Cheerleaders gear up for new yearPublished 3:22pm Tuesday, May 20, 2014
By Bart Moss
For the FCT
Each spring a major competition occurs at every high school in the state, yet it goes largely unnoticed by most sports fans until Fall.
The training for this competition can get intense. The outcomes of this competition can be very emotional. In some instances, this competition has made the participants seem more mature than their adult parents.
The competition is – cheerleader tryouts.
Most sports fans only notice the cheerleaders at football and basketball games. However, the hard work it takes to make a school’s varsity cheerleader squad can be just as hard, if not harder, than making the football, basketball or baseball team.
Although every school is different, most schools have some form of judging criteria they use to select their squads, such as independent judges, teacher evaluation scores and student body vote.
Cheer coaches have minimal input into who will make a squad. In some cases, the cheer coach has no input. Obviously, this is very different from school sports where the head coach has total control over who is on the team and who is not.
Just as a baseball player may hire a hitting coach, many girls train all year long to make cheerleader squads, employing personal trainers to help them with various skills. Just like a basketball player may play summer travel ball to help them get better, many girls join competitive travel cheerleading squads.
Cheerleaders are the focal point of the student body when it comes to school spirit. They lead the pep rallies, they always have a smile on their face, they are always trying to motivate a crowd whether the team is winning or losing, and, in many ways, they are the most visible representatives of a student body.
“For the past three years, we have placed first at cheer camp in nearly every event we have entered,” said Russellville cheer coach Stephanie Mayfield.
“We bring those skills honed at camp to our school. We make signs throughout the school, and we entertain and involve the student body at pep rallies. My girls are leaders. They embody the words, ‘school spirit’.”
Phil Campbell High School cheer coach Lorie Dorroh says the cheerleaders work hard to focus and unite the student body along with encouraging the teams.
“The girls set up themes each week during football season and encourage fellow students to dress up to support the team,” Dorroh said.
“They work hard to prepare pep rallies, selling spirit items, making signs and whatever else we can come up with that will focus and unite our students to rally behind our teams and coaches.”
Tharptown High School cheer coach Tracey Fretwell said that cheerleading can not only be a physical strain but a mental one as well.
“Many don’t realize just how tough cheerleading is,” Fretwell said. “Besides the physical strain there’s also the mental side of it, from trying to plan pep rallies to coming up with different ideas to get the student body involved.
“My girls are 100 percent dedicated to doing whatever it takes to get both tasks accomplished, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
This Fall, just like the football team, the product you see on Friday night is the result of hard work in the summer and during the week leading up to game night.
2014-15 Varsity Cheerleader Squads
Belgreen High School
Teresa Whitten – Cheer Coach
Anna Humphries – Head
Emma Riley – Co-Head
Phil Campbell High School
Lorie Dorroh – Cheer Coach
Haley D. Scott
Haley M. Scott
Red Bay High School
Cheer Coach – Jerri Mayo
Emma Howard – Captain
Clair Kennedy – Co-Captain
Mary Katherine Markham
Russellville High School
Stephanie M. Mayfield – Cheer Coach
Hannah Prince – Captain
Caitlyn Tompkins – Co-Captain
CHAMP Mascot – Dylan Bales
Tharptown High School
Cheer Coach: Tracey Fretwell
Brianna Hester – Captain
Lindsey Stancil – Co-Captain
Vina’s cheer coach could not be reached for comment.