Pride shirts revolutionized Lion culture

Don’t forget to wear yours Thursday, Friday

The sea of yellow that is the most reported memory of the first Lion Pride day.

Photo courtesy of Principal Lee Downey

The “sea of yellow” that is the most reported memory of the first Lion Pride day.

Ellen Rosson and Carrie Hicks

   A new school year means new shirts here at LCHS. Each year, students receive a Lion Pride shirt and a #Kindness shirt, but as the years have gone by, few students know the story of how Lion Pride shirts came to be.

  “The Pride shirts started back when we were in the pods,” head varsity football coach Will Patrick, one of the founders of the Lion Pride movement, remembers. 

  After being displaced by the 2011 earthquake, LCHS students had attended LCMS for a semester and returned to school in what were known as “pods.”

  Morale was low and school spirit was practically non-existent.  Walking to class meant trudging along former parking lots from pod to pod, there was no gymnasium for basketball games, no place to have pep rallies, and no sense of Lion Pride.

  During the cold winter of the 2014-2015, then math teachers, Will Patrick and Jesse Cleaver, started brainstorming ways to boost morale.   

  The dynamic duo started with something simple. 

  “The first thing we did was hot chocolate.  I will never forget, it was 20 degrees one morning before school, we made hot chocolate, set up two tables between the buildings and we were just giving out cups of hot cocoa,” Patrick said.

  Finding success with this simple act of kindness, the two sports fans really got to thinking. Inspired by the college football scene, with schools like Penn State and Virginia Tech’s stands full of school colors and representing during specialty theme games, like the beloved tradition of white out games, they thought about how much unity a similar venture would be in raising the school spirit here at LCHS.

  “We thought, how cool would it be to get everyone to wear the same shirt one day?  Unless you played sports or you are in a club, you didn’t get any Louisa gear unless you bought it at the school store,” Patrick said.

  Patrick and Cleaver, now an assistant principal within the district, shopped around and planned the Spring Fling event that would cover the cost of buying 2,000 shirts, making this dream a reality.

  The first Lion Pride day is one that those who witnessed will never forget.

  “Normally, pep rally days in a school setting would have a “buzz” throughout the hallways that builds each minute closer to the start of the event. The pods were decorated that day and our staff had the kids upbeat, and I had to do something as an exclamation point, but I wasn’t exactly sure what it would be. I asked Mr. Downey if I could ride on the golf cart and post up and shoot tee shirts to the kids in between classes,” then first-year Athletic Director, George Stanley remembers.

  “Once we dismissed students from the pods to the stadium, I remember our entire student population walking as one unit in a sea of gold with Mr. Downey leading us. I haven’t seen a person more proud at one time,” Stanley said.

  The moment that stands out the most was the dismissal to the stadium for the pep rally that day.

“I just remember it was so cool to see all the kids walking down toward the stadium in those shirts together. It was like this big sea of yellow. For many, it really did bring a sense of belonging and unity and everyone was so hyped up and excited,¨ government teacher Sarah Amick recalls.

  “It still gives me chills to this day thinking about it,” Testing Coordinator, Melinda Black said of that memory.

   That day and those shirts changed the course of not only that school year, but the sense of Lion Pride for years to come.

  “Some of my former students still talk about that day and what it meant to them,” Stanley said. 

  “It was my first year as principal that year.  I will definitely never forget that day.  I remember driving to school and seeing all the students at the bus stop.  I was honking my horn in excitement when they were all wearing them.  It was definitely a great day to be a Lion,” Principal Lee Downey said.

  That year reestablished the legacy of Lion Pride that this community has been witness to for the past several years. Prior to the earthquake, we had that pride; and the circumstances following that monumental natural disaster dampened it, but only briefly.  

  “Every student was wearing the same shirt; it showed unity in time when we really needed it,” math teacher Christine Evans said.

  Now we find ourselves under similar circumstances, with COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the year that students had in mind. It is time to find our Lion Pride again.

   “[The goal of the shirts was for students to] feel proud that you are from Louisa, feel proud that you go to Louisa County High School.  It’s a great my opinion, it’s the best place on earth. We’ve got great people here, the community is strong, it was something to bring us all together. Every single student had on their yellow shirt, every teacher, every faculty member, every member of the whole school community.  It was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Whether you are a ninth grader, a senior about to graduate, a 30-year teacher, a new teacher: everyone is a part of our community,” Patrick said.

  In regards to those Lion Pride shirts, Coach Will Patrick said it best. “Wear them when you’re off to college, out to work, when you are out and about; wear them, and represent Louisa County.”

  The Lion’s Roar can’t wait to see you in your Lion Pride shirts Thursday and Friday!