While SHS cheerleaders devote their season to peppy cheering and flawless routines, the life of SHS cheerleaders are not always easy or happy. In fact, cheerleading is more time consuming and demanding than most imagine. The long season of cheerleading is broken up into two parts: the fall is devoted to learning cheers and stunts for SHS sporting events, while the winter is spent mastering new routines and stunts to prepare for tournaments and competitions.
Varsity cheerleaders are expected to perform both gymnastic feats and complicated routines called “stunts.” Stunts require flyers and backspots. Flyers must be extremely flexible; these cheerleaders are thrown up into the air to perform aerial tricks. Backspots, the cheerleaders who form the base of the stunts, must be strong in order to lift, throw, and catch the flyers.
Any Easier, and It’d Be Football
The varsity cheerleading team practices six days a week for two-to-three hours each day. Like other varsity athletes, cheerleaders often have intensive practices over vacations. During the competitive season, the team works seven days a week because many tournaments fall on Sundays. Although they primarily participate in formal competitions, SHS cheerleaders also cheer at varsity football games and both girls’ and boys’ varsity basketball games. “Helping out with the community, decorating boys’ lockers, and cheering at games is only side work for us,” said varsity captain senior captain Haley Nerenberg. The team also supports other SHS teams to promote school spirit, holds bake sales to raise money for the team, and participates in fundraisers with the student body.
The JV team, coached by Danielle Pancredi, consists mostly of freshmen. The team works hard to perfect stunts, tumbling, and routines. “The JV team may not be as intense as the varsity team, but it prepares us for varsity and it is still a lot of fun,” said freshman JV cheerleader Caroline Finkelstein.
At both the varsity and JV level, cheerleading is a huge physical commitment. Cheerleaders are expected to practice all year round. Before the regular season even begins, cheerleaders receive a CD of about 100 cheers to memorize. In August, they begin six-hour practices and go to cheer camp, where they practice cheers and stunts from seven AM to eleven PM.
At competitions, both the varsity and JV teams are given a four-to-five minute slot to warm up. When the competition begins, each team must perform a two-and-a-half minute routine of stunts, tumbling, dance, and cheering. During the performance, a panel of three judges award a score based on sharpness of motion, difficulty level, crowd involvement, spacing, and safety. The judges deduct points for mistakes such as falls or dropped flyers.
Many students’ knowledge of cheerleading is limited to what they see on TV and in movies about cheerleading. Most movies show cheerleaders as the typical ‘mean girls’, but many SHS students feel that the cheerleaders at SHS do not fit this image. “Scarsdale is a pretty good academic school, so our cheerleaders are smart, too. They are nothing like the stupid ditzy cheerleaders they depict in movies,” said sophomore Matt Ginsberg.
For several years, cheerleading has been a single-sex sport at SHS; however, this gender bias is not a local or national requirement. “When we compete nationally down south, [co-ed cheerleading] is actually quite big. And in college, cheerleading is very big,” said SHS JV cheerleading coach Stacy Monteiro. Among high school students in the New York area, however, Monteiro noted that cheerleading “doesn’t seem to be popular [for] males.”
Freshman Taylor Doyle, a member of the JV team, suggested that many “boys don’t really want to do cheerleading because they think it’s very feminine.” However, the team is open to either gender, and boys are welcome to try out.
Cheer All Year
By the end of February, when the winter season comes to an end, the team is already beginning to prepare for the next year. Eighth-graders and SHS students begin trying out for the the up-coming season. After tryouts, team members participate in a stunting clinic until summer, when the cheerleaders get to take a two-month vacation from official cheer practice. Although some underestimate its seriousness, cheerleading is a physically demanding and time consuming sport, comparable to any other SHS varsity team.