The seven Federal League schools are rivals when playing each other on the athletic field and in academic competition. But when a member school faces adversity and even tragedy, member schools have been there to support each other.
Unfortunately, in the last two years, several schools have had to confront tragedies. Nearly two years ago, North Canton Hoover High School lost football player Zach Herrera in the summer. Recently, Perry High School has had a string of tragedies and GlenOak High School lost two students in a car accident – Aaron and Kevin Laudermilt.
Member schools have supported each other through the student bodies wearing the colors of their opponents in the student section, to the coaching staff and to cheerleaders wearing socks, ribbons or bows of the opponent’s colors.
A few years ago, the Federal League had students from each school read a statement before games "Be a good sport and Respect the Game."
Federal League Commissioner Joe Eaton wrote this was just one way we attempt to promote positive school relationships.
"We are all in this together and we all share our problems which helps us get through those difficult times," Eaton said. "One of the best things we do is three times a year we have a student exchange. Each Federal League school takes their a turn to host the exchange. Each school brings two representatives and we have various activities and also a speaker at each exchange. This has proven to be very valuable in building school relationships.
"The Athletic Directors meet once a month and the administrators/ADs meet three times a year. We do discuss each and every month what is happening in each school other than athletics and how we can help in any way," Eaton added.
The league makes great strides building awareness and that appears to be working. Ultimately, for one school’s student body to support another school, the students and administration must work together to make this happen.
"Often students lead the way with these initiatives," wrote Hoover Athletic Director Tim Walker. "We usually try to approve most things so we make sure it is acceptable to the school we are trying to honor. The coaching staff is certainly involved in facilitating these initiatives as well."
Jackson High School Athletic Director Terry Peterson wrote decisions like this are often made as collaboration between students and administration.
"Various people, depending upon the situation," said Peterson. "Sometimes it is administrative driven, sometimes coach driven, but more times than not it is driven by students. Our cheerleaders and advisors also have good rapport with our student body and sometimes the collaboration between these groups makes things happen as well.
"At Jackson, we (administration) will go through the Federal League Student Leadership group for ideas and to share concerns. We also are able to identify certain students in the cheering sections each year who are leaders and will discuss certain things with them in advance, especially on the area of sportsmanship. Our cheerleaders also do a great job on trying to promote positive sportsmanship at contests," Peterson added.
Walker said the situation is the same at Hoover.
"Often, there are various clubs that come up with the ideas and then have them approved by the administration. We generally try to make sure that the other school’s administration is good with the plan before proceeding, said Walker.
Social media is helping bring more awareness to tragedies. Each school seems to have a Spirit Club Twitter account.
"I believe most students are aware of these events via social media and their friendships with other schools in the area," wrote Walker.
Today, more student-athletes are connected through AAU programs, travel programs and attending various summer camps.
"I certainly think that the shared programs cause greater overlap between the school communities and greater awareness of what is happening at other schools," wrote Walker.
Peterson echoed Walker’s sentiments.
"Students are a lot more aware of what is going on in other schools today due to social media," he said. "These students and athletes have grown up knowing and competing students from local schools and some are good friends. I feel there is respect for each other and their schools, especially when there is a tragedy of some type.
"I believe we take pride in not only having great competition within our League, but positive sportsmanship between the schools as well. In the heat of the competition, there are always things which occur which gives us all the opportunity to improve upon as a League with regards to sportsmanship and relations amongst member schools."
Eaton concluded by adding, "The Federal League is always trying to work together to make students more aware of their surroundings. Whether it be social media or school awareness programs, we make every attempt to reach out and help each other."