Any Given Friday…A Behind the Scenes Look at Friday Night Lights-
by Keri Wootton
Is it just me or does everyone feel the electricity in the air under the Friday Night Lights?
Even at 2 pm when I arrive to begin preparing both the concession stands and spirit wear booth, I can feel the storm brewing within the walls of the high school, the explosion of energy just waiting for the team to hit the field. Is it the smell of the grill being fired up at the tailgate? The sound of the band warming up? The sight of the Legacies and cheerleaders lining up for the Viper walk? This Viper fan and volunteer says it’s all of those things, along with something most don’t see or know anything about; the incredible village of support for these nights made up of staff, coaches, and volunteers who put in countless hours to make our Friday nights so special.
A high school football game is much more than just the battle going on between two teams. Friday Night Football is a season of community, a gathering of friends from every generation; grandparents wearing their grandchild’s picture button; gaggles of middle school girls giggling in line at concessions; swarms of teammates’ little brothers and sisters, running themselves ragged in the grassy area while their parents high five, cheer, question calls, and support their kids out there under the lights.
But before all of that can occur, the battle plans are laid – our amazing coaches (fifteen in all) began preparing for our season long before we have brought out the sunscreen and swimsuits. Having coached our players all summer – four mornings a week at conditioning camp, then two-a-days, followed by morning & afternoon practice once school begins, they are well into their workday before we even think about brewing our first cup of coffee. Overseeing the players’ hydration, health, and that the equipment is in order are Chris Shivers & Linda Bowman and their team of student trainers.
Supporting the players, coaches, and trainers is our Football Booster Club, made up of parent volunteers, most of whom serve multiple years on the board. This crew assists Drew Sanders, Head Football Coach and Athletic Coordinator, with all of the financial, logistical, and practical aspects of running a 6A football program. When asked for his thoughts on the many volunteers that put in countless hours of support, he stated, “I am so appreciative to have so many dedicated parent volunteers in our community. We couldn’t do what we do without them.”
So, what goes into Friday Night Lights you ask? You would be surprised at the army it takes to host upwards of 5000-6000 fans each week. With six football teams and their games played on both Thursday and Friday nights, it literally takes multiple squads of parents and staff to execute the maneuvers required each week. Much of this planning begins in the summer as well; stadium to be renovated (Thank you LISD), uniforms to be ordered, meals and snacks for concessions to be planned, Viper swag to be designed & ordered, parking plans to be laid out, Viper Moms & Dads events to be communicated, food/drinks/hospitality for the Band & Vision – 450 members strong (enter all the food allergies for said students), freshman and JV football players, cheer teams, and legacies to be organized, Friday tailgate volunteers to be recruited, sponsors to be secured, and parent volunteers to be enlisted, trained, and mobilized. Many of these tasks continue week in and week out to make the Friday Night Lights experience what it is. No one but a few very lucky ones are part of the Angel Troops, spending hours fixing uniforms, stocking concessions, creating playlists (that fun music you hear during the game), ordering additional rain ponchos when they sell out the first rainy game of the season, drafting parents to bring Gatorade to each away game for our players as they get back on buses, organizing said buses….oh, then there is the other level of hospitality – feeding visiting coaches and staff for every game, not including the press box! Yup, all of this all happens long before Friday Night begins, many parent volunteers logging the hours of a full-time job just to finish all of the tasks by kickoff.
So, what does all this have to do with you? It is this mom, volunteer, and High School Football fan’s hope that you might enter Friday Night Lights with a new appreciation/perspective for that electricity you feel in the air when you pull onto McNeil drive to take your seat and experience what happens Any Given Friday. Being a part of Friday night lights has been one of the most meaningful endeavors I have ever experienced. After moving to Texas and attending Friday Night Football for many years, I enjoyed it but had absolutely no idea what went into these special events. I, like many, paid for my ticket, sat in the stands, and cheered on our Vipers without being aware of how it all came together. But over the last 2+ years, I have learned so much, not just about football, but about what can be accomplished when so many generous volunteers come together to give their time, talents, finances, and most of all, their heart for our community, school, and football program. I have said for a long time that the Four Points Community is special, but was unable to put my finger on what exactly “it” is that makes it special. I now realize that that thing I couldn’t put my finger on is most evident at Vandegrift High School. That Friday Night Lights electricity is the positive, get-it-done-with-fun energy of our Viper community. If you have never experienced the sense of belonging that happens every time we stand to honor our military heroes or the powerful voice of our crowd as our players take another “first and 10,” I encourage you to join us in the stands Any Given Friday. I can guarantee you will feel “it,” too.
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