The unlikeliest of champions: St. Gregory’s Academy
Only at a school like St. Gregory’s Academy would the groundwork for a District 2 championship originate in a monastery in France.
The Highlanders, with the smallest enrollment of the schools that play soccer in the district, proudly trace their success to a trip to Europe last spring.
The success of the soccer team, and for that matter the senior class at the all-boys boarding school, arose from a spring trip to France.
“The boys went on a pilgrimage, with about 20,000 others (from around the world), from Paris to Chartres Cathedral, which dates back to the ninth century,” St. Gregory’s head dorm father Matthew Schultz said. “It houses the veil of the Blessed Mother.”
Highlander soccer players Alex Michel, Simon Dart, Joseph Long, Frank Pouliot, Brian Redmond and Zach Bateman were among those participating in the pilgrimage’s three-day, 75-mile walk.
The school’s web site has a section about the importance of music and performing arts at the academy. Music is given its due as a way to form character and delight the soul, highlighting both folk music, with its rich story-telling songs, and Gregorian chant, an ancient expression of worship in the Catholic faith.
Soccer games involving St. Gregory’s are unlike any other in the area. The bleachers filled by the small St. Gregory’s student body back their fellow students with loud songs and chants throughout the game.
Unlike the hooligans that disrupt games around the world with derogatory or even racist taunts, these cheers are all positive and designed to help the Highlanders.
“When you’re a little down after messing up, (the crowd) gets you back into it,’’ Redmond said. “They’ve never given up on us, why should we give up on ourselves? It’s very inspiring.”
Berg appreciates what an advantage the Highlanders have.
“They make you lose your voice as a coach,” Berg said. “Trying to yell instructions to your players, maybe you can yell to midfield. It’s impossible to be heard by the guys on the far side of the field.”
More impressive than that is the fact that all of the cheering, singing and chanting is all positive. No disparaging remarks about the opposition.
“I’ve never heard a negative comment,” Berg said. “It’s always a song or a chant, and it’s all very respectful.”
In fact, the school received a letter from a soccer referee who had never done a St. Gregory’s game before he officiated one of the District 2 playoff games.
“St. Gregory’s Academy renewed my own enjoyment of officiating soccer at the high school level when I witnessed the school representatives, coaches, players, scorekeeper, ball boys, bagpipers, flag-wavers and students demonstrating a rare school spirit which was both refreshing and spiritually uplifting to me,” the referee wrote. “The skill level and sportsmanship displayed by the Highlanders was outstanding which was certainly a reflection of their coach and school.
“The camaraderie among the players was great. I heard only positive reinforcement from coaches and players: no negative sarcasm when a player missed an opportunity or misplayed a ball.”
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