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High school stadiums light up to support students in Colorado

Social media challenge growing across the state during pandemic

Photo courtesy Kyle Rider/@coachkrider on Twitter
Adams 12’s North Stadium, home to Legacy’s sports teams, lights the lights for the #BeTheLightCO movement on Twitter as a shown of support to students stuck at home for the remainder of the school year.
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Friday night lights. It’s a staple in high school sports, where communities come together to stadiums across the state to watch their hometown teams battle.

The lights surrounding those stadiums shine bright for all kinds of sporting events over the course of the school year. For many students, it will be the only chance they will get to play under the lights in their career.

Photo courtesy Ryan Bishop/@Boulderfootball on Twitter
Recht Field turns the lights on for the #BeTheLightCO movement on Twitter earlier this week.

But at a time when a global pandemic shuts down schools, postpones a sporting season that may eventually be canceled outright, and forces an entire state in a stay-at-home order, those lights that are supposed to be shining for games this spring have gone dark, and with it a sense of a lost season hovers across the state.

“This really has left me wondering when we are going to be able to get back on the field,” Boulder coach Ryan Bishop said. “I get an email or a text a day from my golfers, my football players and my basketball players asking me when I think they can return and I’m not able to give them an answer.”

Over the past couple of weeks, those stadium lights are coming back on for brief period in communities across the state. High schools in Colorado are turning on the lights at the stadiums as a beacon of hope at a time the pandemic has taken much away from them.

The trend is known on social media with the hashtag #BeTheLightCO and began last week when a few select schools decided to turn on the lights at their football stadiums to show student support. The movement grew across the state, and now a healthy number of schools are taking part.

“We really picked up on it through Twitter,” said Chase McBride, the St. Vrain Valley School District athletic director. “There were schools around the state already doing it and challenged somebody else to do it. As it moved our way, we thought that it would be appropriate and fitting for us to do that as a group.”

Photos and videos of lit, empty stadiums coupled with a message of support have spread on social media since.

Even the schools who do not have a football stadium with lights are finding ways to light up and show support. Silver Creek High School put together a message of lights reading “Creek Strong” that shines along the fence through which playing fields are accessed. At Dawson School, their scoreboard at the soccer field was lit up with 20’s spread across the board, a sign of support for the seniors in their final semester of high school.

It’s a message the schools hope shows their students that they are there for them, even from distance.

“It’s one way we can tell them that we love them, we miss them and we hope they are doing well,” McBride said. “It’s a simple approach to unify by turning the lights on.”

Bishop also uses the lights at Boulder’s Recht Field as a challenge to his student-athletes to give back to their community. His athletes have answered that call, with some of the students gifting items to a local firehouse or other first-responder entities, as well as finding other ways to help their community.

“When they look at those lights, we want them to do something about it,” Bishop said. “These are the kind of things that make me happy as a coach. I would like to win state titles and be the best in the state, but teaching them about something bigger like this, that’s what this is about.”

The lights will continue shining at high school fields in the area. Boulder plans to continue turning on the lights at Recht Field once a week. This Friday, the SVVSD will do a unity lighting with all of its schools that have stadiums and lights. From 7:30 to 8 p.m., all the stadiums will turn their lights on. Everly-Montgomery Field in Longmont will be lit, as well as the fields at Lyons, Erie, Frederick and Mead high schools.