The enthusiasm inside the Petro Allied Health Center dance studio this week didn't sound like boot camp does in the movies. Mascot Boot Camp is a whole different ball game.
For three days, Washburn University hosted Dave Raymond, a.k.a. The Mascot Doctor, and seven mascot program staff seeking to perfect their craft. For them, it was similar to going to the top annual conference in your field, a chance to network with others in the industry, learn from the best of the best and head back to work energized about what they do.
“It’s a great experience to learn how to bring value to an organization using your mascot,” said Andrew Johnson, mascot coordinator for the Missouri Mavericks hockey team, based in Independence, Mo. “To be able to work with (Raymond) is a very valuable opportunity.”
Raymond, who runs the Raymond Entertainment Group, has been running camps like this one for 20 years. He spent more than 16 years as the Phillie Phanatic, the mascot of the Philadelphia Phillies, entertaining fans and instigating a million-dollar merchandising program.
"Half the things I’m teaching I never did,” he said. “I could have been so much better" if there had been a network to learn and share with like this.
In many cases, an individual who performs in costume also is responsible for coordinating public appearances, building brand loyalty for the organization and otherwise promoting it. Raymond said his goal is to make sure those who attend a boot camp are enriched in both areas. The keys are creativity in costume and delivering value beyond it – and communicating that value within the organization.
In the case of a university with student performers, like Washburn, the message is simple: “You’re not a kid in a costume fooling around,” Raymond said. “You are the only symbol of the university that someone can hug. You’re giving the opportunity for someone to see this university in a really positive light.”
The Mavericks’ Johnson, who graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City this week with a bachelor of business in marketing, aims to turn his passion for mascots and marketing into a full-time job. Hearing Raymond, mascot staff from the Kansas City Royals and others at the camp reinforce what he knows, he said, leaves him feeling “energized for the upcoming season.”
The culmination of the camp on Wednesday was the development of partner skits that were performed, immediately critiqued by the peer audience then edited and performed again. The dance studio was filled with laughter as K-State’s Willie the Wildcat and the Royal’s Sluggerrr acted out their skit.
"This program has really put weight to how important the creative process is,” said one of Washburn’s own Ichabod performers. "It helped me to see how other people think. Not everyone is going to see it the way I do so I need to make sure I portray it in a way everyone can see it.”
Raymond said the focus on the creative process is intentional, and crucial for any good performer. The skits allow participants to put everything they worked on into practice. They also spent a lot of time working in front of the mirrors in the studio.
The mirror work, feedback and networking boosted the confidence of another of Washburn’s performers.
“Watching the Royals guys, they’re pros. It’s cool to watch them and get some more experience. (I was able to) watch them do things and I’d do things. I got to see what I could do, that’s boosting my confidence.”
Check out Ichabod's Facebook page for more photos and videos from boot camp.