New Stadium, New Energy

NHS community rallies around football program as a new age is born.

Ian Pigors and Maggie Hoppel

It’s human nature to associate objects with abstract ideas—to unravel something we can see and touch and smell into a concept we can feel in our hearts and consider in our minds. It’s called symbolism, and it’s everywhere. From the Disney castle to the American flag to the Starbucks mermaid whose appearance never fails to instill in us the relentless, animal craving for a fresh latte, interpreting a deeper significance from the world around us helps to make sense of it all.

As for one of the most prominent symbols for NHS students this year? It’s the new football stadium being constructed right outside the school. The stadium serves as a physical reminder of the growth of the NHS football program as a whole. And, though unfinished, this massive, almost out of place structure, along with community support and a newfound confidence in the football team as a whole, has led the Noblesville Football program to a place where the players feel that they can do something special. 

So far, the new mindset has indeed translated to the field. In their first two games, Noblesville has outscored their opponents by a combined 54 points. They are 2-0 for the first time in over a decade and ranked seventeenth in the state. 

So what exactly is driving this newfound confidence? According to senior defensive tackle Joshua Rodgers, it’s senior leadership coupled with shared experiences that have brought the Millers together more this year.

“The biggest change I can say that contributed to the attitude change is the seniors this year,” Rodgers said. “A lot of the seniors take pride in leading whatever position they’re a part of— every team needs leaders and we have those. The coaching staff has seen us go through all the losing so them pushing us forward has been a big help to team spirit [as well].”

Like many others before them, players say that the key to the Millers’ success is a tight-knit team working toward a more optimistic approach to the game and each other. And on the front lines of this mental battle is the class of 2022, doing everything possible to make their best of their senior year in the wake of a pandemic. 

“Most of our leadership has come from seniors like Jacob Hofmann with the talks he gives or Sam Steinhofer leading by his skill or many others like Connor [Meinerding, senior quarterback], Jacob [Long, senior offensive lineman], Alairic [Rogers Walton, senior runningback] and so on. You can just feel the energy of everyone wanting to be better this year,” senior Caleb Saylor said. 

Using all available resources to further NHS’s football program as much as possible—sound familiar? It should. What the football team is doing this year mirrors the transition from Beaver Field to the new stadium. It feels like springtime this fall, and all areas of this program are in bloom.

“It’s like a whole new team,” Saylor said. And, sure enough, the new stadium continues to exist as an amplifier of both their collective attitude and success on the field. 

“I would say that [the stadium] does give us more motivation to work hard. It makes practice a lot easier too because we have new fields and more space on the fields,” Saylor said. 

To the team, the new stadium is a reassurance of sorts: It guarantees the equipment and space needed for effective preparation. It’s relieving. And stress relief is one of the quickest routes to a more positive mindset. 

And a positive mindset, players and coaches say, equates to positive results.

“Your mental approach for how you approach your preparation is as important as the actual preparation … that’s any sport, any task that requires effort: being a good student, being a good person. It requires a thought process,” Michael Rothrock, NHS psychology teacher, said.

“Having a positive attitude helps people focus on what they’re doing—it lowers their anxiety, it raises their confidence,” Stephanie Gilbert, NHS psychology teacher, added, “It helps their cognitive functioning, which, if you’re going to talk psychology, is going to translate to the football field.”

The attitude shift, according to the players, has certainly led to a change in confidence and belief in themselves. “Overall we feel very confident about this team,” senior Brayan Gomez Sanchez said. “I think at this point it’s become personal to prove people wrong. We’ve had two different coaches and I just believe we have so much talent in this senior class that we have confidence now.. we are doing this for us seniors to open up a path for the younger guys.” Sanchez added.

Gilbert suspects that the perks of the new facility are not the only elements at play. It’s the people cheering from the stands inside that really count. 

“[Football games] are a community event, so I think that that’s also what the new facilities represent, it’s for the entire community, it’s for anybody in Noblesville to come support the football team,” Gilbert said. “I would feel pretty motivated if I could see that kind of support.”

For players like Saylor, Rodgers, and Gomez Sanchez, the motivation of seeing fans cheering them on and believing in their ability to succeed is a huge motivating factor. 

“I didn’t think fans would give so much support at first given our past records. But it helps hype me up and most likely everyone else knowing the fans are going to support us the way you guys have been doing. It makes games 100x more fun for sure,” Saylor explained. 

There’s not one thing you can say that specifically encompasses the newfound success the Miller football program is embracing. But as the new bleachers and turf are being implemented, players feel a new dawn has risen for the program. 

As Senior Tanner Gibson puts it, “It feels amazing to see everyone having a good time at a Millers football game again.”