Cheerleading takes brains, oomph

P1050498By Jessica Pena-Diaz and Jessika Rosado

Cheerleading — do you think it counts as a sport? Should people sign up for it? We say yes to both questions. As cheerleaders ourselves, we know how it works, when to practice, and manage to remember every cheer. Are you still not convinced? Well, here is information that is sure to shake your pom-poms.

In cheerleading, we practice every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. If you are late to these practices, you witness “punishment,” just as in any other sport. In cheerleading, punishment can consist of wall sits, squats, pushups and other tough exercises. But you have to remember: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

In all, there are 18 cheerleaders, including captain Gabi Gomes, an eighth-grader, and coach Yonolda  Creese. In addition, Raquel Lockhart, a former Okeeheelee teacher, assists with cheerleading stunts.
Cheerleading, particularly when you do stunts, “is super risky,” Creese said. “We bring in somebody who knows what they’re doing, which is why Mrs. Lockhart is here.”

While some area squads compete, Okeeheelee’s does not, she said.

“We need to be together a bit more before we do that,” Creese said.
The squad runs for nearly the whole year, from early September up to a tournament in April, cheering on the sidelines at basketball and football games, she said.

Each and every one is not just a member; we are a committed family. Well, a committed family with matching uniforms. That’s right – we get matching uniforms and pom-poms. The colors are blue, teal, silver, and white.

The past of cheerleading is very interesting as well. When you think of cheerleaders, you think of girls, right? Well, get this: Cheerleading actually started with boys. At Princeton University, students in the 1880s formed “an all-male student ‘pep club’ to lead ‘cheers’ (unified chants and cheers) to provide support to their team, as well as create a high energy sport environment,” according to the International Cheer Union.

A Princeton graduate introduced the “pep squad” and “cheer” concepts to the University of Minnesota. In 1898, Minnesota had lost three football games and student leaders were asking for a solution before the final game, the cheer union reports. Jack “Johnny” Campbell was credited as being the first of so-called “yell leaders” to pick up a megaphone, jump onto the sports field, and lead the crowd with the popular university organized cheer:  “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-U-Mah! Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Minn-e-so-tah!”  The team won, and cheerleading was born, the union said.

Women finally joined around 1923, which is also when they began to include stunting, tumbling, and things like megaphones and pom-poms. Also, the uniform was completely different; women wore knee-length skirts and varsity shirts, unlike the uniform we wear today. Today women wear short skirts, crop tops, and bows.

Today, some debate whether cheeerleading is a sport and whether it should be part of a future Olympics. Some people oppose the idea of cheerleading as an official sport, saying that if you cannot win or lose a game, then it shouldn’t be a sport. Some think that we just dress up all pretty and clap and scream all game, but cheerleading takes a lot of brainpower – not just clapping, yelling, and moving. For example, we have to remember over 50 cheers – each with a different code or number.

Whether cheerleading is a sport is tricky. Jim Lord, executive director of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches & Administrators, says it’s up to each state to decide. Some states say yes, they can compete, but then limit the season and travel and block cheerleaders from cheering at games.

Florida allows cheerleaders to compete as athletes and also cheer on others, Lord said. The association likes to call it “an athletic activity,” Lord said, “It makes it simpler and hopefully helps cheerleaders get recognized for the things they do without getting restricted from doing the things they like to do.”

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