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Putting pep in their teams' steps

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Pep band gives Liberty High School hoop squads a big boost

By Mike Forster

When opposing basketball teams travel to Liberty’s gym, they have more to contend with than just the talent they face on the floor.

Liberty’s pep band gives the Minutemen and Minettes an extra edge over those teams.

The band is a 52-member dynamo that occupies an entire section of the gym’s stands.  Raucous and fun-loving, the band is on its way to being a younger version of Duke’s Cameron Crazies.

As with many large ventures, however, the band arose from humble beginnings.  Last season, the band drew a dozen members on a good night.

These days, with their wide selection of tunes and chants, the pep band is a juggernaut.

Minette Head Coach E.B. Watson stated, “I love the pep band.  They are a wonderful group of kids, and Mr. (Matthew) Farley is an exceptional (band director).  They radiate excitement and school spirit as soon as they walk into the gym.”

Players from both the girls’ and boys’ teams obviously appreciate the support of the band, as well.  They often exchange high-fives with band members in the school hallways.

“I think our pep band has done a really good job,” added Minutemen coach Jeff Monroe. “I think they bring an added excitement to the game.  They have really been our sixth man this year.”

Band member Sean Morton was the one who ran with the idea of a pep band, following up on Coach Monroe’s mention of it.  “Last year, I really pushed,” he said.  “Getting people to sign up was key.”

“I really needed (Coach Monroe) to tell me he wanted it,” added Farley.

With Monroe’s mandate in hand, the first iteration of the band was born mid-season.  It was a fun-loving group, but it wasn’t large enough to really stir up things.

This year, the growth was fed “through good, quality music and the kids seeing the fun we were having,” enthused Farley.

As band director, Farley sets the tone of his band.  He works with the members in selecting tunes, of which two are added each week.  

Farley is also the front man and, as such, has been seen to dance, a bit.  “I can’t be self-conscious,” he explained.  “If I don’t give my all, the kids won’t.”

Farley noted that bands were first brought to sporting events to provide entertainment during lulls in the action.  “Those are our roots,” he said.

A graduate of the prestigious Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (and the less-prestigious Brookville High School), Farley takes his music seriously, as do his charges.

“There is a lot of time involved,” said senior Brittney Arrington,  “but I don’t regret it.”

Arrington, like Morton, was a founding member of the group.  Another aspect of the band that she likes is its closeness to the actual game.  “In marching band, we’re there to perform a show,” she said.  “In pep band, you really pay attention and are into the game.  My appreciation for basketball has grown.”

Arrington and Morton, by the way, served as drum majors for the marching band last autumn.  The band earned three “superior” ratings in five competitions—truly a banner year.

When discussing the pep band, however, Morton seemed to beam. “We’re more integrated into the game.  In football, we’re off to the side.  In basketball, we’re part of the game.”

Coach Watson agrees with that assessment.  “It’s nice having time outs with them playing loudly, because my team and I are used to the noise and how to communicate,” she stated.  “You can see many other teams players being confused after timeouts or just during the game due to the noise.”

Noisy, yes; but not in an obnoxious fashion.  “We work very early in the year on decorum and carrying yourself with respect,” noted Farley.  “It begins to be part of their behavior.”

Since the vast majority of pep band members are also in the marching band and all of them are in a band class at school, there is a great camaraderie among them.

Getting participation these days is not a challenge.  “You get the fun of a basketball game, you get to hone your skills and you get to be sociable in a safe environment,” said Farley, ticking off the positives of participating in one of the very few pep bands in Central Virginia.  “The kids get to be themselves.”

  That enjoyment is not lost on the teams.  “Each member puts all their energy into the game, and I along with my team greatly appreciate it,” added Coach Watson.

Farley is certainly enjoying the experience, saying, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world to get this job and these kids.”

That sentiment was certainly reciprocated.  “I feel privileged to say I’m in the pep band,” said Arrington.  “It’s pretty cool.”