“Yes, yes, yes, I do … I got spirit … how about you?” by Andy Thibodeau

As an assembly speaker and student leadership trainer, I have been speaking on SCHOOL SPIRIT for over 30 years. This was after my years of LIVING school spirit in my three schools that led me to age 22.

So, what is school spirit … when you go beyond the mascot, school colours, cheering, and activities?

SCHOOL SPIRIT – “It’s not about being better than another school, its about being a community as OUR school.”

When I finally “got this” statement in late Grade 7, it changed my mindset about my time in school.

I started walking into school thinking, “How can I contribute to this community to make it better? For me, for my friends, for my classmates?”

As a 13-year-old, it was joining student council and track and field.

Student Council … investing my time to make the activities and energy of my school more successful!

Track and Field … yes, I am competing against other schools. But it was the first time I was asked to actively cheer on my teammates when it was their turn to participate.

And I loved it! I loved being on the front row of their success! I learned to get as much joy from the accomplishments of others as from my own.

I fell in love with that energy, that encouragement, that feeling of being part of something larger than me. It was the beginning of the logo on a shirt going from decoration to community.

When I graduated university in 1993, a year into a part time speaking career that was about to go full-time, I got a letter from my school that basically wrote:

“Congratulations on graduating! Our school still needs your help! Donate money now as an alumni to help current students.”

Money?! I had no money at age 23, starting a part time business, living at home, half a year before I bought my first used car.

BUT, that letter reminded me what school spirit is really about!

Investing time in your Community!

For that, I did not need money, I needed ME!

For the students reading this, you are probably already in the school spirit mindset, and know the impact that your investment in your school community can have.

But how to affect others with that spirit? How can they share in your enthusiasm?

As a speaker on this topic, I have many insights that I will share in later blogs.

The first major step that I share today, is to be an EXAMPLE of that school spirit for others to follow.

While this may seem incredibly basic and obvious, my travels to schools and conferences have shown me that leaders in school spirit do not always reflect the actions they want to see in others.

I can only control and lead one person … ME!

So who has to dress up for the spirit day? Attend the activity? Laugh and cheer at the assembly or rally? Be in the audience for the performance? Be a part of at least one team/club/music group?  ME!

Complement that example with this powerful tool:  Approach those who are running an activity that you cannot attend and tell them, “Sorry, I have to miss this. I will tell others to go. Have fun. Tell me all about it when done.” 

As a busy student you cannot go to all of the activities. In my senior year of high school, I was student council president, played football, and ran track and field. I did not have time to be a part of the musical, play one of the winter sports, or help plan the grad banquet. 

By showing interest in the activities of others, it is also a phenomenal example of school spirit! You are lifting the school spirit of others through your genuine interest even though you could not attend in person.

There is school spirit in these statements: “How did the game go last night? What songs are you playing in the concert? Have you picked what the play will be yet? Sorry I missed that activity, I heard it went great … what and when is your next activity? I was following on Instagram that you won yesterday … what is next for the team?”

When your classmates overhear you asking others these questions, it reminds them indirectly of all of the activities of the school. It is a positive reminder to them about all of the excitement of events without guilt trips or even asking them to participate.

This was powerful insight for me as a busy grade 12 student leader who had to say no to some activities during that year. I had time limits and academic goals that simply could not be adjusted.

I don’t have to feel guilty about missing other group’s events. I can “make up for it” by showing interest in the activities by asking the organizers questions about it and listening.

And that is good enough!

Yes, there is so much power in high fiving an athlete or performer as they come off a field or stage because you saw it in-person.

But, there is also power in high fiving that person the next day when you are talking with them about the activity you missed.

Be the example in your actions. Be attentive in person at the activities.

Be the example in your interest. Be attentive as you speak to others about their activities that you did not attend.

“Yes, yes, yes, I do. I got spirit … how about you?”

ANDY THIBODEAU IMPACT PRESENTATIONS    – Creating … Caring … Community

Memorable high-energy assemblies of Laughter, School Spirit, and Encouragement.

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