School Spirit Soars with the Wyvern Den

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On Dec. 20, 2021, like many other KO students, I woke up with no voice, courtesy of the KITs. In my five years at KO, none of my KIT experiences came close to the thrill of last year’s. Wild cheers and rowdy fans set Hewett Gym on fire, propelling our varsity basketball teams to victory. For KO’s newfound school spirit (and my lost voice), I had the Wyvern Den to thank.

The three founders of the Wyvern Den from KO’s recently graduated Class of 2022 were inspired to start the account by the value they saw in support and engagement with high school sports. As a transfer student to KO from a public high school with a raring student section, Kaiya Deurloo ’22 saw an opening for new energy in Wyvern sports. An avid viewer of local high school football, Pat Schwab ’22 felt the connection between school spirit and success on the field and wanted to build that opportunity for our teams. And as a seven-year senior with a vision for the KO community, Allie Wildstein ’22 valued the support of KO athletics and knew that clear communication about sports events would be the key to building a spirited sports fanbase. And so, the Wyvern Den was born.

Kaiya shared the ethos behind which she, Allie, and Pat founded the Wyvern Den. “Allie, Pat, and I had the realization that sports at KO were not as worshiped or appreciated,” she shared, “which for me was very different from my public school, so we thought it would be a really good and fun idea for all of us to be more involved with the KO sports community.” 

Pat agreed, sharing how the fan culture he observed at other high schools was an impetus for starting the account. “I wanted to create a strong fan section at my own high school and knew that, with a tight-knit community like the one at KO, it was a feasible task,” he said.

The Wyvern Den has held true to its promise of being a student-run effort, but gaining support from the administration was crucial to its success. “My original idea when I founded the Instagram account was to keep it completely student-led with no input from any school administrators,” Pat shared. “This quickly proved to be impractical and inefficient, and I found a lot more success during the winter when I worked directly with Julie and Josh as partners to the fan section.” 

Director of Athletics Josh Balabuch commented on the student-administration connection that helped the Wyvern Den come to fruition. “I helped the students on the administrative end by pushing for the Instagram account and the Wyvern Den social media,” Mr. Balabuch commented. “A lot of the work with starting the Wyvern Den was the student body, and I do what I can to support them.”

The Den functioned through an Instagram account @thewyvernden, where team captains would send information about their games, times, and themes for the Wyvern Den leaders to post for the community. “It gave people the schedules so everyone knew when games were happening, and it definitely made people more excited to actually want to go to games,” Kaiya reflected, “especially on occasions when we could do spirit themes.” Mr. Balabuch praised the Wyvern Den as a true example of KO student engagement, where students were able to identify something the community needed and implement something to make it a reality.

When the Wyvern Den leaders of the 2021-2022 school leaders graduated, they focused on not only leaving a legacy on the community but ensuring the longevity of their initiative by passing it down to the next generation of student-athletes. The Wyvern Den leaders for the 2022-2023 school year are seniors Keira Sullivan, Jill Plaut, Max Sams, and Cody Brew. “I am already really happy to see that the people running the account this year have been posting on it and keeping it alive,” Allie commented. “The account had a major impact, especially during the winter basketball season, and I am glad to see it is already having an effect this fall.”

Keira shared that what drives her as a Wyvern Den leader this year is to create representation for female student-athletes. “As a student-athlete, I feel that KO does a lot of great things within our community, but I think one of the things that we need to focus on is valuing our female athletes a little bit better,” Keira noted. “I felt it was important to get involved as a female student-athlete to be a voice for other female athletes at the school.” 

Mr. Balabuch echoed Keira’s sentiments when looking toward the future of the Wyvern Den. “I hope that we can promote every sport respectfully and equitably,” he said. “Regardless of wins and losses, we should make sure that we’re coming together and supporting each of our teams with the same love.”

In addition to using social media to promote sporting events at KO, the Wyvern Den has expanded the scope of its spirit in many aspects. “We’ve sold long sleeve Wyvern Den T-shirts this year,” Jill shared, “and Keira and I are planning on putting up a big banner that says “The Den” in Hewett so people know the designated student section.” Kaiya praised their initiatives. “I think the idea of making Wyvern Den shirts is genius,” she said, “and it makes me happy to see that people are still wanting to carry it on and make sure that school spirit is still strong at KO.”

At its core, the goals of the Wyvern Den go beyond just cheering at games, but are fully rooted in support and community.  “I feel like a lot of what KO considers its core values to be is supporting other people in your community,” Keira shared, “and I think that needs to extend to athletics as well.” Mr. Balabuch agreed. “When you’re an athlete, while there’s nothing better than going and beating a visiting team in front of their home crowd, a very close second is when you walk into your home gym and everyone’s cheering behind you and has your back,” he said. “I get goosebumps talking about it. The athletes thrive on it, and the student body, the ones who go to the games, thrive on it as well.”

With the groundwork laid by the class of 2022 and the new initiatives created by the class of 2023, the future of the Wyvern Den looks bright. “My hope is that the account will continue to grow,” Pat concluded. “What we did should only be the beginning, and with each year, the account and fan section will grow stronger.” 

Allie reflected on the true purpose behind building school spirit at KO. “All I ever hope to see is for KO to thrive and for the students to become closer and enjoy their time here as much as I did,” she said, “and I am glad that the Den is just another way that students can do that.”