Nontraditional school spirit is still school spirit

Sacramento, California—It’s the Conference Championships, and the Portland State Women’s Tennis team has just advanced to the quarterfinals. Despite being a larger competition than what they typically experience throughout their normal season matches, there was only a slightly larger turnout in Sacramento than matches back home.

According to freshman PSU Women’s Tennis player Siena Peri, about 10 people regularly attend home matches, and there were 14 in the stands in Sacramento.

You could probably hear a pin drop at either of these events. But it would not be due to the suspense of the tight matches. It would instead be the complete lack of background noise due to the complete lack of attendance.

It may come as no surprise that PSU isn’t exactly oozing with school spirit. School spirit does not seem to be a major selling point—or really a selling point at all—for prospective students interested in PSU.

But then again, maybe it all depends on how you define school spirit. PSU might lack school spirit in the traditional or assumed sense of the phrase, but students express it enthusiastically in other ways.

“School spirit isn’t about sports,” said PSU tennis coach Jay Sterling. “It’s about pride in an institution as a whole. It’s about respecting and appreciating where you are and the opportunities that exist because of it. It’s about being proud of being a part of something and what that something stands for.”

Peri said PSU has some school spirit, but could use some improvement. “[PSU] has a very diverse population that I think can become more connected through more school spirit,” Peri said. “It would be nice to see a school-wide appreciation for all groups on campus, including athletics.”

With all the work that students athletes put into their craft, it would be great if other students appreciated them and showed their support a little bit more. The Women’s Tennis team practices nearly four hours per day, including time specifically dedicated to lifting. In addition, all student athletes must attend mandatory study hall sessions. For freshmen like Peri, that means six hours per week on top of practice and academic schedules. With all the work they are putting in, it’s unfortunate that only about 10 people show up to watch their matches.

“We have a fan-friendly venue,” Sterling said. “So when the fans are there and cheering, it can get really loud and really exciting, and the players feed off of that energy and support. The fans definitely helped us through a couple of hard matches this season. These ladies are grinding it out year-round for the sole purpose of representing their team and their school in the best possible way, and for their pride for [PSU] as a whole, and what it means to be a Viking.”

With the spring season now at an end, Sterling said, “this season was a good season. We qualified for the Conference Tournament and competed well, in spite of some untimely injuries or sicknesses with key players throughout the season. We had a good season, we accomplished most of our goals, we set lots of new records. Even more than we did last season, and the team is still hungry to keep getting better.”

Although PSU doesn’t seem to posses the assumed ideals of school spirit on the surface, we have our own unique style of expressing it.

“I don’t think I’ve talked to a single student at PSU who isn’t excited or happy about being here,” Moriah Newman, a junior at PSU, said. “I would say that’s their form of school spirit. I think also that because PSU is a commuter school and a more non traditional university, we have a larger population of students who are older adults with families or careers and really don’t care about a traditional form of school spirit, like rah-rah football games or something.”

PSU is unique in many ways. Although it might not seem as spitired against some of the more prominent universities in Oregon, such as Oregon State University or the University of Oregon, it shines in its own light.