What is tradition?
In high school football, it’s a multitude of things: some verbal, some visual, some physical, some emotional.
But at its core, tradition is the fiber that connects a program’s past to its present and the future.
It can be something as simple as team colors or a school nickname. The hallowed ground a team plays on. The way they enter a stadium — captains and seniors up front? Marching two-by-two? — right down to the color of their belts and shoelaces.
Tradition can be for an entire team — dinner the night before a game, or a pregame chant — or for the individual, who perhaps always puts his thigh pads into his pants carefully, left then right, and isn’t comfortable unless his jersey sleeves are tucked under his shoulder pads just right.
Here on the North Shore, our high school football teams ooze tradition. Schools like Salem, Beverly, Danvers, Peabody, Ipswich, Swampscott and Marblehead have been playing for more than 100 years, and the football folklore that has continued through the decades is as much a part of their gridiron lore as helmets and cleats.
These type of traditions, said Pingree School coach Chris Powers, tend to be more common in football than other sports.
“I definitely think so. I know when I think about baseball or my wife coaching lacrosse, I can’t think of any things like that that carry over,” he said. “It seems like in football these things are handed down team to team, and the kids really take a lot of pride in doing the traditions handed down to them.”
Carrying on the mythos
Tradition is more than just a nine-letter word in Ipswich. One of the state’s legendary football coaches, Jack Welch, started certain traditions nearly 50 years ago that the Tigers are still following to this day.