I spent four years of my life as a mascot. Three years as Tigra the tiger in high school and one football season of college as Rowdy the Ranger at Kilgore College

. Let’s just say I have a special place in my heart for the personified versions of a university or school.  

           First, here’s why you should trust my opinion on this topic: I was declared an All-American Mascot by the National Cheer Association three years in a row, and was given special permission to apply to become a cheer camp mascot teacher. I never applied because I was too busy with school, but yeah. I kind of know my stuff.

Rowdy the Ranger takes to the sidelines during a game at Kilgore College.

           Okay, that sounds extremely arrogant, but here’s my point: Over my four years I experienced a lot. I’ve been physically pushed by another team, been in a commercial for the Dale Hansen Football Classic, was in a college bowl pregame performance in Florida and so much more. It isn’t just running around the track or field aimlessly; there’s work that has to be put in.

           One of the most interesting rules that people may not actively know about is that mascots are not allowed to talk (usually). Yes, I realize you know they don’t talk, but there is a reason. Consistency. Not everybody will have the same voice, so people who share a role as the mascot will not be able to be told apart.

If you’re ever at a game with me and I see a mascot pick up a baby, I will cringe. Most mascot characters (we don’t call them costumes, they are called characters) are full-body fur suits. The fabric is loose fitting and you can’t exactly feel your surroundings. It would be extremely easy for a baby to slip through the arms of a mascot. So please, moms/dads/caretakers don’t ask to take a picture of the mascot holding your baby.

Also, I give props to the mascot who has to cheer for a school who isn’t really great at sports. Fortunately, while I was in high school we were great at football. That was our school sport. Anyway, the one time we lost, it was so hard to cheer throughout the game.

Mascots feed off of the crowd’s energy most of the time, so when your team isn’t doing that great, it is hard to be excited. This brings up another point: interaction.

It is so important for a mascot to make connections not just as a person, but as a character. There might be some kid out there who wants to be just like you one day. If while in character you see a child with an interest in you, make sure to acknowledge them.

Tigra the Tiger takes a moment to visit with a fan behind the railing of the stands. Sometimes children can be afraid of mascots, so if they continue to cry, just walk away.

Next, you have to be in tune with your school or university. Know what they like. Know what pop culture references they like and include them in skits. Ask to be at an organization’s bake sale when you don’t even have to be there. Make yourself known.

Don’t forget to stay healthy and hydrated. Drink water all day of a performance, during a performance and then afterward you can grab yourself a Gatorade. The inside temperature of a character can get over 140 degrees fahrenheit. Just be safe.

One last rule. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever let someone see you change into or out of your character. It breaks the magic. The only people allowed to see is your squad or your personal helper. (Personal helpers help you communicate with crowds, make sure little kids don’t punch you (yes that has happened to me.) etc.)

So, now you have a little bit of knowledge of what a mascot does. I’m not saying you should appreciate them a little bit more… but you should. They are entertainment, a friend and above all, a leader.

After the collegiate pregame bowl performance in Florida.