Friday, 20 November 2020 14:41

Cheering from Afar: teachers surprise athletes with signs, motivational messages

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A sign showing support for the Richmond cross country teams surprised runners ahead of Wednesday's first meet. A sign showing support for the Richmond cross country teams surprised runners ahead of Wednesday's first meet. Contributed photo.

ROCKINGHAM — Student-athletes at Richmond Senior High School recently got a surprise from their teachers as the fall sports season officially began after an eight-month break.

Members of the volleyball and cross country programs were happy to find signs and motivational messages left by their teachers inside Raider Gymnasium and around the school’s track.

The Lady Raider volleyball team was given its surprise ahead of last Thursday’s scrimmage against Uwharrie Charter Academy.

“I was surprised when I walked in and saw the signs,” Shelly Hoffman, a senior volleyball player, said. “I thought the coaches had done it all themselves. Knowing that the teachers took time out of their day to draw and put the signs together really meant a lot to me, as well as the rest of the team. 

“The whole team walked around the gym together before our game to see what all teachers had written, and were smiling the whole time. It really did let us know that even though we weren’t allowed to have fans inside the gym, we still had people cheering us on from the outside.”

The names of the varsity and junior varsity players were posted on the windows facing the school’s courtyard. Messages like “bump, set, spike,” “can you dig it” and “we wish we were here, but we’re with you in our hearts” decorated the walls in the gym.

Hoffman added that although the Lady Raiders “would love to have a packed, loud gym” at home matches, the team knows it has “tons of fans cheering us on from the outside and pulling for us.”

VIDEO: Coach Ashleigh Larsen shares signs on TikTok.

Angela Butler, a healthcare teacher at Richmond, was one of the many educators to help facilitate the special surprise for both teams. When the pandemic first started, several teachers at the high school started “Larsen’s Weekly Laugh,” a group to help them support one another and their students.

The group often creates TikTok videos to share with students and the community to keep the vibe light and upbeat while distance learning is ongoing.

“It was definitely a group effort. Some teachers made the signs and others hung them up,” Butler explained. “We do things as a group to support one another and keep morale up for our students and ourselves.”

The idea came when the teachers wanted to create a buzz for the student-athletes who would have limited spectator support. The volleyball scrimmage was closed to all spectators and currently the NCHSAA only allows for 25 fans to watch matches indoors.

“Sports are more exciting when the crowd is hype. When there is no crowd, it’s kind of a bummer,” Butler said. “These athletes have been working hard and we wanted them to know that we support them. 

“Since so few spectators are allowed at sporting events right now, I thought we could put up posters to let them know that we were cheering for them from afar. I hope that the posters gave them a morale boost knowing that their teachers were thinking of them and wishing them a good game.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Carson Jordan was one of 20 cross country runners to get a similar surprise when the team met at the track before leaving for the season-opening meet. Signs were hung up on the fence surrounding the track and teachers were there to give out goody bags and wish the runners good luck.

One of the signs read “Let’s Go Raiders” with every team member’s name written on it. Another encouraged the student-athletes to “don’t just follow your dreams, run after them.”

“It’s a great feeling to know that we have the support of our school and teachers even though many of us are separated,” Jordan said. “The little things bring us smiles and make us feel appreciated as a team.”

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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