enjoy their free time than deal with what can only be described as pandemonium. Students ask for rooter buses to incredibly important games, so it only makes sense that the crowds could be unruly.

Many observers wonder about the school’s ability to pay for more rooter buses, an endeavor that would include paying for food students would require during the busride.

Mr. Yanelli, though, said that money isn’t the issue. “In the past,” he said, “we’ve been able to find the funds to do them. Usually, we split the cost between the athletic department, the dean of students office, and the student activities center, and we’re happy to make that happen.”
Mr. Yanelli did go on to get at the crux of the issue, “We don’t really have a mechanism for assigning faculty members or finding volunteers. I usually ask students interested in sending rooter buses to a game to check with faculty members that they may think would be willing to ride up on a bus.”

When asked if there would be an easier way to get chaperones, Mr. Yanelli explained that some schools have a readily available pool of faculty on a given weekend that are ‘on-duty’ to chaperone rooter buses or other off-campus trips. That said, there are plenty of faculty who already chaperone weekend trips to New Haven, New York City, and other places. Perhaps a solution would be to have faculty who already volunteer for trips off campus be available for rooter bus chaperoning as well.

In the past, the school has sent buses to football, hockey, basketball, volleyball, and other sporting events, but there certainly are other sports that could use away-game support. Mr. Yanelli said, “We tend to support teams that are in championships and playoffs, but we really are willing to support other teams in all positions, playoffs or not.”

This raises another question; are students willing to spend their Saturday on a bus to go and support their classmates? It is well noted that school spirit has been on the decline for a few years. Could rooter buses be a solution?

Calvin Carmichael ’18 said that rooter buses are a big part of Boar Pen’s goals for the year. “We’re definitely working on getting rooter buses more frequently,” he said. “It’s really about the timing, so we have to know that students are interested ahead of time so that we can schedule accordingly.”

In a perfect world, there would be faculty available every weekend to take students on rooter bus trips to away games and there’d be students eager to make the trip. But that is simply not the case because of duty schedules, family commitments, school requirements, and whatever else that may clog a teacher’s schedule.

On the other hand, students must be vocal about when they want to show support at another school, and they must take the initiative to make that known a week or two in advance to not only organize everything, but to rally the student body. School spirit often marks one of the best aspects of a student’s time at Choate, for both athletes and fans. It falls into the hands of the student body to make sure it stays that way.

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