When every participant on the field stopped playing and turned to the left side of the field during a high school soccer game, the parents in audience were first confused. They weren’t sure what was going on at first, but then they heard a distinct sound and realized what all the teens were staring at.
Great Falls High and CM Russell play most of their home games at the Siebel Soccer Park in Great Falls, Montana. The park’s location has led to a tradition. The unusual activity, which has now become regular at the park, swiftly gained popularity when a video of it appeared online.
The Bison girls were playing Butte in a Class AA playoff game at 4:30 p.m. on a Tuesday when a recognizable sound could be heard in the background. Both sides immediately froze in the midst of the 1-0 game, and the head referee paused the play clock for a minute. One person who was there took a video of the simple but powerful act.
The national anthem, which is played over the speaker system at Malmstrom Air Force Base (MAFB), which is located right across the street from the park, is what paused the game.
When the national anthem begins, the teams usually pause training and salute the flag. The women on the field, however, were in the midst of the 1-0 game on this particular Tuesday when the national anthem began to play at 4:30 p.m., as it does every day. The head referee immediately stopped the time, much to the amazement of onlookers, and the girls understood what to do. Players from both sides turned to face the flag while others covered their hearts with their hands. The onlookers then did the same thing.
However, the teams didn’t always stop what they were doing for the anthem. It’s a custom that began when Willie Pyette took over the CMR girls team and moved practice to the Siebel Soccer Park. He saw the everyday custom at MAFB and made the decision to include it into his team’s practice after taking over as the girls soccer coach at CM Russell High School and shifting the team’s activities to the park.
The Bison and Rustlers now stop whatever they are doing—which is mostly simply training to face east with their arms crossed over their hearts, stand at attention, and show respect to the flag while the national anthem is played. Activities don’t start up again until the national anthem is over.
According to Pyette, the practice is not intended to make a political statement, but rather to show respect for the military members in Malmstrom and beyond.
The National Anthem stands for the liberties that many Americans take for granted, and sometimes it has been treated badly and has caused a lot of trouble over the years. Many people have protested the national anthem because they feel that the country hasn’t always lived up to its liberties and ideals. Not everywhere, though, as the soccer fans at this game found out to their surprise. Even in the middle of a game, these girls remembered what was really important: showing respect for our national anthem and flag honors the people who fought for our freedom.
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