Calling all Fanatics

The Fanatics are a student group who show school spirit and support to athletic teams at home and away games.


‘Calling all Fanatics’ TItle Illustration by Chronicle Art Director Alexa Druyanoff

Allegra Drago

Dozens of fans donning bright red T-shirts with text reading, “I don’t know how to say this, but we’re kind of a big deal,” poured down from the stands, flooding the Sierra Canyon School basketball court as the clock hit zero in the school’s 63-60 win in the CIF Southern Section (CIF-SS) Open Division playoffs. Moments before, Head Fanatic Julianna Ross ‘22 led a deafening chant cheering the boys basketball team to victory.

The Fanatics are a student-led group established in 2006 who attend home and away school sports games to support their peers. A 2006 print of Vox Populi said the group cheered with unmatched enthusiasm.

“Led by incredibly enthusiastic seniors, what began as a small group of very loud cheerers evolved into almost a cult movement, with members even sporting bright red T-shirts to distinguish them from the crowd regulars,” Vox Populi wrote. “It was only to be expected of Harvard-Westlake’s cheering section.”

Ross, who was elected a Head Fanatics this fall, said her role involves informing the community about upcoming games, distributing Fanatics T-shirts and leading chants.

“I honestly am excited to support my peers and make them smile by just cheering them on and creating a happy spirit environment,” Ross said. “I think supporting each other can make such a positive difference in our mindsets and mental health overall. It’s so important to have some sort of leadership group or role in the crowd making the game more exciting.”

Ross said other than for the boys basketball finals, the Fanatics struggled to gather larger audiences at the beginning of the winter season.

“We got audiences for sports like soccer, for instance, but it was challenging gathering big crowds,” Ross said. “For field hockey, the Fanatics went to some big games. But none of these crowds compared to those of Homecoming in the fall.”

Fanatic Jade Zoller ’22 said she was impressed with the support the boys basketball team received in its game against Sierra Canyon School in the face of significant logistical challenges.

“The CIF-SS semifinal was by far one of the best games I have been to,” Zoller said. “Sierra Canyon [School] was not close in location, tickets were impossible to get and yet the [number] of Fanatics that showed up was amazing.”

Head Fanatic Ridley Berger-Sacks ’22 said that at the Sierra Canyon School basketball game, he noticed players from both teams interacting with the Fanatics. He said being close to the players throughout the game made the difference.

“[Cameron Thrower ’22] and [Dahnte Rusell ’22] looking at [the Fanatics] and trying to hype us up—it’s their signature,” Berger-Sacks said. “I know we get into the players’ heads while they play. For instance, [Sierra Canyon School senior Amari Bailey] definitely recognized us during the game. He made gestures to the Fanatics a couple of times and blew a kiss when he made a dunk.”

Zoller said the Fanatics act as a metaphorical “12th man” at games. She said being a Fanatic allows her to feel as though she is part of the competing team.

“The Fanatics remind whichever team is playing that they have this big group of students who care about them and want them to succeed,” Zoller said. “[The Fanatics] play the supporting role and help out in any way we can with our energy and school spirit.”

Zoller said she has noticed the positive impact the Fanatics have had on the teams. 

“The Fanatics bring so much energy and get the team going during the games,” Zoller said. “Coming from [the girls tennis] team that never really got any support from Fanatics, I can tell how big of a difference there is in the players’ demeanors when the Fanatics are there cheering for them. The environment is just so much happier and welcoming. I think our presence was definitely recognized between both teams.”

Boys Basketball Program Head David Rebibo said the Fanatics make a positive difference in games, especially during home games by inspiring and cheering the team on.

“The Fanatics are a huge part of athletics,” Rebibo said. “The pride and passion they show, impacts all programs and teams. Home court advantage is dependent on the presence of the Fanatics.” 

 Columnist Eric Sondheimer for the Los Angeles Times High School Sports emphasized the Fanatics when he tweeted about the school’s boys basketball program Feb. 19.

“The Fanatics are making so much noise I think Harvard-Westlake should play all their home games at Sierra Canyon,” Sondheimer wrote in a Tweet.

Head Fanatic Rohan Mehta ’23 said indoor sports like basketball and volleyball allow for a better connection between the Fanatics and the players.

“Being next to the court allows us to be more intimate with the players,” Mehta said. “The vocals echo and you [can] be a lot louder.”

Mehta said he hopes to gather more Fanatics for upcoming games in the spring.

“Going into the spring season we have lacrosse games, track and field meets and we also have boys volleyball,” Mehta said. “I look forward to going and being energetic.”

Boys basketball forward Jacob Huggins ’23 said he has noticed an improvement in his sports performance when the Fanatics are at games. 

“We didn’t have fans for a while at the beginning of the season,” Huggins said. “They bring a lot of energy and the team plays better when they are there.”

Huggins said hearing the encouragement from the Fanatics helped the team during the state championship playoffs. 

“Having my classmates watch me hypes me up and whenever I score it makes a big impact,” Huggins said. “Hearing my name being cheered and having that energy coming from the crowd is great.”

Swimmer Max Shapiro ’23 said he hopes to have the Fanatics cheer him on during meets.

“I would want [my peers] to come because like in football or basketball, it is more exciting as players when there is a lot of energy and noise during our meets,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro competed in the Easterns Interscholastic Swimming and Diving meet in Pennsylvania, he when he competed he appreciated the presence and energy of the crowd. He said he hopes to experience the same spirit at home meets. 

“When [the team] was in Pennsylvania, the pool was so loud and everyone was super hyped [that] I’d never enjoyed swimming more,” Shapiro said. “It’s also easier to go our fastest when we have our friends cheering for us.”

Nyla Shelton ‘24 said the student section at Homecoming allowed her to feel like a part of the school community. 

“Everyone’s energy and enthusiasm made [the football] Homecoming [game] a really unforgettable experience,” Shelton said. “I think that everyone holding posters and cheering our athletes on not only encouraged our athletes but also encouraged every student to continue attending future [school] games and tournaments.”