I heard recently of a US High School, Grapevine Faith, whose head football coach, Kris Hogan, asked ‘what if half our fans, for one night only, cheered for the other team, Gainsville Tornadoes?’. You see Gainsville is a maximum security correctional facility for kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery.
They play all their games away from home. They wear old beaten up gear, lose consistently and never ever get cheered on.
Suddenly, Gainsville Tornadoes had hundreds of fans and cheerleaders and the fans cheered them on by name. The fans even knew their names. The Gainsville guys were stunned, amazed and absolutely delighted. “We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games,” says Gerald, a lineman whose doing three years. “You can see it in their eyes. They’re lookin’ at us like we’re criminals. But these people, they were yellin’ for us! By our names!” Another Gainsville player, Isaah, said I never would’ve known there was so many people in the world that cared about us.”
And though they lost 33-14, the Gainesville guys were so happy that after the game they showered their head coach Mark Williams with their squirt bottles as if they were celebrating winning a championship. As the Gainsville boys were marched back onto their bus the Gainsville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him and told him ‘you’ll never ever know what your people did for these kids tonight.’
Editor’s note: Thanks to Ellen Nolan for alerting me to this story.