Friendly competition lets students see teachers in new light

One of the biggest rivalries of the year took place earlier this week at Seymour Middle School.

It wasn’t a county or conference opponent that took the floor against the Owls, but a team made up of individuals that the students are very familiar with: their teachers.

The annual Staff vs. Students volleyball and basketball games took place Tuesday evening, and teachers left the classroom for the gym floor to compete.

The event was complete with officials, concessions, a cheer block and even Seymour High School sports emcee Curt Nichols announcing the game.

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The event is a way for the students to interact with their teachers in a different way, and principal J.B. Royer said that is important for the student-teacher relationship.

“It lets the kids see the teachers in a different light,” Royer said. “They get to see them in a competitive mode instead of the teacher standing there teaching.”

D.J. Henkle, an Seymour Middle School physical education teacher, participated in the basketball portion and said he thinks it adds a new element to the relationship between students and teachers.

“I think it’s fun for the students to see their teachers and coaches do things that they themselves enjoy dong — in this case play volleyball or basketball,” Henkle said. “It allows them to have some friendly competition and for the students who participate as spectators some good-natured fun cheering against the staff.”

Ryan Culbreth, a seventh grade language arts teacher, also played basketball and said it creates a more playful environment for the students.

“Since the kids see us as competitors, there is a certain level of camaraderie between the student athletes and the faculty,” he said.

Royer said in the past the teachers generally win, but there have been times when the students have won.

“Volleyball is generally a struggle and there has been a time or two where they’ve lost basketball,” he said. “They never heard the end of that and that’s why our staff is just as competitive as the students because they don’t ever want to hear that they’ve lost again.”

Students are selected based on a criteria of grades, attendance and behavior.

“They have to be making the grades and not have any outstanding detentions,” Royer said. “Most of them are on the basketball or volleyball teams, but we do have four or five this year that came out that did not play on the teams.”

Selection for the staff teams has a more lenient criteria.

“Whoever is brave enough to come out and do it,” Royer said with a laugh.

Royer said there had been friendly banter back-and-forth throughout the day leading up to the games.

“It all starts with the announcements in the morning where we tell the students they should prepare to lose,” he said. “You generally hear “You’re a little old” from the students and they ask if we will be able to return to school the next day.”

Culbreth said he hears critics the next day.

“I always hear, ‘Mr. Culbreth, you are awful at basketball,’” he said. Culbreth added the students make excuses like the referees were in favor of the staff or that the staff simply got lucky.

For Henkle, the heckling begins about a week before the event.

“There has been some fun back and forth with the students the last week or so leading up to the games,” he said. “Most of the comments have been about what they are going to do in the game and how bad the students will beat the staff. It’s all in good fun, and we like to remind the students ‘Winning Never Gets Old.’”

As for the game, the teachers won both the basketball and volleyball games to earn bragging rights.

But as many have said before, “there’s always next year.”