Community Weekend Brings Out Choate’s Best

Photo by Lauren Canna/The Choate News

Jocelyn Polansky ’19 was an integral part of Girls’ Varsity Basketball’s big win over Exeter on Saturday.

In many ways, this winter’s Community Weekend, which occurred between Friday January 19,and Sunday January 21, was similar to previous ones. There was a special dinner hosted at the X, and a number of events for students — including an all-school Community Skating Party, a SAC Dance, and the Community Fair.

In addition to these activities, there were also a number of exciting athletic contests. Boys’ Varsity Basketball managed to come back from a large deficit  but couldn’t quite  finish it off, losing its first game of the year.  On the contrary, Girls’ Varsity Basketball had an impressive game against Exeter, winning 79-42. Later in the evening, Boys’ Varsity Hockey won a nail-biter ten seconds into sudden-death overtime against archrival Deerfield, by the score of 3-2.

While these games and the atmosphere of the weekend were certainly exciting, that is not what distinguished this Community Weekend. What happened during the pauses in many games set this weekend apart from others.

Athletic Director Mr. Roney Eford said, “I think we really need to liven it up a little bit during the games. We are Choate, and we need to figure out ways to really engage the entire community in the games.”

At breaks in play, be it halftime or intermission, there were games for students to participate in. Some of the games included three-point and half court shooting contests at the basketball games. At the hockey game, students played “Chuck a P’ed onto the ice to try to throw a puck from the center line into the net. In addition, Step Squad performed at the hockey game.

According to Mr. Eford,  adding entertainment to sporting events was something that he proposed as a way to increase school spirit and fan engagement at games. He mentioned that coming in, he could tell that school spirit was a bit low, especially at sports games. He also commented that he was shocked to find out Choate had never done any in-game entertainment, other than “Silent Night,” which is a pseudo-tradition where fans will remain completely silent until Choate scores its tenth point.

Mr. Eford commented, “I feel like sometimes the games are just too bland. You go to a game, and some people are cheering, and some aren’t.  There are other people, though, that just want to be involved, and that’s the question I want to focus on: How can we involve the students and the faculty in what we are trying to do.  I really want to develop that fan engagement.”

Mr. Eford found inspiration in his prior experience. “When I worked in professional sports,” he said, “there was always one person and that was his or her job.  They were completely focused on fan engagement. They were always fun people, and they always were trying to think of new, creative, fun events.”

For many students, Mr. Eford’s goal was a success at these games.  Graham Keating ’19, who attended all the games, said, “The halftime events were a great way to get the crowd involved and maintain the hype.”

Indeed, the in-game entertainment gave fans something to cheer about even when the game itself wasn’t happening.  Kaleah Haddock ’19 agreed that the entertainment helped boost spirit, although she thought that it was “very unorganized,” something that Mr. Eford said he also wanted to work on, commenting that he wants to keep perfecting the entertainment.  He also said he would like to do some organized cheers, something Boar Pen has so far been unable  to do this year.

Mr. Eford is already brainstorming new ideas, and he is accepting ideas from students. He said, “If someone has an event or  a game they want to do at halftime or something, that would be great. If everyone on campus can be creative, which we are, I think we could really juice up the games.” For instance, he wants to try to have competitions for a prize: Make a half court shot for a prize, or, as Haddock recommended, cover the goal and try to shoot the puck through one small slot.

Mr. Eford is also hoping to do some entertainment at spring and fall games, when most events take place outside. He said, “I think it may be challenging in the fall or the spring — but maybe not — as long as we have a loudspeaker or something. They do it at big arenas, why can’t we do it here?”

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