This year’s graduating seniors are the last class who experienced pre-pandemic high school. It’s up to them to pass down student-led traditions, Oviedo High School Principal Trent Daniel said.
This, plus pent up energy thanks to pandemic-related social limitations, inspired an extroverted Cooper Broennle to get creative with his role as Oviedo Student Section Leader.
The job typically entails leading the students sitting in the section at football games and the school’s other major sporting events in chants and cheers to keep the playing team’s spirits high. The leader also throws candy and passes out handfuls of baby powder to the students for them to throw once during each game, ensuring that everyone in the section leaves the game lightly dusted and powder fresh.
But Broennle, 18, wanted to pump the students up more, so he started the Instagram account [Ohsstudentsection_] for the student section, posting photos from the games and announcing game-week themes to encourage more participation. He added the school colors to the baby power, which his mom helped him make. He also solicited the administration’s approval to add music to the student section, something he said took some convincing.
“He was in charge of what music was played. That’s what I was worried about,” Daniel said.
But she said Broennle was very responsible and played good, clean music, such as Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and DJ Khaled’s “All I do is win.”
“People would tell me to play songs, and I said, ‘I can’t.’ I was trying so hard to resist,” Broennle said. “In the end, it turned out to be a really good time.”
He said his drive for fleshing out the student section leader role was to help student fans have more fun at sports games.
“I thought it would be fun if we actually did stuff in the student section instead of just sitting there, so I decided to take control of it and do what I could to make it more enjoyable for everybody,” he said. “The music was big. Everyone liked that.”
Because of the gusto Broennle brought to the position, the school created a special award for him – the Heart of the Lion award, which Daniel said could be awarded annually if a student shows the exemplary school spirit that Broennle did. But she said it could just end up being for him.
“A lot of students don’t know the traditions of Oviedo High School. Cooper was so important in reminding students how to have good, old fashioned fun at a football game,” she said. “That was just critical in keeping the school spirit up and passing it along. That’s powerful.”
At OHS, school spirit is baked into the school, Daniel said. Its 2,200 student population is predominantly from Oviedo, which she said creates a family atmosphere like she’s never seen at any of the six other high schools she’s worked for.
“It’s ingrained in the culture here to be pro-student and pro-family,” she said. “The kids say they feel like the people on this campus care about them.”
Broennle’s mother, Tauni Broennle, said she was surprised to see so many families with young children in the audience when she first started attending OHS sports games.
“It’s in our community. It’s community wide. I love that part about Oviedo,” she said.
Broennle played soccer in high school and so his mom said he understands how important it is to the athletes to have the stands full of cheering fans. Tauni said he and his friends would come to her house before games to eat pizza and find ways to show their spirit, from wearing school colors to painting “OHS” on their chests.
“It’s the environment the school encourages. Oviedo has amazing school spirit on campus,” she said.
Leader are not elected, they’re chosen
Daniel is fascinated by the way the school’s section leader is chosen, because it’s not a spoken thing.
At the last game of the year, which is the spring football game Jamboree (Friday, May 20 this year), the current student leader starts working with the junior class, and Daniel said whomever the students respond to will rise as the leader.
“It’s organic. It’s the strangest thing,” she said. “Some kids have approached me, but they can’t appoint themselves. It’s who the students listen to. The kids pick. It will become obvious at the game. It’s going to be a very dynamic, charismatic kid.”
Broennle said he knew he wanted the job so he gave it his all, commanding attention and leading the chants. The students responded. He said he hopes that whoever takes over from him will help turn his additions into traditions.
“I hope they’re carried on,” he said.