The memorization and practice of cheers and dance moves, the teamwork with others, competing in competitions, having complete faith in a team member, and showing school spirit constantly are all attributes of what a cheerleader is all about.
Cheerleaders are known as athletes, those who bring spirit to a game, and those who represent the school throughout the year at cheer competitions.
Cheerleading can be viewed as an art form, complete with intense physical activity that is based on specific organized routines. The routines contain components of tumbling, dance, jumps, cheers and stunting in order to direct spectators of events to cheer for sports teams at games or to participate in cheerleading competitions.
At New Albany High School, Mary Beth Muncie is the cheer coach and Melanie Anderson is the assistant cheer coach. This duo coaches and assists the 24-member cheerleading squad at the school, along with the cheer captains. The cheer captain for the 2013-2014 school year is Avery Campbell and the co-captain is Hannah Anderson, both seniors.
Avery Campbell said, “Cheerleading is a team sport. You have to bring a good attitude to the mats and learn to work together. You also develop leadership skills.”
According to Campbell, one misconception about cheerleading is that most people don’t consider cheerleading a sport.
“However, in order to compete, we work out pretty much year-round. Although our first priority is cheering for our Bulldogs, cheerleading has evolved so much more. It is very competitive,” said Campbell.
Hannah Anderson said, “The public should know the hard work that goes into cheerleading. If you ask most people, they wouldn’t consider cheer a sport, but what people don’t realize is that we practice and cheer at games almost year-round. When we are not cheering for football and basketball games, we are preparing to compete at camp and preparing for the Mississippi High School Athletic AssociationCheer State Competition. People may not realize the effort and the dedication that we put into cheerleading. We work hard to earn our spots as cheerleaders, while some juggle other sports at the same time.”
Leadership development is an important part of the job of a cheerleading coach. Each coach should take time to develop strong leaders on his or her team. Cheerleaders display leadership not only on the field, but also in the classroom and community. Leadership development is broken down into three categories – priorities, discipline, and supervision
Cheerleading is a year-round sport and the cheerleaders practice all year. Tryouts for the squad are held the last week in Feb. The new squad begins in March of each year.
Muncie said, “You have to be very physically fit to be a cheerleader. Some girls have to lift another girl over their head and do other physically active activities. They have to able to catch, throw, and toss in addition to dancing, cheering, and tumbling. There is a lot of stretching and a lot of physical training.”
“Cheerleading is a very physically demanding sport, but safety is our number one priority. There are safety lessons for the stunting and for other aspects of the sport. You have to follow the fundamentals of safety,” said Melanie Anderson. “In cheerleading and especially in stunting, the girls have to be very trusting of each other, have to not have fear, and have to be very confident of their bases. If a group doesn’t trust each other, it won’t work.”
Allie Owen, senior cheerleader, said, “I think of cheerleading as a sport and exercise. Not only do you have to have your body fit; you have to have stamina.”
There are six stunt groups and 24 cheerleaders in a squad. Muncie said one reason she chose that number is because it’s enough to be seen from a stadium.
Out of 24 members, certain girls can choose to be on the competitive team, which is made up of 16 girls. There are separate routines and practices for that squad. The MHSAA competitive season runs from October to December.
In June each year, a group of girls goes to cheer camp and compete in dance and stunting cheers.
Throughout the year, the cheerleaders have various responsibilities.
In the fall, the cheerleaders get prepared for football season by learning and rehearsing cheer moves, dance moves, and stunting. The girls also paint 50 spirit signs to be placed around the school’s hallways, they paint approximately 15 run-through signs for the football players to run through at away games, and they paint signs for pep rallies.
Elleigh Hall, senior cheerleader, said, “I saw cheerleading as a fun and exciting way to be involved in multiple sports and help spread spirit throughout the school.”
Cheerleaders have to learn the rules of football and basketball games, both offense and defense, and have to know when to cheer.
The cheerleaders start with a circle of prayer before each game and are ready and excited to cheer the team on, according to Muncie and Melanie Anderson.
“We strive for our girls to be well-rounded, they have to have at least a 2.0 grade point average to stay on the squad, and they need to be good role models in school and in the community,” said Muncie.
The cheerleaders practice after school and up to three hours each day in the fall and up to 12 hours per week leading up to cheer camp in June.
The upcoming school year will be the first that cheerleading is being offered as a seventh period option at New Albany High School.
The mission of the cheerleading program in the New Albany School District is to support the athletic program, to lead the school and community in the development of spirit and pride and pride, to serve as ambassadors for each school and to develop the value of teamwork and continued skill progression through competitive cheerleading. The cheerleaders will strive to develop good sportsmanship between competing schools.