Goodson enters fourth year as Panther mascot ‘Prowler’

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By Keith Sparks

The Liberty Hill community may have a hard time recognizing Liberty Hill High School senior Erin Goodson’s face, but they’ve probably seen her more times than they realize. Goodson is entering her fourth straight year as Prowler, the Liberty Hill Panther mascot, which is rare in the world of mascots.

Her journey as Prowler began her freshman year after her father recommended that she get more involved in extracurricular activities.

“My dad really pushed me to be more involved in my school,” Goodson said. “I was already in theater in junior high, but I really wanted to do something else. I wanted to be part of the spirit, but I couldn’t really be a cheerleader, and I thought that mascot would be a good way for me to be a part of the school, express myself in a way, and also have fun at the same time.”

As the only mascot at the school with a brand new cheer coach, Goodson quickly realized as a freshman that she’d have little to no training. Although she practices with the cheerleading team, nobody on the coaching staff specializes in mascot training.

“It’s really rare that I meet somebody that’s been a mascot, because it’s really only one, maybe two people, that can do it in high school, and not many people do it for four years like I have,” Goodson said.

Despite the uncertainty that came with being a first-year mascot with little to no training, Goodson fell in love with it from her very first football game as a freshman.

“My freshman year, we faced La Grange for my first football game, and it was just a very weird experience, because I didn’t know what I was doing,” Goodson said. “The coach I had that year had never really had a mascot before, because she was brand new. She didn’t really know how to instruct me, so I was pretty much improvising the entire thing, but it ended up being so much fun that I just fell in love with it.”

Goodson’s favorite aspect of being a mascot, by far, is getting a reaction out of the kids that approach her at football games and other events that she’s required to attend in her Panther costume.

“My favorite part is if I’m walking around at an event or a football game and there’s a family coming up with a little kid that’s super, super excited to see me and take a picture with me and high-five me,” Goodson said. “Their reaction to seeing me is like they’re going to Disney in their hometown, pretty much. That’s the best part, in my opinion.”

Some of the kids, on the other hand, don’t warm up to her quite as quickly, but Goodson has some tricks up her sleeve to get even the shyest of kids involved in the Friday night festivities.

“Usually, I make myself seem scared, because if they think that they are scaring me, then maybe they’ll think, ‘Oh, this thing isn’t as scary as I thought it was,’” Goodson said. “If that doesn’t work, I get down on their level. I’m 6’1”, so I’m very intimidating to them if they’re like three feet tall, so I get down on their level and they can see eye-to-eye with me.”

While Goodson brings her own unique flair to the Panther costume, she learned quite a few tricks of the trade by researching some of the most popular mascots online. As the only mascot at Liberty Hill, it can be tough to find a community to learn from, so the internet has served as a valuable resource.

“The cheerleaders go to this UCA camp at the high school where they send cheer instructors to teach them dances and all that kind of stuff, but they don’t send a mascot instructor, because there’s only one of me,” Goodson said. “My freshman year, since I didn’t know anything, I researched all the videos I could. I looked at UCA college mascots, I looked at NFL mascots, I watched highlights of their seasons and how they interacted, how they pumped up crowds, all their different skits for pep rallies. I did a lot of research my freshman year, because I had no idea what I was doing.”

Eventually, Goodson was able to join other mascots in the area at a UCA camp at the University of Texas’ Frank Erwin Center. There, she was finally able to share her experiences with other mascots and learn from theirs, as well. One of the most important things she learned from attending camp and watching videos on her own was the concentrated effort it takes to make even a normal stroll through the stadium look animated.

“I think I’ve learned to be a little bit more expressive in my motions,” Goodson said. “My freshman year, I didn’t really understand that if you’re walking like a normal person, you’re going to look like a really sad mascot. You have to have bounces in your steps, you have to pick your feet off the ground really high, you have to sway your arms, nod your head a lot to really look like you’re happy and excited.”

As a senior this year, Goodson will focus on enjoying the “lasts” with her teammates on the cheer squad.

“One thing that I guess everyone kind of does is just try to appreciate all of the lasts that you’re going to have,” Goodson said. “Like, I had my last kinder round up before my junior year, I had my last UCA camp, I’m going to have my last senior night, I’m going to have my last home game, eventually. I just need to be able to appreciate all those moments that I’ve had and that I will have.”

Those who are excited to see what Goodson brings during her final season as Prowler should look no further than the last pep rally of the season, where she plans on performing a special skit for her final appearance.

It’s not clear as of right now whether or not Goodson will continue her days as a mascot through college, but she knows she’d like to. As of right now, her top choice is Texas A&M, which doesn’t have a mascot, but she knows academics will take priority over being a mascot. That’s not to say, however, that she wouldn’t push for a mascot program if she decides to head to College Station next year for bioenvironmental studies.

If that doesn’t work out, you may very well see her as Raider Red at Texas Tech football games.

Sports@LHIndependent.com

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