Defining School Spirit

   By SUZSHELTON  Oct 16, 2011

In my day, (I sound so old, don’t I?)… School spirit meant one word. Sports. Let me be more specific. Boys’ sports. Football, basketball and baseball. Even though I myself was on the gymnastics team, I was also (and perhaps more importantly) on Drill Team. “The Wolverettes” as we were called, were there to raise school spirit and cheer on the boys’ football team "The Wolverines," by wearing short skirts and cowboy boots and performing awesome dance/drill team routines during half time.

In junior high, all of my friends wanted to be a Wolverette. We would go to the football games on Friday nights drinking watery hot chocolate and wait in anticipation on the side of the field for the half time show. A few of my friends had older sisters, so they were already privy to the life of a Wolverette and even knew some of their routines. They would wave to them as they lined up behind the band in their formation, and their Wolverette sisters would smile back at them proudly through their thick layers of lipgloss. I was jealous as they marched by in perfect sych with their tanned/nyloned legs under super white washed cowboy boots with tassels swaying, short navy blue skirts with felted white fringe, and white cowboy hats fashioned “just so” on their lovely heads of big hair. The thought of being in that line of 23 girls doing kicks over our heads to the thumping beat of the big bass drum in the middle of that great big football field gave me butterflies. It still does.

Being a Wolverette was a big deal, and as a freshman, you had to audition in front of an elite panel of senior Wolverettes before you could hope to become one. I absolutely couldn’t wait to audition, and I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t make it. The Wolverettes held auditions at the end of the school year. This was so that if you made the team, you would have the summer to learn the basic routines and tie it all together during “band camp.” I wanted to be on this drill team more than anything I had ever wanted before in my life. I had heard rumors of the crazy fun that happened during band camp. I wanted to be a part of this prestigious group of girls. I wanted to wear that uniform and cowboy hat and boots. I wanted in.

There was a very large group of girls trying out. Every day after school we would break into groups and learn the audition routine. I loved this routine. I practiced with my friends before, during and after school in addition to the mandatory rehearsals. I was totally prepared.

The day of the audition came and I was both excited and nervous as hell. The hardest part was waiting for my group to be called. They started with “the tall end,” so I had to wait for quite a while. When it was finally my turn, I thought I would throw up. I was suddenly horrified that I may forget the routine, or God forbid, trip and fall down. Luckily, that didn’t happen. I did fine. I remembered the routine (heck, I could do it in my sleep), and I smiled my butt off and left feeling pretty confident that I had made the team.

And I did. This was definitely one of my more positive defining moments in high school. Not so for everyone, but that is another story, I am sure.

Being a Wolverette was a LOT of responsibility. We had to practice the entire summers of my high school, and at least 3 days a week after school. Our practices were disciplined and precise so that our routines looked their absolute best. We had to attend every single football game near and far, and actually pay attention to the games so that we knew when to do certain cheers. We had to know the names of all of the players. We had to try not to freeze during the cold Ohio winters while wearing short inappropriate clothing. We had to present ourselves confidently by keeping our uniforms clean and doing our hair and makeup. We also had to compete outside of the football season with other drill teams and learn a ton of new choreography. It was so much work that I look back now and wonder how did we ever do it? Or rather, why did we do it?

I think the reason for me was a combination of things. Yes, it was to show school spirit and to support our school football team (the boys), but it was also the honor of being a part of something great. Being a Wolverette (at the time) was considered pretty great. I loved being surrounded by so many girls all doing the same thing and spending so much time together week after week. We became pretty close and we not only supported these football-playing boys, but we supported each other. We were there for each other during every crisis, every heartache, and every teenage moment. In fact, I loved it so much, that my junior year, I tried out for captain. And I spent my senior year co-leading a team of pretty awesome girls supporting our school and supporting each other. Sports aside, this was true school spirit. And it was also true Girl Power.

My daughter will never be a Wolverette. In her school, there are no school sports, and no drill team or cheerleaders. We don’t live in Chesterland, Ohio - we live in Brooklyn, NY. Life is very different for her. In many ways, I like this. I like that we are and will support her and her school in other ways – like in reading, writing, science, music, art and math skills. We are not putting so much importance on such traditional gender roles that we were raised with, but rather we focus on trying to empower our kids to be who they are. We support our boys and our girls equally. However, I would love for her to experience some sort of “girl power” and camaraderie like I did. At seven years old, I am not sure what that will be for her, but I am pretty confident that it will happen, and I can’t wait to find out.


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