Spirited | Athletes, coaches reflect on impact of Tiger Nation

Senior Sabrina Leistikow jumps up celebrating at a football game.

Tiger Nation: Striped overalls, face paint and everything red, white and black. Since the position of a student section leader was contrived by the students themselves, the definition of what makes a student section leader varies from person to person. In this final article of the series, athletes and coaches will evaluate the importance of Tiger Nation and assess how school spirit makes a difference in their activities.

Athletes and coaches agree that the support of Tiger Nation can make a real difference in the way they play and ultimately influence the outcome of a game. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Ben Sernett- football/basketball

“It means a lot, just having the support of the school and our fellow classmates means a ton. Personally, it gives me a little more energy and makes me want to play better. I think it has a good impact on our energy because there is just a more vibrant feel in the gym. I personally think that during the Bettendorf football game that Tiger Nation gave us a little extra energy. It was a long, tough game, and they gave us an extra boost I think.”

Michael Goodenbour- cross country/track

“There aren’t many students that come to watch cross country or track meets purely because they aren’t as entertaining as say a football or basketball game. I don’t believe that Tiger Nation is against supporting some sports; it’s just that football and basketball are much more popular sports and much more entertaining for more people. And, the fact that football games are in the Dome so it serves as more of a social outing rather than actually watching the game.”

Raelynn Strelow- wrestling

“I think they are very supportive when it comes to football, but for wrestling they didn’t post much or anything. I personally don’t let it get to me, but it is kind of frustrating how nothing is said about wrestling when we work very hard and we have boys that made it to State and Abbie and I placing at State. It kinda brings people down knowing that we have had a great season and there are boys that have done amazing things and didn’t get any congrats from any of Tiger Nation; whereas, if it was football season and there was a big win, it would be posted on Tiger Nation immediately. I think wrestling along with some other sports deserve as much recognition as football gets.”

Xavier Faucon- football

“The energy that Tiger Nation brought to the football games this year translated over to our players and playstyle directly. We were able to come back and win big games such as Bettendorf and Hempsted in part because of the energy from the stands. It also gives us as players another reason to do our best and compete at a high level… The 2018 State Championship: I remember walking down the hallway that leads to the Dome and looking to my left and seeing red everywhere I looked. Honestly, that’s by far the coolest memory I have that deals with football. Thousands of fans from Tiger Nation all ready to back us up as we competed for the State Championship. Not only were we playing for ourselves and our coaches, but also for everyone that came and cheered us. Yeah, we didn’t win, but without Tiger Nation there to support us, we most likely wouldn’t have played as well as we did that day, or have the jaw-dropping 12-1 record that year.”

Sarimah Ogbondah- 


“If the student section leaders don’t tweet about it, no one will even know when we have competitions or showcases right at CFHS. And that goes for soccer too as far as home games and senior night. I don’t expect everyone to want to show up, but it’d be so nice to feel as though we had our school behind us, supporting and cheering us on. (For other sports) I think it (Tiger Nation) gives most of our students a feeling of ownership over our sports and really encourages school spirit. I love it and all the cute traditions we do each year.”

Jada Golden-Smith- volleyball

“Tiger Nation’s support means the world to me and the team, seeing your own peers come to cheer us on and help us be confident in ourselves helps more than they think. It affects me in a good way personally because they’re always cheering us on and sometimes they’ll call us out individually if we do something good, and it helps with my confidence in myself. We love to get crazy when the crowd gets crazy, and that’s definitely what we saw down at State. When we’re excited, they’re excited, and it’s really cool to see us all get along over sports. Tiger Nation really showed out at State. We had an insane amount of students there to cheer us on and help us win the title. When we were down, they tried everything to pick us back up and get our head in the game as well. Their energy was incredible all three days.”

Madison Gonnerman- 


“Swimming doesn’t get as much attention as some of the other sports, but we do get some. For senior night and for championship meets we tend to get a bit more recognition, which is nice because those are the bigger moments in the season anyways. It has more of a team impact than an individual impact when we get recognition, and it’s nice to feel like your sport is cared about, so when we get attention it does hype us up a little bit and make us feel more valued.”

Jack Plagge- wrestling/student section leader

“I wish all sports could get the same recognition; however, I agree with the statement Wedgbury said about it really reflects what the public does (see “What it takes to lead a nation”). Some of the less popular sports at CFHS don’t get as much recognition from students or citizens of Cedar Falls. As a wrestler myself, I have felt the same way in previous years about not getting much recognition, but if I’m being honest, not a lot of people care for the sport. We appreciate the people who do come to suppor. It’s awesome. However, whether we tweet something or not, it doesn’t show a big enough significance with attendance.”

Gregg Groen- women’s basketball coach

“The best games for athletes to play in (or for coaches to coach in) are the games where athletes can play in front of a great student body section. Athletes want to play in front of their peers, and they want the support. Just being there to support the teams goes a long way.”

Ryan Schultz- 

men’s basketball coach

“Tiger Nation’s support is absolutely huge for our program. The atmosphere and support provided by Tiger Nation can change the entire feeling in the gym and make such a positive impact on the performance of our team.  I am so thankful for the positive support Tiger Nation provides, and the contributions they make are so crucial and extremely appreciated by myself and our entire team. When the gym is rocking and the positive vibes are coming from Tiger Nation, our team feels it, and it can absolutely make a huge impact on the outcome of games.”

Matt Johnson- 

women’s volleyball coach

“I think our athletes do a good job in the regular season in preparing to play at a high level regardless of where we are playing or who is in the stands. That being said, there is a huge benefit to playing at home and our girls seeing the amount of support that they have.  It has also been pretty special the last four years to see the number of fans who have traveled to Cedar Rapids for state volleyball. I think there are a lot of aspects at state volleyball that can be a little overwhelming.  It does wonders for our students to see the number of fans that show up and show up early for matches. To be able to see cars on the way down, walk through crowds before and after matches and see other teams overwhelmed at the amount of fans helps make for a memorable experience for our girls and intimidating for opponents.”

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