FC cheer squads stay spirited in summer
By Bart Moss for the FCT
Often overlooked but always there supporting their teams, promoting school spirit and being ambassadors of their school and community, cheerleaders spend their summers preparing for the upcoming season just like other sports.
Cheerleaders spend the summer going to camps, raising money, practicing, staying in shape and preparing gameplans for the year well in advance. The work cheerleaders do might go overlooked by many casual observers of sports, but it does not go unnoticed by coaches and players.
“Cheerleaders are a support to the team,” said Vina basketball coach Richie Hester. “Especially in close games. They can get the crowd in the game and keep them in the game, sometimes swinging momentum in your favor.”
Phil Campbell football coach Ryan Swinney said he believes cheerleaders don’t always get the recognition they deserve.
“I don’t think cheerleaders get enough credit for what they do to support the teams,” said Swinney. “They do a lot of things behind the scenes that people don’t realize. They are our team’s biggest fans – win or lose.”
For their part, cheerleaders love what they do and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Phil Campbell’s squad, coached by Tonya Bostick, attended cheer camp at the University of Alabama this summer and spent several hot days practicing.
“Most people think being a cheerleaders is easy. It’s not,” said Bostick, who is starting her first year as a cheer coach. “Our cheerleaders take on many roles. They are ambassadors for our school and our community. They are role models for young girls because those young girls are watching them all the time.
“I feel really blessed to be a part of this group because everywhere you go they are bragged about for their cheerleading skills and their behavior.”
Phil Campbell senior cheerleader Carley Nix said she sees cheerleading as a way to give back to her school and community.
“One thing I love about being a cheerleader is it allows me to give my to my school in a way I would not be able to otherwise. It constantly allows me to support my school,” said Nix. “Cheerleading is one of the biggest blessings in my life.”
Nix also said people don’t realize what all goes into to being a good cheerleading squad.
“Many people don’t realize all the time and effort that goes into preparing for games, pep rallies and social events,” explained Nix. “There is more to it than meets the eye.”
Bostick also added that taking on the role of a cheerleader comes with increased expectations.
“Our girls are expected to do well in their classes and have exemplary behavior at school,” said Bostick. “Grades and attitude are very important.”
Another first year cheer coach, Cheryl Letson at Tharptown, echoed Bostick’s sentiments.
“Cheering is hard work if you do it right,” said Letson. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do, and I think we have a group that loves to cheer.
Letson’s squad has spent the summer running and lifting weights two to three days a week to get stronger and get in shape. They also attended cheer camp at Doublehead Resort.
“We learned several new cheers, chants and dances,” said Letson. “We also worked on our stunting, especially with our two guy cheerleaders, Austin Geisler and J.J. Alfaro.
“Our camp was also great for team building and getting to know each other better.”
Geisler, co-captain of the Tharptown squad, said most people don’t know how complex the sport is.
“It takes a lot of sacrifice, working out,” said Geisler. “It is definitely not easy. It’s very dangerous between stunts and tumbling. It is very easy to get hurt or hurt someone else if you are not in shape and totally focused.”
“We’ve had some members quit, but the ones who have stuck it out and worked hard are the members who love, are dedicated and determined to be the best they can be,” Letson added. “I am encouraged by their attitude and how they promote our school.”