West Hall High School is forging tighter bonds between its football team and marching band, and both groups are sharper as a result.
West Hall High Band Director Katy Wilson-Fields and head football coach Krofton Montgomery have been working to bring the school’s band students and football players together for over a year. On Tuesday they took the next step by having both groups spend some time in the other’s shoes.
The event, named the Role Reversal Rehearsal, definitely didn’t fall flat.
The rehearsal gave both the Band of Silver and the West Hall Spartans the chance to learn from each other by taking part in each other’s routines. Band members taught football players drillsl, which include sets that make up the band’s marching show, while players taught how to run routes and kick a football.
Wilson-Fields said some students were apprehensive about the idea, but she was adamant that experiences like this can nurture mutual respect.
“I said yesterday, ‘Just open your mind, get to know something new, experience this and have fun and you’ll be surprised what you come out of the experience feeling. It might be something that really changes how you view West Hall,’” Wilson-Fields said. “They’ve been really excited about it, and I think some of them just want to kick a football.”
That mutual respect has been a long time coming, according to West Hall High Principal Ley Hathcock, who said he was glad to see the two groups come together.
“We’re very, very fortunate that the band and the football programs have always been very close, but they’ve always been two separate programs,” Hathcock said. “When you think about it, the band members have to sit here every home football game and most away football games. They’re always in the stands, and I don’t know that football players are always really able to wrap their heads around that these guys are always here, and I’m not sure that the band realizes what the football players put in.”
For Wilson-Fields and Montgomery, the Role Reversal Rehearsal is the latest way to break down barriers between the fine arts and sports programs within the school. This started last year with bringing back an old tradition of performing the alma mater at the end of every game, with the band playing and the football players singing it with the crowd.
Dawson Beardshaw, a senior at the school and band captain for the Band of Silver, says he’s seen a noticeable difference.
“When I was a freshman it was really divided, I think, but with a new director and football coach, they both had different mindsets and wanted to be more connected,” Beardshaw said. “Mrs. Wilson-Fields earlier said they’d been talking about singing the alma mater for a year or two now, and that really shows the new director and coach want to work with each other.”
Jacob Gault, starting center for the Spartans and a senior, also noted how much things have changed under new leadership, saying that in previous years the football team wasn’t encouraged to show a united front with the band after games as they are now.
“In years past, after the games we would just go into the locker room and not do anything,” Gault said. “But now, thanks to Mrs. Wilson-Fields and Coach Montgomery, we come together and at the end of the game and sing our alma mater as one big family. We’re trying to get together more so there’s not that stereotypical divide between football and band.”
Montgomery said that he believes these divides are generational, and that West Hall’s current students are doing a lot more to cross borders of cliques and activities in high school.
“I think the younger generation is more open to many things,” Montgomery said. “I don’t think they look at is as you fit into one box. It’s like you’re a chameleon. If someone were to play in the band and play on the football team I’d be okay with that. Things are just different and more multifaceted now.”
While Wilson-Fields said she believes there’s still work to be done, she hopes activities like the Role Reversal Rehearsal and singing the alma mater together will help not only the students see and appreciate each other, but help dispel the perception that fine arts and athletics must always be at odds within the public school system.
“Athletics teach discipline, work ethic, teamwork, leadership, management skills -- the list of benefits are endless, but the same thing goes for fine arts,” Wilson-Fields said. “They really teach students the same life lessons. When we’re being divisive with two disciplines that have the same end goal we’re not doing a service to our students.
“I don’t know that West Hall is the beacon or shining example, but we’re sure trying to be. This is just the first step in hopefully creating a culture where we’re all united, we’re all Spartans and it really doesn’t matter what you’re a part of as long as you’re giving it your all.”