It is no secret that the Clayton High School community is focused primarily on academics. Clayton excels at Speech and Debate and Robotics competitions, earning high marks at state and national competitions. However, with all of these successes, some may feel that CHS’ athletic teams have been left behind. Declining participation rates and concerns about safety have led some at Clayton to suggest an end to the school’s football team. Additionally, it is common knowledge that at a state level, CHS’ academic teams perform at a higher level than their athletic counterparts.
Clayton’s new Athletic Director, Steve Hutson, (who replaced the previous Director, Dr. Bob Bone, at the end of last year) is introducing a number of initiatives designed to increase school spirit and return Clayton’s athletic programs to a place in the spotlight. Under Hutson’s administration, the coach of each sports team will have the opportunity to nominate an “Athlete of the Week” who will be prominently displayed on the school’s social media accounts. “I feel like we do an excellent job as a district of recognizing our students for their academic successes.” Hutson said. “I figured we could … recognize individual student athletes, for their contributions on the floor, [in the] pool, on the court, and on the field.”
In addition to the “Athlete of the Week”, the athletic department plans to recruit the members of existing clubs like Student Council and Captain’s Council to form ready-made cheering sections at sporting events. “If we reached out to multiple [extracurricular clubs], and we said, ‘Hey, we’re all getting together at a certain venue to cheer on a certain team’, you’re going to get more students to attend the event rather than just reaching out to each individual student,” Hutson said.
However, for the average Clayton student, the biggest change will come from a new school “sports app” intended for student smartphones. Athletics and Activities Coordinator T’Shon Young described the system, created by a company called SuperFan. “It’s almost like a kind of Facebook platform.” said Young, “You can post events that are coming up … you can put rosters on there, you can put the dates, the location, but then also it’s in real time. So if students are at games, they can take pictures and upload them.”
The app also contains a geo-tracking feature that allows students to track their attendance at games. “If we’re playing Westminster in basketball at Westminster, we can select that to be a zone where students could check in.” Hutson explained. “They check in and receive points. And then we can run reports, whenever we want to see who has the highest level of points. We can run [the reports] by grade level, by specific team, by group of students or by individual.” Hutson plans to reward high attendance at games with spirit-wear, gift cards, or class points during homecoming.
The new school spirit initiatives are all part of an effort to increase student involvement in the Clayton community. “They are all under one umbrella,” Hutson said, “Just trying to get students not only involved but excited and talking about Clayton activities and sports outside of school.” More than that, Young explained that the new proposals have as much to do with the high school experience as with school spirit. “You have those four years here, and then you’re moving on, you don’t get that time back.” Young said. “What we really want to do is provide these opportunities and let the students know it’s okay to take a moment to support your home team. And have a little fun in high school.”