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The Dog Pound Effect -- Or Lack Thereof
The Dog Pound Effect -- Or Lack Thereof
By Kiley Bouchard

In the all too familiar era of covid restrictions, it was no surprise to the Mt. Hope community that spectators would not be allowed at games for the winter season. While the husky fan base has been showing their support virtually, the change of physical atmosphere may be having a direct effect on the athletes.

The Dog Pound is the student-led fan base for Mt. Hope Athletics officially established during the winter sports season of 2015. Ran by then-sophomore Kyle McShane, the fan base was supported by parents and members of the community. The Dog Pound was designed to help reinforce school spirit and make Mt. Hope a stronger community in a time when the students felt that the sense of togetherness was lacking. McShane recalls the fanbase having a big acceptance once it was officially established: “It was cool to see people from different groups come together for one common idea and have a sense of pride in their school.” Soon after, the Dog Pound would make “Be There. Get Loud.” their slogan to prompt others to attend competitions.

The Dog Pound was quick to gain members. Many were eager to be a part of the theme nights and post-game hang outs. For the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons, the Huskies Fan Base won the RIIL Battle of the Fans, which is a state-wide competition of student fan bases. The banners currently hang in the school gym beside the schools’ other championship banners.

Despite the Dog Pound’s notorious reputation, they have yet to appear at any games in the 2020-2021 seasons. So far this school year, fall sports only allowed parents at competitions. It is assumed that when football, cheer, and girls volleyball experience their “Fall II” season in March, parent-only spectators will be allowed for those games as well.

As for winter sports, all but wrestling were approved to play. After a long hiatus, athletes were able to start practice on January 7th. On January 20th Governor Raimondo signed the executive order that winter sports could finally compete, but no spectators would be allowed.

And athletes have noticed the silence. Some athletes are unfortunately accustomed to the lack of Dog Pound attention. Sports like swim, gymnastics, volleyball, and track usually have crowds of just family members. Yet senior and swim team captain Annie Krzywicki said that, “I actually have noticed a decline in team morale”, as swim meets have competed virtually with each team in their own pools and recording their own times. “Even though we never officially had Dog Pound oriented turn outs, the occasional fans that came showed great support.”

In sports where the Dog Pound is more prominent, athletes noted that games don’t have the same psychological effect as they used to. Basketball senior captain Brady Thibaudeau feels that “Without the crowd it’s hard for us to get into our groove, and playing without the energy just takes some of the fun of the game away.” Basketball is arguably the second most popular sport for Dog Pound attendance, coming after football. Afterall, the fan base made its first appearance at a home basketball match up. Thibaudeau simply puts it: “We really do miss the Dog Pound.”

Collectively, the Dog Pound reminds athletes of the supportive community they’re a part of. From state championships to losses, they’ve supported us through it all. Whether in the stands or as an athlete, every aspect of husky nation has grown significantly since 2015. The Dog Pound has greatly improved the athletic experience as well as reinforced school spirit. But unfortunately for athletes, the lack of fans have had a direct effect on their performance and attitudes. There’s no doubt the tradition will continue, it is just a matter of when we can be there and get loud again in person.

As for now, competitions on the middle and high school level can be viewed via live stream on the Mt. Hope Athletics Facebook page. To keep up with the Dog Pound, follow @huskiesfanbase on Instagram and @BWHuskies on Twitter.
   
Author: Kiley Bouchard   E-Mail: bouchardk21@bwrsd.org