Sports and the community effect / Aaron Johnson
There is no surprise that high school sports can mean a lot to a community. The rise and falls of a team can coincide with that of a community and it can even contribute to it in extreme cases.
But it has been through speaking with the players, coaches, and people of these communities that shows just how much of an impact it can have.
As a kid, I remember getting out of Pop Warner practices on Friday nights and walking across the street with my family to take in Stratford High that week. I had no ties to the high school outside of living in the town. None of my family had gone to Stratford High — my cousins were over in Bridgeport — and neither of my parents were from Connecticut. So as a kid, it was hard to understand the impact, that was until I got to the game.
I would see my teammates from Pop Warner, but also my coaches and teammates from Sterling House basketball and PONY baseball. I would see my neighbors and look over and see my parents chatting with every Tom, Dick, and Harry in attendance.
Although I had no connection, it still meant more. It became more than a high school football game, it was like Thanksgiving dinner and the entire town was invited.
Especially when Stratford High and Bunnell played each other every November.
But it was a feeling in the air when a team is doing well and the community is rallying behind them. It was a feeling I didn’t completely grasp until this past winter season tournament final.
Once as a reporter, covering the Staples boys hockey semifinal lost against Eastern CT Eagles. The game was a Ingalls Rinks in New Haven, about a 40 minute trip from Westport.
A pretty good ride for a high school game. But the sea of white and blue from the packed student section for the Wreckers proved that it was going to take much more than a long ride for them to not cheer on the squad.
As I walked in, I remember a large group piling out of an Uber, it stuck out because Ingalls' security wouldn’t let them bring in a homemade sign in support of Staples.
It’s not just the team that celebrates the win, but it is the school and the surrounding community.
While looking on and seeing how successful teams impact communities, it wasn’t until a community that I was apart of was thrown into the limelight that it finally hit home.
My old high school finished with the top team in boys basketball this past season — Notre Dame-Fairfield.
The support behind this team was rampant in the ND community, everyone from current student, alumni, and even former faculty all cheering on the Lancers.
After ND-Fairfield knocked off Sacred Heart for the first title in school history, even more support came flooding onto social media. It was overwhelming. But it was amazing to watch how the little team that could brought together an entire group of people.
That was the impact and it was beautiful to see.
But the best moment for me came in a very random time. While in Bridgeport last week on my way to an event at my significant other’s church, I was in the car on the phone while her and her brother ran into a Dunkin’ Donuts, when one of the ND-Fairfield seniors Woody Monnexant happened to be walking by the car.
So I put my cousin on a brief hold and stopped the young man. I told him that I was an alumnus of the school and congratulated him. To say that his face lit up was an understatement.
A smile went from ear to ear and he thanked me and we went our own separate ways.
It was a brief moment, but it was one that I hoped was a special for him as it was for me. Those players did much more than bring a state title to Notre Dame-Fairfield. They won it for the entire community.
Same for the Staples baseball and field hockey teams this past seasons.
These teams mean so much to a community and it shows every single time they take the field, ice, and courts.
ct.com; Twitter: @aronJohnson_