Flying as one?

School spirit has seen changes through the COVID-19 pandemic


Darcy Leber

(left) Students stand against the edge of the bleachers at the Varsity Cardinals’ senior night on Oct. 7. Fans began to leave the game after halftime, leaving the stands almost empty. photo by Darcy Leber (right) In 1992, fans cheer on the football team at Perry Stadium (now known as The Cardinal Stadium) and show off their sweatshirts and T-shirts with popular phrases on the front. photo contributed by the Anchor

Just a few years ago, SHS students were packed into sporting events and showed a huge amount of school spirit. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered how many SHS students express their school spirit, or lack thereof.

Although Principal Brian Knight believes that school spirit has improved, it hasn’t been quite the same since the pandemic hit.

“I think the past few years obviously things have been way down with Covid …,” Knight said. “You get to the point where sometimes you try to remember, ‘is this what it looked like before the pandemic?’”

Senior Hannah Matthews remembers her first year of high school as a time when school spirit was running high and a majority of the student body was involved in school activities, in large part due to the spirit of the Booster Club.

“My freshman year, it was very fun because Booster Club officers, they were good at their job and got us to be very happy and hype about things,” Matthews said. “It was just fun because so many people participated.”

The Cardinal high-fives students at the Perry-Southport football game on Friday, Aug. 29. The Cards lost to the Falcons 17-38. (Johnny)

SHS alumni Hannah Cooper experienced the shift of school spirit first hand, graduating in 2021 with half of her high school years being pre-pandemic, and the other half in the middle of the quarantine.

Once Cooper gained an appreciation for school spirit in her junior year, she became a member of the booster club. However, this was the same year that Covid hit, and it became difficult to maintain the high school spirit that had been so prominent before.

“I feel like the Booster Club that year tried to keep everyone involved,” Cooper said. “But it was a little difficult when people were trying to deal with the pandemic and online school and other stuff going on in their lives, so I feel like it kind of went on a little bit of a decline.”

As a current Booster Club officer, Matthews has noticed a severe drop in student participation this year, mainly during football games. Whether due to low attendance or participation, the lack of school spirit has made her job as a Booster Club officer more demanding.

“We have to do more because we have to want to get people to want to come to events,” Matthews said. “It feels like we’re having to do more things and more promotions, so it’s double the work.”

Sophomore Rose Par is just about as involved as one student can be. Her roles at school include being sophomore class president, a Riley Dance Marathon director, a Key Club member and a Green Earth Society member.

Par attributes the change in school spirit to the arrival of a new generation of students who have spent a majority of their teenage years in quarantine and missing out on more social growth experiences compared to other classes.

“I think it’s just now that younger kids are coming that they’re not as confident as the other classes were,” Par said. “They’re more on their phones, and they care more about social media instead of having a social presence out here in school.”

Everything I do is improv, so I have to go off of what people give me, and if they don’t give me anything then I can’t do as much.

— The Cardinal

Even the SHS Cardinal, the mascot and symbol of the school, has been affected by the shift in student participation. The lack of excitement and engagement at school events doesn’t give The Cardinal many opportunities to do the job effectively.

“Everything I do is improv,” The Cardinal said. “So I have to go off what the people give me, and if they they don’t give me anything then I can’t really do as much.”

Although there is a difference in school spirit this year, The Cardinal doesn’t believe that the change is entirely negative and that there may even be an increase in student willingness to participate.

“I wouldn’t say it’s gone down, but I’d say it’s been harder to bring out in people,” The Cardinal said. “Compared to last year though, I feel like people are definitely more out there, outgoing and more willing to be a part of school spirit.”

In addition to The Cardinal feeling a positive change in school spirit, Knight believes that it has actually increased in both numbers and participation this year.

Students have already begun returning to school events after the pandemic, but Knight believes that the new free admission policy at sports events has helped student participation even more.

“We had the Perry-Southport volleyball game with more kids at that game than I’ve seen at a volleyball game in a long time,” Knight said. “I would say it’s definitely back to at least where it was and I think probably a little bit better than where it’s been in the past.”

Though the numbers may be increasing, the SHS student body is still feeling the sting of the pandemic in their expression of school spirit, affecting their high school experience as a whole.

“Think about all the fun things that make high school ‘high school,’” The Cardinal said. “You have pep rallies, you have sports games, you have friends, all this other stuff, and all of that is based around the school and being a part of something, and I feel like without school spirit, then all of that kinda just starts to fade away.”