Rockbridge Academy Blog
The Athens Eagles are winning 14-13 against the Siena Rams in an intense volleyball game. Senior Timi Akinyelu executes a flawless jump serve that is received by Miss Knoll in the back row, the ball floats to 9th grader Ella Spraul who sets up junior Linus Salada and he spikes it down right past 7th grader Parker Chason as she dives for the ball. But what is this? Linus Salada calls a net violation on himself; the point goes to Athens! The Eagles continue their volleyball dominance and the entire house erupts in cheers. The school bell rings and all of the students quickly clear out of the gym as they head to 5th period. This fictional scene describes the atmosphere that can be found at Rockbridge’s campus on most Fridays during Conference Time when intramural sports take place. Capture the flag, volleyball, and ultimate frisbee are the fall, winter, and spring intramural sports respectively.
In 2021, Rockbridge Academy introduced a new House System. Every upper school student, 7th-12th grade, and the upper school teachers were assigned one of five houses. The houses are named after cities visited by Rockbridge seniors on Grand Tour. Each house has a symbol and colors taken from 5 of the 17 historic contrade, or districts, of Siena. There is the house of Athens (blue and yellow with an eagle symbol), the house of Rome (black and white with a wolf symbol), the house of Corinth (white and sky blue with a dolphin symbol), the house of Florence (pink and green with a dragon symbol), and the house of Siena (red and yellow with a ram symbol). Once in a house, the student will remain in that house for all of their years at Rockbridge. The houses are evenly divided between the grades and sexes. The House System was primarily designed to encourage and organize service among all of the upper school Rockbridge students. For example, each house is assigned mentoring with the grammar students based on the day of the week.
The Rockbridge house intramurals program was born in November of 2021 when teachers and administrators were discussing how to best use the new 30-minute Conference Time following the upper school lunch period. Now, on almost every Friday starting at noon, four out of the five houses are found competing in various sports. Each sports season consists of 6 weeks of competition. In the sixth week, the two teams with the best records play in a championship competition to determine the Intramurals House Champion. Intramurals give Rockbridge students the opportunity to play sports not already offered in the athletic program.
House Intramurals allow students to engage in physical activity, experience the crucible of self-governed competition, and enjoy the community God has placed them in.
Hours of sitting in a chair, no matter how engaging the subject and the teacher nor how diligent the student, is bound to produce restlessness. God created the human body for movement and when students are able to get away from their desks and participate in physical activity the benefits abound. Exercise reduces stress and increases cognitive function. Exposing students to a variety of sports contributes to the larger goal of developing well-rounded students. While 30 minutes of physical activity in a week is not nearly enough for a healthy upper school student, it fulfills part of the daily recommendation and helps build a positive relationship with physical activity. Volleyball in particular has shown to be a favorite activity among the students which led to a weekly volleyball night over the summer.
House Intramurals are a student-led activity. The students decide who gets to play and who does not, and the students are responsible for following the rules and keeping score. The competition between houses should be spirited, meaning everyone wants their team to win. This combination presents a low-risk but real-life opportunity to practice St. Augustine’s idea of rightly ordered loves. A senior team captain in charge of creating the team lineup may desire to win this game of capture the flag while also desiring to see an enthusiastic yet unathletic 7th grade student get to play. Another student may desire to score the go-ahead point in ultimate frisbee, but she also wants to tell the truth about stepping out of bounds on the catch. None of these interests are wrong, but having the choice to do the one that is more God-honoring is difficult. When a player gets their loves out of order they experience the consequences and hopefully, a teammate is there to encourage them in the truth and wisdom of the Word. This student-led sports competition also provides room for growth in conflict resolution. Conflicts between students have and will continue to bubble up when competing, which opens the door for following the teaching found in Matthew 18. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus lays out a preferential sequence to follow when faced with sin between Christians. First, go to your brother alone and point out their fault, next, bring along a witness or two, and finally, if needed, raise the issue to the Christian leaders. Rockbridge staff members will step in when necessary, but the desire is to see students working through these challenges.
The house system assigns teams within a community which often results in groups of otherwise segregated individuals. Even in a school as small as Rockbridge, an 8th-grade girl might not choose to interact with an 11th-grade boy, but when they score a point together in volleyball they naturally turn and give each other a smiling high five. A student involved in theater that does not normally associate with a basketball player can earn an out together on the kickball field. Even when a teacher rolls up his sleeves and whips a dodgeball across the gym at a student, that teacher begins to create a unique bond with his students. God has brought every Rockbridge student and staff member together in a Christian community. Rockbridge is more than just a school, it is a body of believers living life together. God charges His people to have fellowship with one another, and extracurricular activities are a wonderful way to build relationships and create memories among brothers and sisters in Christ.
In order for house intramurals to have the greatest impact on the culture at Rockbridge Academy, there has to be involvement. Participation from every house member, from 7th-12th grade, boys and girls, students and teachers, athletes and non-athletes is vital! Not every house member will be able to play every week, but they should at least try to play at some point in the school year. Even so, competition on the field is not the sole avenue for student involvement; the cheering section adds to the atmosphere and a lively mascot raises the excitement. Each team needs artistic students to contribute their skills when designing house swag and banners. It comes down to every house member having pride in their house and a desire to see their house rise above the rest, whether in their play, their cheers, or their designs.
Participation in house intramurals is about far more than playing games; it results in character growth, interpersonal skills, camaraderie, and growth in conflict resolution, discretion, and sound judgement.
On my last morning at Rockbridge Academy, my classmates and I all came together for one last joint homeroom. Miss Scheie passed out the hymn books one more time and aptly chose for us to sing “Be Thou My Vision.” Suddenly I found myself close to tears, surrounded by classmates and friends, all lifting our voices up as one body praising our Lord and asking for His guidance in this next chapter of our lives. The rest of the day I walked the halls humming that tune, the words repeating in my head over and over. This day is representative of many I have had in the past at Rockbridge. The prominence of singing at Rockbridge Academy demonstrates its importance for instilling truth and fostering unity.
The prominence of singing at Rockbridge Academy demonstrates its importance for instilling truth and fostering unity.
Singing is not scarce at Rockbridge Academy. From staff prayer to joint homeroom to Monday morning assemblies, the words of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” the Doxology, and other hymns float through the halls. Singing is a prominent technique in the grammar school, and you won’t make it through a Rockbridge event without singing or being sung to. We even spent a whole Apologetics class putting the Beatitudes to the tune of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me.” This is primarily due to the fact that singing helps with memory. Our grammar students can name all the states or rattle off grammar rules because they learned a song for it. However, singing as a tool for memory has more uses than just to memorize facts.
One day in my junior year, I was at an early morning FCA Bible Study and we were talking about singing. One senior made the point that what we sing stays in our heads and permeates our thoughts. Everybody has had some song stuck in their head that they just can't seem to get rid of. Well, it doesn’t have to be an annoying pop song that permeates your thoughts. I experienced the positive end of singing on the last day of my senior year after singing “Be Thou My Vision.” Instead of the chorus to Justin Bieber’s “Baby”, my mind was whirling with words praising God and reminding me to focus on Christ. By singing hymns frequently, Rockbridge was filling our heads with beautiful Gospel truths that would permeate our thoughts throughout the day, week, and even year.
As well as instilling truth, singing as a body creates unity with your fellow singers. When we sing as one body, we are lifting up our individual voices to become one voice proclaiming one truth. The old and young, the mature in faith and new Christians, those in mourning and those rejoicing: when we sing we demonstrate that we are one body. That is what brought me close to tears in my last homeroom: despite differences and even disagreements I may have with my classmates, we are still able to come together, shoulder to shoulder, and proclaim Jesus’ name.
…when we sing we demonstrate that we are one body…despite differences and even disagreements I may have with my classmates, we are still able to come together, shoulder to shoulder, and proclaim Jesus’ name.
On Grand Tour, my class had several opportunities to sing together. One opportunity was in the Tomb of Agamemnon at Mycenae. The egg-shape of the tomb gave it great acoustics, so we stood in the middle and sang the Doxology. The whole site went quiet as we sang. Tourists stopped moving and guides stopped talking. Many of these people didn’t even speak our language, yet they were silenced and stilled. Whether it was out of awe or reverence or simple respect I don’t know, but to me it demonstrated the power of song. It was evident not through our words, but through our unity as a group lifting up our voices that we were honoring something bigger. Indeed, we were praising the God of our universe.
You do not have to be a good singer for singing to impact you. I would be the first to admit I lack singing abilities—I can’t even read sheet music. Thankfully, that is not required to sing with your community and praise our God. The next time you find yourself singing in church or at Rockbridge, close your eyes and listen. Hear the ten, twenty, thirty, or a hundred people around you singing the same song, worshiping the same God. This is the body of Christ. I hope you continue to sing often and sing loud, praising the name of your Lord and Savior. I would like to leave you with the words I was left with at the closing of my time at Rockbridge:
True Light of heaven, when vict’ry is won
may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
from Be Thou My Vision
Olivia Reardon, ‘22, attends Messiah University where she continues to pursue her passion for teaching, writing, and dance. She loves reading, spending time with friends, and eating ice cream.