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?