Cheer is a nationally ranked team without a fanbase

Does cheer receive the recognition and appreciation they deserve?

Tess Petrillo, Staff Reporter
Originally published November 21, 2018

Samantha NietoThe Black cheer team practices stunts on the warm up field before competing at the 2018 Nationals. Located at Disney World, the team placed 13th in the Nation in medium D1 tumbling division.

Samantha Nieto

The Black cheer team practices stunts on the warm up field before competing at the 2018 Nationals. Located at Disney World, the team placed 13th in the Nation in medium D1 tumbling division.

Cheerleading has often been portrayed as an activity for ditzy, showy girls who don’t work hard, and are seen as objects rather than athletes. For years cheer has been stigmatized and stereotyped as a useless activity by high school movies in pop culture such as “Bring it On” or “Fired up.”  

However, like most high school stereotypes, these ones are incorrect. Our nationally ranked cheer team not only practices at a the same level as other sports teams, but also makes sure that every team gets the support and appreciation that they deserve. But cheer does not receive this in return.

Cheerleaders devote a very large amount of time and work in order to prepare for sideline cheering and competitions.

Senior Ellie Ingraham has been on varsity cheer for three years. She was on Black last year, the tumbling team, and is currently on Red, the non-tumbling team. For the past two years she has been the head sideline captain and because of her experience, she is very familiar with the time commitment that cheer demands.  

“Cheer does take up a lot of free time, so often times you end up having to plan other things like homework, your social life, family obligations and vacations around cheer practice and games because it’s a really big time commitment,” Ingraham said.

In addition to practice, cheer has other things that add to the time commitment and set them apart from other teams. Head coach Samantha Nieto describes how cheer requires more than just practicing for events.

“Our number one job at Ballard is to be the support system for all the sports as well as being the front facing group for Ballard High School,” Nieto said. “We split them into groups to specifically support all the teams that we don’t physically cheer at. They do posters recognizing the team’s latest accomplishments, they bake cookies, they write notes for players.”

Freshman cheerleader Claire Peters also points out that students often don’t understand how much work cheer puts in for team support. “I don’t think people really understand what we do, they might see a poster in the hallway and not really realize that we stayed after school or past practice to do that,” Peters said.  

Despite the work they have put into it, many cheerleaders commented on how in years past, they were neglected in comparison to other sports teams or completely disregarded by the student body.  

One Black team cheerleader, sophomore Zoe Seeman has been going to cheer practices since eighth grade. “In the past, in eighth grade, it was not great, no one had any regard or respect for cheer,” Seeman said.

However, this year the issue is improving. Red team co-captain, senior Freeman Marshall, explains how the respect towards cheer has greatly improved from previous years. “Since Black won state last year, that raises our credibility a lot,” Marshall said. “It just keeps improving every year. Now the Beaver Brigade posts stuff about us and thanks us, and I am just forever thankful for that.”

While the spirit and respect towards cheer is getting better, many still don’t consider it a sport even though the cheerleaders practice and work just as hard as athletes on other teams.

“The perception of the sport is pom-poms and spirit fingers, so people don’t take it seriously,” said Nieto. “So it’s very difficult when you have these overwhelmingly talented athletes that combine so many elements that are overlooked because they are wearing a skirt or shaking a pom-pom.”

Nieto and the team are constantly focusing on putting in the work in order to break the barriers that are preventing them from getting the validation that they deserve. Achieving this is difficult when all the school see is the cheers at football or basketball games.

“For us, cheerleading creates energy that can affect what’s happening on the field,” explained Coach Nieto. “If it’s third-down and we are trying to get a stop, we pick a cheer that will create an energy that will help the football game. If we are on offense we try to be quiet so that the communication from the coach to the team is easier.”

Thinking like this as well as the effort put into the preparation for competitions and team support shows how cheer is deserving of just as much validation and respect as any other sports team. Students attending state competitions or putting posters up for accomplishments would not only be a way to show an equal amount of support for cheer, but also to see and be proud of how good the team is.

“I would say people would be surprised at what it looks like for these girls at a competition to walk into a room, because people look at them and think, ‘I wish I was on that team,”’says Nieto. “And I wish that kids at this school could see how the other people in our sport view our team.”