Keith Edmonds is a 32-year veteran of teaching and school administration from Fort Wayne. He coached boys high school basketball as an assistant at Snider High School, North Side High School and was the head boys basketball coach at Elmhurst High School for 12 years, advancing to the Class 3A State championship in 2003.

The Den, Neon Nation, Warrior Nation, Tribe and The Pride. These are some of the names for groups of students cheering for their teams here in Northeast Indiana in what I’ll call cheer blocks. It’s interesting how the sounds of approval from the student section during a competitive game can influence how a team plays and propel them to feats that they may never have gotten to.

It could be because they feel validated somehow by that feverish pitch from their peers. It gives them that little extra they need to push them towards a successful night. Or maybe it’s the scorn of disappointment that they feel they’ve let those same students down and will hear about how they’ve somehow ruined the nights or weekends of those said students the next time they see them face-to-face.

Whatever the reason is, the importance of having a supportive “cheer block” goes a long way towards how successful the home team will be and how demoralizing an opponent can feel during a particular game. I recently spoke with several schools cheer blocks and they shared that their number one goal during a game is “to show support for the home team and to get into the heads of their opponent by any means necessary.

So what does that support look like from the students? Well I think that it just depends on who the opponents are for that particular night. If it’s a team that they rarely see, then it may be just general chants of disproval such as when and opponents’ shot fails to hit the rim then you’ll hear “air ball, air ball” repeatedly by the students or if a foul is committed by the opposing team then you’ll hear “you can’t do that” over and over and over. Subtle things will come out of the crowd just to annoy the visiting team but things change when it’s a HEATED RIVAL!

Now, you’ll hear things that may make you think “is this personal?” Students have chants, themed outfits that they wear, signs and just get downright obnoxious in an attempt to disrupt the visiting team. Because they’ve seen these particular schools or players for a couple of seasons and have competed against them on a regular basis, now they feel entitled to unleash their full fury on them.

They cheer harder, louder and with more purpose than they would for a normal game. They feel that they know the other team as they would a next door neighbor or person down the street, and find things to say that can annoy that team so much that it makes parents take a second look and leaves administrators and teachers glaring their disapproval.

For the most part, I’ve found them to be entertaining and I’m amused at how creative they can be as I go from gym to gym. They are a part of the culture of a school and their support for their team is admirable. I enjoy the fierce rivalries and it’s really fun when student sections from BOTH schools come out and battle each other as much as the teams on the floor. The players draw energy from their support and give a little extra trying to win the game.

So to those said cheer blocks or student sections from the various schools here in our area, I applaud you for your heart, your passion and your creativity for your school. Keep coming out and showing yourself huge on game nights. Your teams need you!

Courtside with Coach Edmonds will appear every Monday during the prep basketball season at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. 

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