Sometimes, the best sports memories don’t come from winning the championship game, but from the team traditions along the way. Having both fun and sentimental team traditions can help teams become less like a team and more like a family.
For the cheer team, bonding begins before the school year even starts. Cheer coach Brooke Wojcik said in 2019, she started the tradition of Christmas in July when one of her cheerleaders was constantly talking about how much she liked Christmas.
Wojcik said she pulled out all the stops for Christmas in July, including having treats like cupcakes or popsicles, listening to Christmas music, putting up a Christmas tree and even having a gift exchange.
“Something like a gift exchange, even as stupid and cheap and weird as it is, it’s funny, and it just helps them to get to know each other a little bit better,” Wojcik said.
To keep it casual, Wojcik said the cheerleaders had to find the gifts at their houses. She added that this rule made for hilarious gifts, a few of which included a Ken doll with no arm, a banana with googly eyes, fake poop, a toilet plunger and a Taco Bell survival kit.
Wojcik explained that because the cheer season extended from May all the way until February or March of the next year, she likes to do fun things to break it up. Wojcik said she knows that for freshmen, the change to a new school and new team can be intimidating, so it’s nice for them to get to know the older cheerleaders before the season starts.
“I try and think about including the freshmen because for a long time, they all sit on one side of the gym and everybody else sits on the other,” Wojcik said. “It drives me nuts.”
Junior Henry Hondroulis said the boys and girls lacrosse teams go back and forth toilet papering each others’ houses once or twice a season, usually before a big game for either team.
Hondroulis explained that it was exciting to do something like that with his friends.
“It gets your heart rate up,” Hondroulis said. “You go at 11:30 or midnight, and it’s super dark out. It’s kind of nerve-wracking knowing that homeowners can walk out and catch you.”
Hondroulis said that to prepare for the big night, everyone would work together to get as much toilet paper as possible to put in the back of a teammate’s pickup truck before they “let it rip.”
Hondroulis said he has toilet papered with the lacrosse team for the last two years. He explained that the team almost got caught once, seeing a light flicker on in one of the girl’s houses before sprinting away.
“It uses a lot of toilet paper, but it’s fun to see the next morning if it’s still up,” Hondroulis said. “It’s always fun to go back and see if we did a good job.”
Though Hondroulis said he loves the adrenaline, junior Olivia Ramsden described the girls tennis team as having a more lighthearted tradition.
Ramsden said Leo the Lion, a metal lion figurine painted gold, had been part of the tennis team for years. She said the team tapped Leo’s nose before every match for good luck.
“We’ve only lost a couple matches where we tapped the lion, so the odds do work out in our favor,” Ramsden said.
She added how the team would take pictures with the lion after games and give Leo to a member of the team to take home in between games.
Ramsden added that tennis teams from Columbus Academy, Wellington and Columbus School for Girls have conspired about stealing the lion before.
“Leo the Lion actually ended up on the Columbus School for Girls Instagram page because they stole him for a day,” Ramdsen said. “That was a shock for us.”
Ramsden added that at the end of the girls tennis season, the girls passed Leo along to the boys team so they could use Leo for their matches.
The tennis team’s tradition extends over the entire season, but the football team’s tradition happens one night.
The Thursday before the senior night game, Ennin-Sampson said each senior chose a younger player to pass down their jersey to for next season.
Ennin-Sampson said Hondroulis, who plays football as well as lacrosse, earned Ennin-Sampson’s jersey from his hard work throughout the season. He added that he had gotten really close with Hondroulis and would feel proud to have Hondroulis wear his jersey.
“It’s as if they can carry on your name and that jersey number,” Ennin-Sampson added. “It keeps your name alive. When you’re not at Bexley anymore, kids can still remember you.”