Prior to a home basketball game at Damonte Ranch, earlier this season, with a south Reno rival, two game workers, seasoned game workers mind you, admitted they were not excited to work the game that night. When I asked I why the answer surprised me: both said they do not like the way the two student sections interact.
According to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association’s (NIAA) "Citizenship Trough Sports Manual”, member schools are to, “Allow only positive cheers that boost their own team/spirit without antagonizing the opponents or the officials.”
Tuesday night at Damonte Ranch, the Mustangs hosted the Galena Grizzlies, a game I would not normally look forward to, because of the antagonistic relationship between the two student sections, the Riot Squad and the Blue Hole. Tuesday night both student sections were packed, and loud! As the first quarter progressed I began to notice that there was something different about the Riot Squad. A Galena administrator, Athletic Director Greg Sakelaris, was sitting at the scorer’s table next to me, and he explained that this school year it has been a point-of-emphasis to abide by the NIAA guidelines regarding sportsmanship and cheering.
“Nothing negative, only positive chants or cheers,” he said, “that support our team.” As an example, he mentioned the chant, “You got swatted,” which could be replaced by chanting the players name that blocked the shot. He stated that by cheering for the player that blocked the shot, you encourage your player to do it again, whereas when you chant “You got swatted,” what you are really doing is trying to antagonize the opponent, which is not allowed by the NIAA.
Sakelaris said that during the football season it was easier to enforce, because the distance between the two student sections is larger, and they often do not hear what the other side is saying, but during basketball and volleyball it has been more difficult. “They are right on top of each other, they can hear everything, but we have had success this year by explaining the expectations and having them read the NIAA guidelines for themselves,” Sakelaris said that it is still a work in progress, admitting that a recent game with a south Reno rival challenged their students to remain positive in the face of negativity from the opposing student section, but they are trending in the right direction and that was on display Tuesday night at Damonte.
Tuesday night’s boys varsity game was close from start to finish: Galena had a five-point lead after one quarter, Damonte led by five at the half, Damonte by one point after three quarters, and Galena won the game by six. Normally this would the type game that would drive game workers nuts with each student section looking for a way to antagonize the other. But with the Riot Squad focusing on supporting their team, the game was enjoyable and a lot less stressful than it normally would have been.
I hope other NIAA member schools follow Galena’s lead and start teaching their student sections how to be positive while abiding by the NIAA guidelines.
Girls Varsity, Galena 37-62 Damonte
Boys Varsity, Galena 56-50 Damonte
About Your Author: Lynn Ault has been announcing multiple sports for Damonte for eight years. His wife is a teacher and the head of the math department at Damonte. His daughter graduated from Damonte in 2017, and his son is a senior this year.