The lights of Friday night are shining again, but maybe a little differently than before. Pay close attention and you will see some of the new elements to encourage fans to go all in. From a new hype video and massive Wylie Nation banner to the Dawg Pack running with W-Y-L-I-E spirit flags and more interactive video board, increased fan engagement is being sought after more than ever and with good reason.
That reason – camaraderie. In the September issue of Wylie Growl, Wylie High School Principal Reagan Berry discusses school spirit, fan engagement, and unity. “I love the camaraderie that high school sports bring to the student body, the staff, the district, and the community.”
Andy Penney knows exactly what Berry is talking about. When he was a fourth grader in a new community, it was the fans’ dedication to the local high school’s football team that impacted him so greatly. He says it’s something about football in Texas that brings a community together like no other sport – fans decorating and wearing school colors, attending pep rallies, and cheering loudly at the games. Penney, now the director of community relations for Wylie, says those experiences led him into a 24-year career in sports broadcasting and community relations in education.
“It’s Friday night football and the emotions that feed into it,” says Penney. “They make or break a community. Whether a team wins or losses, it brings camaraderie, and those are the experiences you remember.”
Penney believes the support from fans – the friends, families, and community – is cyclical. “All of us feel validated through support. Support for one group feeds back into another.”
Wylie parent, John Loudermilk, agrees with Penney and Berry about the camaraderie in a community and adds that highly engaged fans mold the future of the school and influences the mind-set of those out on the field. He said how we engage as fans is being watched by the younger generations on the sidelines as much as the players on the field.
“Kids being at games and watching fan interaction is important. Kids know when they want to be a part of something bigger – be part of something exciting, electric, and energized – fans dictate that.”
Loudermilk, who coached over 15 years at the collegiate level, has experienced first-hand how fans affect the players and officials. “Fans can control the emotions on the field. They can keep the energy level up [of the team] and keep them wanting more success” says Loudermilk. He says a positive and rowdy crowd often impacts the officials and intimidates the opponents and it’s the whole stadium that plays a part in that. Loudermilk believes the louder the stadium the better and that this shared emotion for a team builds a community’s camaraderie, both in victory and defeat. “The players, cheerleaders, band and fans…it’s a full-bodied effort.”
“It’s contagious! Jump-in, get loose,” says Loudermilk. “You take the fun out of the equation, and football is boring. I’ve never seen a state-championship team with a fuddy-duddy crowd.”
And that is exactly what this fan is going to do because there is no other community, I would rather be all in for than that of the Wylie Bulldogs!
By Kristen Johnson