Team to cheer for basketball and compete for two national titles in January
For the first time in the school’s history, cheer will continue for a second season in the winter as a competitive team and will perform at basketball games, making it the first ESD sport to be continued for two consecutive seasons.
In the past, the administration has worried that if cheer had a second season, it would take players away from other winter sports. However, most girls on the team haven’t participated in a winter sport in years past and would normally opt for personal fitness or playing a sport in the spring to make their athletic credit requirements instead. Only a few cheerleaders played either soccer or basketball last year, and almost, if not all, of those players continued with their sport this year instead of doing cheer. Other girls who decided not to participate In the winter cheer season participated in a spring sport or were juniors or seniors who didn’t need a second athletic credit. One athlete who didn’t do winter cheer is junior varsity cheerleader Tatum Croucher.
“Cheering in the fall season has always been super fun, and I think winter will be as well,” Croucher said. “However, I loved playing soccer last year, and I wanted to do it again this year because I like it just as much as cheerleading. I also know I would have thought I was missing out if I didn’t play soccer this season.”
Cheerleaders have had the opportunity in years past to meet on weekends to compete in a singular competition, but the problem many girls had with this was that it didn’t count as a sports credit, and there were very few practices. The competition also didn’t gather many participating teams so the team often found themselves competing alone. Sophomore and Varsity cheerleader Ivy Runyon participated in the competition team last year.
“I enjoyed [being part of the competition] team last year, but there were so few practices that if you missed one you were basically taken out of half the routine,” said Runyon. “Practices were also so spread apart that we couldn’t improve or solidify our skills, and each time we got together to practice again it felt like we had to relearn the routine. I’m glad this year it’s different, and I’m really looking forward to competing for a nationally recognized title.”
This year, cheer program director Megan Schroeder was granted the opportunity to pilot a basketball cheer team as well as a competition team under a few conditions. The conditions were that the basketball team would be made up of varsity and JV players from the regular season, and it wouldn’t count as a true sports credit, meaning participants would have to sign up for personal fitness, but complete their workouts during practices. However, for the competition roster, JV participants would have to try out to earn their spot on the roster as an alternate or one of the performing spots, since there is a maximum of 31 girls per team allowed to compete. A lot of girls on junior varsity who decided not to do winter cheer worried about not making the competition team.
“I was on Junior Varsity, so I wasn’t exactly guaranteed a spot on the competition team. This was definitely something I thought about whenever I was thinking about doing cheer or soccer because I would have wanted to do both basketball cheer and competition cheer,” Croucher said. “I think that it will be a fun season for my friends who did decide to do it. Maybe I’ll cheer in the winter next year when it isn’t so new and I know a little bit more about it.”
This season, The team will compete in two National Cheer Association (NCA) competitions. Their first competition is the NCA holiday classic, taking place on Dec. 10 in Dallas at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, and their second competition is the NCA high school national championship which will take place at the same place on Jan. 21 to 22, 2023. The program will be competing at NCA high school level three, which will require many on the team to solidify new stunts and tumbling skills in order to win.
The team began practicing the week of Nov. 8 and the first basketball game they will cheer at will take place in January on a date that hasn’t been determined yet. A lot of planning and strategizing is required for coaches Megan Schroeder and Charleigh Berry to get this program running smoothly, but luckily practices every night aren’t necessary for the basketball season. Since halftime routines aren’t performed for basketball, There isn’t as much of a need for long and frequent practices. Girls who are doing basketball cheer but not competition cheer have only been to about three practices so far since the season hasn’t started yet and they don’t have much to work on yet. Thanks to the relaxed schedule of the winter season, athletes have more time to focus on other extracurriculars and academics.
“I loved cheering during the fall,” Runyon said. “Learning a new routine each week was always so much fun, but to be honest, after so much hard work I’m happy to have a break. Without practice every day, it takes away some stress on schoolwork since I get home much earlier and I’m not as tired. I think having a less busy schedule is good for the whole team since we have already had a full season with daily practices.”
Another benefit of the winter schedule is that cheerleaders can perfect their technique and maintain their skill levels for tryouts in May and the next football season. Only about three girls on the team do cheer outside of school, so it is hard for most to keep what they’ve learned for the next season.
Although this new program has many great benefits, the biggest focus of the cheer team is bringing spirit and support to those they cheer on. The winter cheer season is aimed towards bringing more spirit and student attendance to both men’s and women’s basketball. Sophomore Ella Floyd, varsity fall and winter cheerleader, views winter cheer as a positive addition to the cheer team.
“I did winter cheer because it’s a great way to keep my skills up,” Floyd said. “I had so much during the fall season that I wanted to continue doing it.”