The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

“I’ve never felt closer to 22 people in my life:” Spirit squads are enjoying full stadiums, packed gyms and even closer bonds

Ashok Manick | The Reflector
Members of the MSU all-girls cheer squad gather on the sidelines of Davis-Wade Stadium in support of the Bulldogs during the game against Tennessee State.

Finally back to normal, the Mississippi State University spirit squads are able to cheer on all the sports teams as they were meant to, and for some of them, it’s all they could have ever asked for. 

Last season, the teams had to perform from certain constricted boundaries within Davis Wade Stadium, in front of a limited number of fans and students who were all socially distanced within the 60,000-plus seat stadium. 

This football season, though, they were in front of some of the largest crowds in recent memory  some of them for the first time — and it left an impression, to say the least. 

Co-ed cheer captain Jackson Smith, a senior broadcasting major, has been cheering since he stepped foot on campus.

“It feels great,” Smith said. “It feels like something of a return to normal. It feels kind of like we’re back to being able to connect more with the fans and more interconnected with the game itself. Being behind the fence, we were still doing what we needed to do, but it didn’t feel the same, so being back out there, I think a lot of people notice it. The whole team notices the difference.”

Both the coed and all-girls cheer teams practice twice a week, in addition to Saturdays and other game days. Kendall Pitre, a senior biomedical engineering major, is a cheerleader on the all-girls team. Pitre said that while practices are time consuming, they are worth it. 

“It’s a lot of time management and balance but honestly, cheer is my outlet. It’s a lot of fun for me. We practice twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays for two hours, and then we have football games on each Saturday with volleyball and basketball mixed in,” Pitre said.

The members of the dance team practice at least four times a week and a fifth day if there is a home game. These practices and the performances at games are overseen by their coach, Taylor Lee.

The team attends a convention in June where they learn all of the choreography used in their dances. When they come back, Lee cleans up those moves and puts them together to make the dances seen on Saturdays in Davis Wade. 

Everyone thinks of football games when they think of the spirit squads, but they attend many of the other sporting events on campus as well. Cheer is at football, volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball. The dance team goes to football, men’s and women’s basketball and baseball.

Senior marketing major and dancer Brehan Whitehead gave her emotional account of just what game days have meant for her.

“They’re all completely different I would say, but football is really big and fun, so it’s exciting to get to see that many people. Honestly, coming back from COVID, I forgot what it felt like. I literally get chills every time I walk in the stadium, and then basketball is exciting, but it’s different since people are so close to us while we’re performing so it’s cool to see fans’ reactions. You really get to see them up close. And then baseball for us is very up close, so it’s fun but it’s not as much pressure, I would say, because our performances aren’t as in-depth, so it’s kind of more chill,” Whitehead said. 

The spirit teams are close groups, according to Whitehead.

“It’s something that I can always rely on,” said Whitehead. “If I’m having a bad day, the people there are always there for me, just because we’re always together so much. I know I can count on them in any activity that we go to, and that it’s always going to be something to look forward to.”

Smith noted a similar sentiment, expressing how close he feels to his teammates. 

“I’ve never felt closer to 22 people in my life, I don’t think,” Smith said. “They’re all part of my family, really.”

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
“I’ve never felt closer to 22 people in my life:” Spirit squads are enjoying full stadiums, packed gyms and even closer bonds