Members of the BlueCrew at the University of Rochester

Bradley Halpern, Senior Staff

Are you ready for this?!

UR doesn’t have the die-hard sports fans typical of much larger universities, but we still have plenty of school spirit, according to Spirit Coordinator Alex Eadie. It just depends how you define it.

“It’s a feeling of community that you get when you share something in common with the people around you,” he said.

That feeling, Eadie explained, can be gleaned from supporting our varsity teams but can ultimately be found anywhere the University gathers as a community, such as the fervor surrounding the YellowJackets’ appearance on last year’s The Sing Off.

“The spirit is there, but it’s not necessarily regarding our athletic teams,” he said.

Director of Athletics and Recreation George VanderZwaag shares a similar outlook. He defined school spirit as “a reflection of the extent to which students take pride in their school.”

VanderZwaag explained that attendance at sporting events is hit or miss, based on the time and day of a sporting event, but it’s fairly typical of other schools of comparable size, such as Brandeis University or Washington University in St. Louis.

“It just depends on so many things,” he said.

So how can the spirit students already have for UR in other respects be channeled into athletics?

Freshman Ethan Bidna and sophomore Jessica Sands think they have the answer.

Bidna and Sands are co-founders and presidents of the BlueCrew, a student organization they hope will make sporting events worth going to, ultimately bridging divides and bringing the community together. The group currently has preliminary status with the Students’ Association, which they received about three weeks ago. The nitty-gritty details are still being figured out.

But the BlueCrew isn’t just about foam fingers and face paint (although they definitely play their part).

“We’re really trying to combat the stigma that we, as a university, set from the beginning of freshman year,” Bidna said, explaining that he wants to take a more “bottoms-up” approach by encouraging students to “own their school spirit.”

Although UR has made several noteworthy pushes to encourage attendance at sporting events like the Fill Fauver program, Sands hopes that the BlueCrew will inspire more of a peer effort — a sort of domino effect. If students want to embrace this culture change, the BlueCrew will be there to facilitate it.

“More or less what we’re trying to do is take the first step,” Bidna said.

Sands noted, however, the group’s mission will reflect the consensus of the student body — she doesn’t want to force spirit where it’s not wanted.

“Because it’s a student organization, it’s going to be whatever the students want it to be,” she said.

The BlueCrew was originally Bidna’s brainchild. When he first arrived at UR last semester, he found himself discussing ways to help improve campus life with spirit coordinator Eadie, a good friend. One idea that came up was the fact that many universities have large spirit sections, even schools that are of a similar size to UR. They then asked themselves if this was something they could possibly bring to UR.

Sands heard Bidna talking about the group, thought it had a lot of potential, and got on board, helping Bidna figure out his plan of action in mid-October.

The BlueCrew made their first public appearance at a men’s varsity basketball game on Feb. 15, a Fill Fauver event run by the 2016 Class Council and co-sponsored by the BlueCrew and Alpha Phi sorority.

Sands explained that simply acting as an organized cheering section is an easy jumping-off point, but that in the future, the BlueCrew might expand their presence on campus; however, a lot of what they’re planning is contingent on being approved by the SA — right now, they are  beginning to open up to the community at large. They are planning to hold a general interest meeting after spring break to gauge the movement’s progress and to see how it will move forward.

The BlueCrew is looking to attend a baseball game in the spring, but Bidna explained that they are hoping to “hardcore” launch with the Class of 2017 in the fall, ending the stigma that students don’t go to sporting events.

“When a game is a BlueCrew game, you’re going to want to go to it,” Bidna said.

It is possible that the BlueCrew will work alongside preexisting efforts to encourage school spirit at sporting events, like Fill Fauver, according to Eadie.
The big crowds have been well-received by student athletes.

“You always want more support,” co-captain of the men’s varsity basketball team and senior John DiBartolomeo said. “It definitely helps us. It’s like another player on the court with us on defense and offense.”

Recent team success, particularly on the basketball court for both sexes, has brought UR to finally “Pack the Palaestra.” The men’s and women’s teams have moved on to the playoffs this season.

VanderZwaag explained that although fans do enhance the experience, driving attendance isn’t a main focus.

“It’s a participant-focused program, not a spectator-focused program,” he said.

But that’s where the BlueCrew comes in.

Bidna explained that the group is looking for a lot of community involvement — although the organization will be run by a small core of students, it is ultimately for UR in its entirety.

“The big thing about BlueCrew is that everyone’s a member,” he emphasized. To participate in the group, all a student has to do is show up to the event, ready to show school spirit.

Eadie has high hopes for the future.

“There is spirit here, it’s just a matter of trying to figure out a way to get it out there — a way to organize it, a way to focus it,” he said.

UR is certainly ready.

Goldin is a member of the class of 2013.

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