McPherson High’s student section is working hard to catch up to the rankings of the Bullpup basketball teams.
While the MHS boys are ranked No. 1 and the girls are No. 2 in this week’s Kansas Basketball Coaches Association polls, the student section has moved into the No. 7 spot of fan support by the website CatchItKansas.com.
Anyone who has been to an MHS game this year has had to be entertained by the creativity of the student section, which has been a positive influence for the teams.
“It has to be the best student section in the state,” MHS boys coach Kurt Kinnamon said. “If they are not No. 1 in the CatchItKansas rankings, then people are not paying attention. They have a lot of good, clean fun and the fat head (likeness) of Mr. (Athletic Director Shane) Backhus saying ‘No’ is hilarious.”
Bullpup girls coach Chris Strathman is in total agreement.
“The student section has been great, very creative, and it's just good to see them having a good time,” he said. “I know some of that may be fueled by the little social media competitions that have come up with student sections, but I think it is great for our atmosphere to have that student involvement. We are hoping to see the same kind of support this weekend for the girls tournament.”
There’s always a theme to the night. There was “USA Night,” where all the students wore red, white and blue and some even carried a flag with them. Instead of a Bullpup chant, the students were chanting “USA, USA, USA” at one point.
I particularly liked the “Sports Center Night,” which included a desk with broadcasters. Maybe former Bullpup Jonathan Coachman, who now works for ESPN, should get wind of this because he’s always giving a shout-out about his old school when he’s on the air and it does something noteworthy.
It’s great to see the students having such fun. They’ve gotten away from the traditional “air ball” and “warm up the bus” chants that have long been discouraged by the administration. It’s now all about being creative.
“We just like to have a lot of fun,” said MHS senior Breckon Kaufman, who is one of the driving forces behind the increased student participation. “We try to make fun themes that everybody can participate in. The fatheads (large pictures of players, coaches or administrators that are on a wooden handle) have really become popular.”
Kaufman said, “a bunch of people just started making their own.” Wal-Mart has all the necessary ingredients and many of the players’ likenesses have popped up at games.
Kaufman said the students have supported the teams in the past, but have ramped up their allegiance this year.
“We just felt like there was always support, but not exciting support,” she said. She added that along with Luke Koehn, Chris Kirchner and Alex Sitts, they have taken to social media to get the word out what the theme is going to be each game. “They made the Twitter and I kind of hopped in with them,” she said.
Kaufman noted ideas about upcoming themes generally are determined on Sundays and word filters out to the rest of the students.
She said incentive has come from being only No. 7 by CatchItKansas and she hopes the Bullpup faithful can start to move up with a bullet.
“We’re currently No. 7, but we’re about to go up I think,” she said.
CatchItKansas’ Dani Welniak took video of the section during the McPherson Invitational and The Wichita Eagle's Joanna Chadwick also shot some on Saturday when she covered the championship game. The goal, Kaufman said, is of course the top spot.
“It’s a motivation for a lot of us, but some don’t really care, but a lot of us think it’s really cool,” said Kaufman, who is an All-State soccer player and knows how teams can feed off the fan support. “It’s just more fun to add to the season instead of just cheering for your team.”
Kaufman, who came up with the “Pac Man Night” theme that was wildly entertaining to the spectators as there was an instance where it looked like the video game, said there are plans to have a “Country Night” and a “Pajama Night.”
Backhus said he really appreciates everything Kaufman and the other spearheads of the fan support do. He notes it brings a more friendly spirit to games, unlike years where students were somewhat desultory with their derogatory comments.