Traditions are one thing that will always unify fans or alumni to a team or school. You will always remember your first game and the traditions that went along with it. For some schools and teams it’s repeating the same mantra before every game. At Notre Dame, the players touch a sign on the way out the tunnel onto the football field that says “Play like a champion today.” This small gesture is something that everyone that has played football for the university of Notre Dame has done. They share in that tradition and know that when they see those kids take the field to this day they have touched the sign before taking the field.
If you are a professional football fan, you know about the Lambeau Leap. Twenty years ago, Leroy Butler scored a touchdown off Raider Reggie White’s fumble and leapt into the waiting arms of the Packer faithful; and a tradition was born. Now days, many non Green Bay players are doing the Lambeau Leap after scoring for their team. It is the reason why end-zone tickets sell out so quickly! Who wouldn’t want a sweaty 250 lb man in pads to leap into your seat?
One of the coach’s least favorite traditions is the Gatorade Bath. Every coach I know from youth, high school, college and pro (even though I don’t know any Pro Coaches) has experienced a cold shower of water or Gatorade after a significant win. Even I have received one! It wasn’t after a win, but at the end of an eventful and hot summer camp. The coach with possibly the most “baths” is probably Giants Coach Bill Parcells. Coach Parcells was doused 17 times that season including a bath after the Giants defeated the Broncos at Super Bowl XXI.
Another tradition that is Baseball specific is the Seventh Inning Stretch. If you have been to a baseball game from the Single-A farm team level to a professional game you have witnessed and possibly participated in a tradition that started in the late 1880s. The original purpose was to get up off the hard bleachers to stretch your legs. In modern baseball, we use the time to stretch our legs and sing “Take me out to the ball game.” It’s a fun tradition that unifies fans and sparks nostalgia in all of us.
One of my favorite traditions that had gone by the wayside and is slowing coming back it the Hockey Playoff Beards. The beards started in the 80s and involve an entire hockey team not shaving once they make it to playoffs. They do not shave again until they are eliminated from the playoffs or they win the Stanley Cup. The beards become huge and bushy and seemingly appropriate for men on skates beating each other up.
For cheerleaders the traditions are a little different, but they still evoke that sense of team, pride and spirit. Cheerleaders have been a pop culture icon for many decades. While the games and skills change there are some parts of cheerleading that will always stay with us.
Team Announcement – Whether you are on a team that has tryouts or not, the day that you get to announce to your friends and family that you are a cheerleader is a big day.
Summer Camp – Specifically earning a spirit stick at camp. In 1954 at a summer camp, there was a team that was not technically skilled and could not keep up with the other teams. However, they had a wonderful attitude and team spirit. They were the first ones to arrive each morning and the last to leave. They cheered on the other teams and really embodied what it meant to be a cheerleader. Lawrence Herkimer wanted a way to recognize the team for their efforts so he broke a branch off the nearest tree and awarded it to the team, declaring it the Spirit Stick. To this day earning a spirit stick at camp is an honor that means more than any trophy or ribbon. It means that above all, you embody the core values of cheerleading.
About a year ago, I polled the Alumni from my teams to see what their favorite traditions were when they were on the team. One of the most loved traditions is our Spirit Chain. Each December, after we have had tryouts for the winter cheer team, we take a few weeks and participate in team bonding activities and games. The last one is the forming of the spirit chain. Each team member is given one of those links that you attach baby toys to strollers with. We all sit in a circle and one at a time we say one goal for the season and what the team means to each of us. We pass our link to the next person, who adds their link to the chain and so on. After it comes full circle back to me, I also state my goal for the season and what the team means to me. My link completes the circle. After we finish the circle, we talk about how each link is important and what happens if someone breaks the chain. It is often emotional. The kids make sure that the spirit chain is at every game and practice. At competition, I can be seen wearing the chain around my neck to remind them of the hard work and dedication it took to keep the circle together. As you look through the trophy cases at school, along with the trophies and spirit sticks you will see chains of baby toys.
Another emotional tradition that we have is our recognition of seniors. At the end of season banquet, all the seniors are called to the front of the room and a letter is read to them. The letter talks about being part of our team and that we will miss the seniors when they are gone. We tell the seniors that we will continue to work hard and make them proud to say they were a member of our team. After I have read the letter, each senior girl receives a gold megaphone necklace. The seniors look forward to getting that necklace because it means they have been a major part of something big. They have left their mark on the program and we have given them something to be proud of. Years later I still have kids that wear that necklace and talk about the power of that moment at the banquet.
From athletics to academics, everything has traditions. Think about the things you do each day. What traditions do you participate in at school, work, or in your sport? Traditions make us feel like a part of something and take pride in our efforts. I’m proud to carry on the traditions at my school and help the athletes and students take part in them and feel like a part of them family.