BY MICHAEL KELLY
LOUDONVILLE — Often, they all wear green. Other times, they show up clad in black or white.
And, sometimes, the group dons costumes of all different sorts.
The one constant through all of this is their devotion to supporting Shenendehowa athletics. The Gang Green Nation — the rabid student fan section — shows up to as many Plainsmen sporting events as it can to cheer on classmates and make life difficult for the Blue Bison, Dutchmen, Spartans or whoever else is facing the Shenendehowa squads.
Senior classmates James O’Brien, Bryan Gellner, Mitchell Hoff and Jake Youmans lead the Gang Green Nation, operating the group’s Twitter handle — @Shen_Update — to let more than 1,000 followers know what major sporting events are coming up to attend.
O’Brien is usually the one in charge of the Twitter account. After participating in past years’ student sections, O’Brien “won” the right to lead the Gang Green Nation for the 2014-15 sports seasons when he accepted a dare from a past leader of the group to march through the “Red Sea” of Guilderland fans at a 2013 football game dressed as Moses.
“So, obviously, I went to Target and bought a bathrobe, a wig, a beard, and went through that student section,” O’Brien said before the school’s Feb. 10 boys and girls basketball doubleheader against Shaker at Siena College.
Hoff accompanied O’Brien on his crowd-parting jaunt — “He snorkeled in my wake,” O’Brien said — to also become a leader of the Gang Green Nation, while Gellner and Youmans were added later.
“Once we were the leaders of the group, we really got into motion and came up with a ton of ideas,” Hoff said.
Those ideas vary in their substance, but Hoff said they all have two things in common: they’re fun to participate in, and they’re school-approved. He said the group’s leaders have tried to work with school administrators to make sure the Gang Green Nation’s antics stay in-bounds.
“They’ve been fantastic this year,” said Shenendehowa athletic director Chris Culnan. “I couldn’t be more pleased with their behavior this year. The leadership has been outstanding.”
This winter, the Gang Green Nation attended a swim meet, but O’Brien said hockey and hoops are the group’s areas of focus this time of year.
“We try to show everyone some love, but I’m not about to go sit outside at a ski race because that’s too cold,” said O’Brien, laughing — and clad in short shorts as part of his cheering uniform for the Feb. 10 basketball doubleheader.
The Plainsmen teams won both those games that night and victories are what the Gang Green Nation are accustomed to watching. For the basketball squads and hockey team, the Gang Green Nation just witnessed league regular seasons in which the three clubs combined for a 40-3 record — with only one of those losses coming at home.
Shenendehowa boys basketball head coach Tony Dzikas said the student cheering section plays a very positive role for his team with its noise and enthusiasm.
“It makes such a difference, it really does,” he said. “The energy of the players goes way up when they’re here.”
The Plainsmen boys basketball team was treated to one of the Gang Green Nation’s special outings earlier this year. While the group sometimes wears special apparel — usually a solid color in unison, or costumes this past fall for a Halloween football game — what was special about the Jan. 20 boys basketball game between Shenendehowa and Guilderland was it was the scene of the group’s “Silent Night.” For the annual tradition, Gang Green’s members remain quiet for the game’s early moments — and then go crazy once the Plainsmen hit for their 10th point of the game. The Plainsmen won that game, 56-43, in a battle of then-undefeated squads.
“That’s always the best game of the year,” said Hoff. “When the crowd erupts, it’s crazy.”
With the winter sports season almost complete, the Gang Green Nation will soon be heading outside to continue its act. Field logistics make attending baseball and softball games tough, Hoff said, but he hopes to lead the group in establishing a major presence elsewhere this spring.
“There’s never really been a student section at lacrosse games,” he said. “I want to change that.”