Dual role: Chartiers Valley students play football and in the band
As the clock winds down at the end of the first half, five Chartiers Valley football players toss aside their shoulder pads and helmets and pick up an instrument.
Instead of leaving the field, they head right back out to dance on the turf and perform as part of the Chartiers Valley Show band.
“I want to be different and I like to do both,” said junior Isaac Minnetti-Houser, 16, who plays guard and defensive end on the varsity football team and bass drum in the show band. “I do band, because it’s fun and we’re pretty good at it … and I’ve always loved playing football.”
Nearly every year, there’s at least one student at Chartiers Valley who performs a dual role as both a member of the football team and show band. That number has grown over the years, students say.
Varsity football head coach Dan Knause and band director Steve Wilson work with students to make both commitments possible.
“People like to put a tug of war between arts and sports, and it doesn’t have to be that way. They can excel at both,” Knause said. “You want these kids to be well-rounded individuals. We kind of take that philosophy with other sports, too. You want them to experience different things. I think it’s healthy for kids to experience different avenues of other sports and other arts. You don’t want to deprive them of those opportunities.”
Freshman Connor Schultz, 14, who plays trumpet in the show band and offensive tackle and defensive end for the JV football team, said he wanted to do both after seeing upperclassman make it work.
“I came to a game before and I saw a football player playing in the band and I said, ‘That’s going to be me one day!’ ” added freshman Tony Vanzin, 14, who plays tuba in the show band and center and defensive tackle on the JV football team.
The JV football team dresses for all varsity games and sometimes plays if the team is up — or down — by a lot.
There’s no conflict during the week, with band practice held during homeroom and first period and football practice held after school,
However, in the summer, there is one week where band camp and football camp overlap.
During that week, the musicians/players get up early for football practice, take a break for lunch, head back out onto the field for band practice then stay after for more football.
“It’s really tough,” Minnetti-Houser said. “You leave your house at 6:30 in the morning and then you don’t get back until 8:30 at night.”
While they all agree football is more intense, they feel the summer heat more during band camp, as they’re not moving around as much.
“When you’re at football at first with your pads on, it doesn’t seem like it’s that hot out, but then you go to band camp and just sit there and I’d start dripping,” Vanzin said.
Freshman David Lundy, 14, a trumpet player in the show band and kicker on the JV football team, also plays on the school’s soccer team. Often, soccer and football practices do overlap, so he goes to one then bounces to the next.
On Friday nights, the players don’t perform with the band in the pre-game. But as the first half comes to an end, they get into their make-shift show band uniforms — taking off their shoulder pads and jerseys and wearing a red T-shirt — and dart across the field for their second role.
The show band doesn’t stand in one place. They’re often moving around and pumping up the energy for the crowd. That’s another workout in and of itself.
“You never get tired, it’s just adrenaline,” Minnetti-Houser said.
If the football team is losing, it can be hard at first to get into the groove. But after a few minutes, they are ready to entertain.
“Getting to look up at the stands and see all of the smiling faces, it just brings joy to you,” said freshman Robert Cibrone, 14, who plays the saxophone in the show band and center, guard and defensive tackle on the JV football team.
By the time the 10-minute show is over, they’re recharged and ready for the second half.
“I’m ready to run through a wall,” Vanzin said.
Because they miss important time in the locker room where the team could be making adjustments, coaches catch up with the players on the sidelines.
When the players are starters on the varsity team, it can be challenging, Knause said. But they’ve learned to make it work.
The players hope others are inspired to try athletics and arts.
“Anybody could do it,” Minnetti-Houser said. “Hopefully, it opens the doors and a ton of football kids want to do band.”
Chartiers Valley’s remaining regular season game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 25 against Woodland Hills.