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Atomic City Update: Passionate fans lead to more motivated high school teams

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By Phil Scherer

Wow, what an atmosphere there was this week at Griffith Gymnasium for the boy’s basketball game between Los Alamos High School and Española Valley. When I arrived nearly an hour before the opening tipoff for the varsity game, the stands were already so packed that I had trouble squeezing into my seat at the media table. I loved every second of it, because when I think of high school sports, that is the kind of crowd I envision.

The effect of the crowd was obvious from the opening tip-off, as the players on the court had an extra jump in their step and the game seemed even more important than it actually was. For many of the LAHS players, this was the largest crowd they had ever played in front of, and it seemed like they enjoyed it immensely. There was an audible buzz in the air through the entire game, and for me, that’s one of the best noises in sports.

I just wish more games had that kind of atmosphere, because student athletes deserve it. It’s not just a problem here, but all over the country in prep sports. Fewer people are taking time out of their evenings to watch high school sports, and that really is a shame. These kids work hard every day to perfect their craft, and it seems like communities don’t have the same level of pride when it comes to these teams as they once did.

The vast majority of the crowds at most high school sporting events around the country are families of the athletes and students at the schools. That is a great base of support, but especially in small communities I wish the support was more widespread.

Here in New Mexico, we don’t have professional sports teams to rally around. Yes, everyone can support UNM and New Mexico State, but for people outside of Albuquerque and Las Cruces, it is hard to directly support those teams.

What we can do in the other communities is support our local teams. The Hilltoppers have a lot of great teams that are so much fun to watch. Come to one game, and I know you will want to keep coming back for more.

More than anything, sports are great at bonding a community. Unlike professional sports, you know the kids who play on these teams.

Maybe you work with the father of a football player, or went to high school with the mother of a basketball player.

These are unique bonds that help connect a community to its local teams. It’s something I never recognized or appreciated when I was in high school, but is something I think is really cool now.

I look forward to experiencing that same level of intensity and passion when the Española Valley girls’ basketball team comes up to play the Hilltoppers on Feb. 16, and I hope that atmosphere can be duplicated by the Hilltopper fans at other games in the near future.