From the press box: it all comes down to the power of the war cry

From the press box with Melanie Whelan
From the press box with Melanie Whelan

STAND amid St Patrick’s College students as they fire up their war cry.

Be surrounded by Ballarat Clarendon College as students bounce up and down in the school quad.

March to the spit with Ballarat Grammar drummers.

It is intimidating and a particularly quirky phenomenon to someone not educated in a college with such school spirit in sporting arenas – unless you count a starring role as a grade four tunnel ball captain.

School sport really needs more war cries.

In a world with intense and growing pressure on academic performance, such chanting makes all students equal and united to cheer the same cause – to tear apart rival schools for glory (although it may be more politically correct now to say it is all about participation, having a go, with winning a bonus).

It is a safe way to let off some steam.

For these moments, when the chants are unleashed in the schoolyard or on the sidelines, all that seems to matter is the joy of joining in.

These are cries that last you a lifetime. Often old collegiates can recite the traditional stanza quicker than they can recall what they ate for breakfast that day.

This week is when Ballarat schools are in full voice.

The countdown is on until Boat Race day and the chance to seize prestigious

Head of the Lake titles on Friday.

Dean Kittelty is on a mission to prepare Ballarat High School and bring back High School’s true “razzle dazzle bish bom bah” to the spit.

For too long High School students have modified the cry to the point that it has lost its impact.

Old boys and gals could not lend their voices.

Kittelty, a former Head of the Lake rower, became involved in rowing and coaching via his daughter’s involvement this season and questioned why the cry had waned. He was quickly voted the man to fix it.

But why is the cry so important when students could just, well, cheer?

“A cry builds spirit and a sense of belonging,” Kittelty said.

“A war cry won’t help you win a race but it helps build a team, and a team wins races.

“The louder, the stronger and the more that do it, the more impact it has on the team.”

High School rowers devote time each week to perfect the wording and spread the word among the student body.

He said it still gave him goosebumps to recite it down the phone to this columnist.

Long hours hitting the books – or avoiding them – and stories of eccentric teachers aside, it seems these are fond memories to reflect on as pass down generations.

Loreto College and Boat Race newcomer Damascus College have the chance to create their own tradition.

Senior students will be wandering around campus, spruiking their own cheers at Loreto this week in a bid to entice all students into the school spirit.

There is excitement at Damascus, with six crews in action, to stamp their mark on the spit in full voice and good fun.

This is new territory for Damascus students.

Boat Race fever remained strong over the decade the regatta was raced in Nagambie and Geelong in drought years.

A shift to a Friday afternoon, during valuable classtime, does not seem to have affected any of the hype.

Each school, including Damascus, has ensured The Courier it would fill their 200-strong spit crew stations – mostly year 12 students and rowers’ siblings – with remaining student bodies expected to flood the banks of the lake once school is out.

Just in time for the title races.

Support crews will be decked out in theme – like College students, who are donning hard hats as construction workers – their voices will be one.

But there can only be one Head of the Lake boys’ champion and one Head of the Lake girls’

champion in BAS history books and school legacy.

Cheering hard in time-honoured unison can hardly help but spur them on.

Intimidating or sounding out other schools in the process is all part of lasting school folklore and fun.

Or so the old boys and gals tell us.

FILE PIC: Ballarat Clarendon College's cheer squad at last year's Head of the Lake regatta.

FILE PIC: Ballarat Clarendon College's cheer squad at last year's Head of the Lake regatta.


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