High School Halls: School Spirit

Welcome to Deep-Fried Friday! This weekend is Homecoming for my local school district, and school spirit is running high. It got me to thinking about school spirit activities for my High School Halls series.

That Was Then

Long ago, back in another century, a different decade called The 80’s, I remember pep rallies, cheerleaders, Homecoming mums, our fight song, school colors, the mascot, and much more.

We were the Calallen Wildcats with colors of maroon and white. Original, right?

Pep Rally

I played the flute part of our school’s fight song at every pep rally and every football game until I was marching band’s drum major in my senior year. In that last year, I wore something special on pep rally days–a white shirt with a maroon-and-white jumper and a drum major boot on the front. Our flag and rifle corps and our cheerleaders also wore uniforms on game days, and the football players wore their jerseys.

Each Friday, we purchased spirit ribbons to wear on our clothing. They came in maroon with white text or white with maroon text and said things like, “Sock it to ’em!” or “Beat the ____.” I still have a special one for band that I wore for Homecoming:

*waving at Susan Hanscheck, my fabulous co-drum major*

Our cheerleaders were awesome, doing far more than leading cheers on the stadium track. They were not only yell leaders but gymnasts and tumblers with pyramids that defied gravity and stunts that relied on catching each other at just the right time. Yes, I mocked them then (hey, I was in band!), with their bouncy hair, their bouncy feet, and their bouncy personalities. But I was rather proud of our young ladies, especially when they placed at the Nationals cheerleading competition–because, yeah, they were that good.

I recall a cheer from school that few from less-football-inclined areas seem to know. Maybe this is an indication of how seriously we take our football in Texas, but when we were on defense, sometimes the cheer was:

Blood makes the grass grow. Hit! Hit!
Blood makes the grass grow. Hit! Hit!

Yet most of the cheers were more along the lines of:

Our team is red-hot.
Our team is red-hot.
Our team is R-E-D, red, H-O-T, hot.
Once we start, we can’t be stopped.

Homecoming is the quintessential be-true-to-your-school weekend, with more school spirit swag than ever. The spirit ribbons were bigger, the hoopla of the game was grander. The atmosphere sizzled with a desire to win and celebrate our alma mater. At the football game itself, our pride was really on the line: No one wants to lose their homecoming game. So we cheered harder and applauded louder when we won.

In my day, a young man might purchase a mum for you and/or invite you to the homecoming dance. There would be a real mum flower surrounded by a border with school color ribbons hanging down. Little trinkets were added, like a football or a cheerleading megaphone or a small cowbell. If you really wanted to go for broke, the guy gave his girl a double-mum, with two flowers included.

Oddly enough, I don’t recall any big spirit stuff happening during basketball, track, volleyball, or tennis seasons. We went gung-ho with school spirit in the fall, and I presume that lasted us for the rest of the year.

This Is Now

There are still pep rallies, cheerleaders, and school spirit swag, of course. However, some things are a little different. While my school’s cheerleaders were ahead of their time with tumbling tricks, it appears that cheerleading as a sport and its connection to gymnastics has grown by leaps and bounds. No longer it is enough to do a kick or a jump. Many of these young ladies, and men in some schools, are incredibly athletic and well-trained. Cheerleading and tumbling classes abound, and personal coaching is available in some places. Still, the main job of a cheerleader remains the same: Get the crowd excited about winning the game.

(Pink pom-poms for
breast cancer awareness.)

I haven’t seen any spirit ribbons, but the football players still wear jerseys on football days. And in my neck-of-the-woods, elementary kids are encouraged to wear their recreational league jerseys as a show of support to those whom they emulate–the high school team.

There are still homecoming mums, but I haven’t seen a real flower in years. And a double-mum would be practically an insult, I suppose, since they are now larger than Kansas and have more bling than a Kardashian wedding:

The honest truth is that I thought mums were hideous then, and I think they are more hideous now. You can no longer even pin this baby onto a shirt or dress. It is hung by a ribbon over the girl’s neck like a cowbell on a cow. Moreover, the guys now get their own version of a mum, which are about the size we gals used to wear. (Can you tell that I can’t really figure out how all of this is related to school spirit? Someone, please advise.)

A nice addition in my area, though, is a Homecoming Parade down our town’s main street. It’s well-attended and fun for the high school students. It’s a good kickoff for the weekend and a way for the community to show support for the local team. Moreover, the homecoming dance is still happening, although I haven’t been asked to chaperon so I can’t give the details on that event. I’m laying bets on the inclusion of a disco ball.

I suspect school spirit is the same in the 50’s and the 80’s and the 2010’s as far as students wanting to feel part of something big. We revel in those moments and recall those fond memories. Perhaps the “ten percenters” weren’t involved, but the majority of the high school wants to engage in the music, the cheers, the outward signs, and the inner excitement of showing school spirit.

What school spirit activities do you remember from high school? What school spirit activities do you take part in now? How important do you think school spirit is to teenagers?

14 thoughts on “High School Halls: School Spirit

  1. My best memory of school spirit was getting kicked out of the pep rallies FOR LIFE. I thought it was great. I got to read Stephen King books instead of going to the pep rally.

    Then, the powers that be decided I was not repentant enough and told me I’d have to do homework during pep rallies. I thought that was great because if I got my homework done, I didn’t have to lug any books home.

    Finally, they asked me if I wasn’t the least bit sorry. I told them nope, that I’d just about rather scrub toilets than sit through those stupid pep rallies. I didn’t care who won the game, and I didn’t imagine I’d even remember anything about it in a few years.

    And, twenty-plus years later…I don’t. I can’t remember any of the kids’ names who played on the football team. I can’t remember what our school mascot was. I do, however, remember exactly what I did and still think it’s hilarious. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

    And, no, I won’t tell you what I did. Tiffany A. White would like to know, too. I’m thinking about doing a blog post about it. But I might not since a lot of people might not think it was funny.

  2. My school spirit was next to nil, I’m sorry to say. My daughter’s IS nil. I’m afraid we’d both relate more to Catie’s comment (which I’m LOL at) although I do at least remember our mascot – the ohso original Panthers. Still, fun post!

    1. Since panthers are some of my favorite animals (beauty and strength!), I think they make a great mascot. Next week, I’ll be covering mascot names, and believe me, panthers is not number one on the most-used list!

  3. It’s 3 to 1, sorry Julie. I couldn’t care about school spirit either then or now. Fortunately attendance wasn’t required at pep rallies so I never went.

    1. Wow, y’all are as enthusiastic about school spirit as I am about Christmas. Bah-humbug, everyone! LOL. Maybe you would have been more engaged if you’d been asked to WRITE cheers, spirit ribbon slogans, etc. ??

  4. I was never into homecoming or school spirit because my parents forced me to go to a Catholic high school and I hated it. Therefore, I didn’t want anything to do with “rah rah rah” and school colors or basketball games, etc I was a complete “against authority” hippy.
    Now I have a 14-year-old daughter who is totally into leadership and homecoming planning and wants to be a junior varsity cheerleader, so it’s coming back to bite me in the booty. I am so excited that she’s like this and I have the opportunity to take part in all of the school spirit now.

  5. Actually, I enjoyed spirit week because it was a break from the monotony of the rest of the year. During that time they’d have things like clash day, a day when we dressed like hippies, etc. We’d get a kick out of the day of the game when the cheerleaders would come in dressed like the football players and the jocks would come in dressed as cheerleaders, makeup and all…courtesy of the cheerleaders. Bonfire night was a big thing. Occassionally, during the pep rally, jazz choir (which I was in) would be asked to perform. I wasn’t much for the school dances, but the stuff leading up to it was a blast. (If I was going to dance back then I went into the city with some friends…where there were no chaperones)

  6. Hi Julie. You may have noticed I’ve been mum during your high school series. That’s because those years weren’t my fondest. Yes, I was a cheerleader, involved in sports, a top student, etc. But I attended a K-12 school with about forty kids in my class. By the time I hit ninth grade, I wanted out. To top that, there was a crew of mean girls who made my life miserable (there was no such thing as bullying awareness back then) at times, despite my efforts to ignore them (You know, the whole Christian “turn the other cheek” philosophy).

    I don’t regret my horrid experiences in high school. They made me a stronger person, and made me vigilant about the problem of bullying with the youngsters (and sometimes adults) in my life. I loved my high school teachers, and I worked even harder to get out of what I viewed at the time as a small-minded, going-nowhere town. I was one of a very few in my graduating class to attend a four-year college, much less head onto grad school.

    Many years later, I understand why I was a target for the mean girls. I didn’t speak up for myself and it only enboldened them. I was different, a bookish-athletic girl, for which I now am grateful. For a writer to be good, sheneeds to be well read, and my health is enriched by a life of physical fitness.

    So no, even though I participated in our pep rallies and such, I didn’t enjoy them to the extent others may have, and I don’t look back at my high school years as my glory days. Those happened long after, and continue on today. 🙂

    Love the photo of you though!!!

  7. We were the Saints at my high school, but most of the student body was terrible when it came to spirit. The cheerleaders often got laughed at during assemblies. So sad, right??
    I like the spirit at my son’s high school. This past week they had nerd day, pajama day and favorite movie character day. It looked like a lot of fun!

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