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There's no 'foo foo' on these cheer teams
By COLE COSGROVE
Sanctioned by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association since 1987, cheerleading is increasingly becoming recognized for its athletic merits.
All three high schools have the same mentality, Federal Way High cheer coach Shay Short said. You cheer as an athletic endeavor rather than stand on the sideline and try to look cute.
Teams are including lifts and throws into routines and are attending more and more competitions. At the beginning of the season, cheerleaders spend more time on conditioning, weight lifting and proper technique than learning chants.
Before we start, we talk about content of character, Decatur cheer coach Laurie Beaver said. Thats where we start the team building. Im also big on conditioning and weight lifting. Its not going to do any good if youre not in shape.
Its like any sport, you have to train to do it, Short said. Once the conditioning is done, youre ready to go and the sky is the limit. A big piece is trust in the team or it doesnt work.
During the school year, teams practice every day they dont go to an event, which means its at least a five-day-a-week commitment
Its year-round, Jefferson coach David Vinson said. A lot of athletes get that break after a season is over. For us, when football and soccer end, we dig out the basketball and wrestling vernacular. People underestimate the amount of time it takes.
Vinson also feels some people dont respect the sport.
Therefore they find it expendable and unimportant, he said. For example, I give my cheerleaders in June a copy of all the dates of events and practices until the following June and they give them to their employers who schedule them to work anyway. Its highly disruptive to the team since we all know an employer wold never schedule a soccer player or a football player on game day.
The Jefferson cheer team stands out because it is the only completely coed squad in the state an equal number of boys and girls, despite the fact most schools struggle to get guys to cheer.
I have to cut guys like I cut girls, Vinson said. Its important to me that TJ cheer reflects the TJ student body. Thats what sets us apart. We have a lot more diversity.
Jefferson also expands on the traditional cheering from the sidelines.
Philosophically, we compete so were more of a building team, Vinson said. Fundamentally, when other schools are doing sideline chants theyre stronger than we are, but thats their focus. Our focus is on the building and competition.
Jefferson took first place at a competition in early December. It will compete again on Jan. 17 and 25 at Kentridge and Bellevue, respectively.
At Decatur, the cheer team is known for its strict adherence to rules of appearance, partly because coach Laurie Beaver is on the board of the Washington State Cheer Coaches Association.
Im a stickler for the rules the way their hair is supposed to be, no jewelry, Beaver said. We hold our poms for everything. Its part of the uniform. I have little old ladies who come up to me and comment about how clean and put together the team looks. Theres no foo foo at Decatur.
In the past, stunting has been less of a priority for Decatur. But with stunts as part of the state competition in March, the Gators are starting to work it into their routine.
If youre going to go to the competitions, you need to learn to do it, Beaver said. The kids like it, but its a lot of hard work.
Decatur was invited to nationals and won dance and leadership awards at the summer camp at the University of Puget Sound. Out of 15 teams, Decatur was voted the team that other cheerleaders would most want to join.
Federal Ways team this year is one of the best in recent years, coach Shay Short said.
This team is extremely talented, Short said. Its one of the most talented squads Ive coached.
At camp last summer in Bellingham, the team earned a bid to go to nationals, but doesnt have the finances to make the trip.
We dont compete too much because the time commitment is huge, Short said. We dont have time to work on us, our goal is to help the school.
Cheer coaches said being a cheerleader is more than performing at games.
Thats what people see, but there are so many things people dont see, Short said. Community service, helping before the school year with registration, any time someone needs something mailed out or something done, they go get the cheerleaders.
Cheer squads work concessions at Safeco Field to earn money for uniforms and travel to competitions.
Thats where they bond and learn to work as a team to get a goal accomplished, Short said.
Your life is over once you become a cheerleader, Beaver said. Its a full time job.
But the majority of the time is spent encouraging sports teams, game after game, night after night.
People need to remember that people who choose to be a cheerleader, it means they want to be at your events supporting you, Vinson said. I dont care if theyre terrible, its more fans watching you. You should support them. Theyre like any student who gives up their afternoons for the school. Give them props for that. Dont ever forget that.