Agawam High School sophomores Dawood Atanane, left, and Aiden Therrien are using Instagram to promote and recognize the work of the school’s athletes.

Reminder Publishing photo by Mike Lydick

AGAWAM — A group of Agawam High School students are using social networking to boost school spirit and create more excitement for home sports events.

Last November, Aiden Therrien, a soccer and volleyball player, founded a team of students with a common goal of promoting and recognizing the work of AHS athletes on a daily basis. He created an Instagram account, @agawamathletics. It started with just Therrien and has expanded to 10 contributors, all of them working for a better environment for athletes and the school in general.

“I founded this group because I noticed our school’s lack of a strong presence at our home games — and I knew something needed to change,” said Therrien during a presentation at the April 23 School Committee meeting.

“As an athlete, I know how important this is to everyone involved, which is why we’re putting the work in to make this an amazing project,” said Therrien, who was joined at the presentation by another member of the group, sophomore Dawood Atanane.

Atanane, who plays soccer, said he joined the group because he felt he had “the energy and drive to push this idea to the masses.” He said he always compared AHS to Minnechaug Regional High School and West Springfield High School.

“But our school doesn’t really have as much of a spirit as I would like, as compared to those schools, where they have the energy at the games. For me, that energy drives student athletes not only to play better, but also to perform better within the school,” said Atanane.

Therrien said in the short time the group has been working toward its goal of improving school spirit, the group has made several accomplishments:

  • Media day: Planned and successfully ran a professional-level media day for AHS athletes.
  • Gameday posts: Created posts to inform people of upcoming home games.
  • Live score updates: Updated and shared final scores on the page after every home game.
  • Sports schedules: Posted all dates and locations of spring games.
  • Photography: Recruited several well-trained photographers to cover a majority of games.
  • Player interviews: Interviewed players after games for a live look from the athletes’ perspective.

The @agawamathletics Instagram page currently has nearly 700 followers.

“This is a huge milestone. It shows what we’re doing is working — people in town recognize what we have and want to see what we put out,” said Atanane.

Therrien said while the group has some plans for its future, including integrating with Facebook and perhaps other forms of social media, it’s focusing on getting a dedicated group of fans who will help them increase school spirit and positively impact game results.

“We plan on expanding and taking on more members, as well as making Game Day posts for not only home [games], but also away games,” he said. “We also want to do some fundraising to increase the size and the quality of events we bring to the pages.”

The sophomores gave a special thanks to Athletic Director Karen Gomez and AHS Principal Jim Blain.

“They worked closely with us and always put our group as a top priority,” said Therrien. “Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible — it would have been just me running it. I would have been lost.”

Following their presentation, School Committee members shared enthusiasm in their support of the student initiative.

“This is a great idea. You do need the energy to keep the games going,” said Shelley Borgatti-Reed. “I think you’re doing a great thing. And I hope it works out. It looks like your numbers are increasing, so keep it going.”

A.J. Christopher praised Therrien and Atanane for their leadership roles on the initiative. “To see a group of students wanting to bring the energy and community involvement to sports is very impactful,” said Christopher. “If it’s brought down from an administration, it’s all just one more thing. But when you and your peers are out there driving it, I think it’s a huge accomplishment. I give you guys a lot of credit.”

“I think this is phenomenal. I’m so impressed,” said Wendy Rua. “You’re examples of some fine leaders. Good job.”

Catherine McDougal also was impressed, particularly with the images.

“The photographs look like professional quality to me. And your media spots, your game day posters, are also equally impressive — some great graphic design,” said McDougal. “Kudos to the team for putting together not only this initiative, but such high-quality work.”

Michael Perry, a former AHS athlete, said the project is good for team and individual sports.

“I think it’s great — I’ve heard talk about getting more school spirit involved in sports, so I think what you guys are doing is awesome.”