Fridays at Tullahoma High School mean more than just the promise of the weekend. They showcase the excitement for the Friday night lights at Wilkins Stadium. The Tullahoma Wildcats football games unify the community. The yells from the crowd, student section, cheerleaders, band members and football players proudly display support for the team. Whether you’re cheering them on from the track or chanting along from the student section, the fans are the heart of Friday nights in Tullahoma.
Friday nights mean something different to everyone. To me, they are the time to show school spirit and support. Cheering for the Tullahoma High School football team is one of my favorite fall traditions. The feeling I get before running through the T during pregame is something I will never forget. One of the best feelings is cheering towards the crowd and hearing them chant along to “Let’s Go Wildcats!”
Being a cheerleader is more than just putting on a smile and wearing lipstick. It’s a job, and a stressful one at that. Sometimes people underestimate how much work it actually is. Constantly calling cheers is a weekly challenge. After practicing three days a week for two hours each day, Friday nights are the time to perform best. Balancing cheer, school and homework has taught me time management and perseverance. The most stressful part of the games is when I have to throw T-shirts and footballs into the crowd. They never go far enough, and sometimes they can hit unaware people.
The worst feeling is the guilt I get when I can’t give every begging kid a T-shirt or miniature football. Although I feel bad, I ultimately love cheering and all that it involves. There is nothing like the smell of sweaty football players mixed with the crisp fall air after a victory on the field.
When the clock hits 3:15 on a Friday afternoon, a sense of euphoria hits as the students at THS rush out of the doors, relieved to have made it through another week.
For many of us, the spotlight of our evening is the football game, and the process of getting ready is an event of its own. We meet with our friends, giggling and basking in our youth as we cut our T-shirts to cropped perfection, paint our faces with cheap acrylic paint, and meticulously style our hair, despite knowing it will immediately fall victim to the humidity and wear and tear of the night’s shenanigans.
Upon arrival to the game, the sun has usually begun to set, illuminating the sky with beautiful hues to bring in the long evening ahead. As my friends and I squeeze into the packed bleachers like sardines in a can, the smell of the fresh fall breeze and our energized classmates greet us.
We cheer on our team until our voices go hoarse, singing along to the band’s pep tunes and chanting along with the cheerleaders. I experience a sense of unity as I am surrounded by classmates who come from all walks of life. The honors students, artsy theater kids, other athletes, those who disregard school altogether, and everyone in between are unified in one harmonic purpose.
Although the two of us are physically in different roles during the game, we are spiritually in sync as Tullahoma football players fight for victory under the Friday night lights. I cheer from the track and, in turn, Natalie cheers from the student section. Together, we enhance the spirit from one end zone to the other. No matter how far we travel or where those end zones are, we both share a common goal: to support THS football.