It takes something pretty momentous for soccer players to break play in the middle of a game. But that’s what happened for the Great Falls High and Charles M. Russell High School girls’ teams recently; in the moment, they didn’t have to think twice.
The teams have played the majority of their home games at Siebel Soccer Park in Great Falls, Montana, since the Charles M. Russell High School girls’ coach Willie Pyette took over the program. The park comprises a typical soccer field, with one significant exception: its location. The Malmstrom Air Force Base is situated directly across the street.
2012 CMR Lady Rustlers Varsity Soccer
On a Tuesday afternoon in April of 2019, the fearsomely named Bison girls were hosting their opposing team, Butte, in a Class AA playoff. The game began like any other, and one team even scored early on. But after a short time, a familiar sound reverberated in the air around the players and provoked them into a sudden stillness. What was the sound that so affected the players?
It was the national anthem.
Happy Sweet 16. Sweet Child o mine
Great Falls' Malmstrom Air Force Base plays the national anthem every day at 4:30 p.m. On Tuesday, the Great Falls High and Butte girls soccer teams halted their playoff match to honor the flag.
Every single team member knew what to do; the referee even stopped the clock for a whole 60 seconds while the girls faced east to pay homage to the American flag. With hands on hearts, the players turned the pitch from the site of an epic high school sporting battle into the site of heartwarming patriotic respect in mere seconds.
Spectators of the game, touched, followed suit. One spectator thought to record the incident and later posted the video on social media, and people couldn’t stop talking about it. The girls’ simple yet powerful gesture spoke volumes.
Montana Sports relayed that the United States flag is lowered and the national anthem plays over the speakers at Malmstrom Air Force Base every single day at 4:30 p.m. The teams are usually there, but for practice only; this was the first time that the girls had broken play in the middle of a formal game.
After becoming the Charles M. Russell girls’ coach, Pyette was moved by the daily tradition at the military base and incorporated recognition of the anthem into the girls’ own daily practice.
Every day at 4:30 p.m., whatever the girls are doing, they stop to face east with their hands over their hearts and pay their respect to the flag. Practice resumes only when the anthem is complete. It quickly became a tradition. But Pyette was just as surprised and proud as the gathered spectators when the girls, of their own volition, broke play to show respect to the flag during an official game.
It’s not political, Pyette assured Montana Sports; it’s a sign of respect to military service people at Malmstrom and beyond. “I have our team stop, stand to attention and honor the anthem,” he shared. “Then we go back to practice.” The patriotic coach hopes that this tradition will be upheld for as long as the girls play at Siebel Soccer Park.
Kudos to the young players and their dedication to recognizing the sacrifices of those who fought for American freedom, even in the middle of a Class AA playoff! Now that’s a true show of respect.