By: Izzy Caravela
Sports are unarguably an essential part of the school spirit and culture here at JCHS. Sporting events are the quintessence of school spirit, ranging from football games, pep rallies, and eventful soccer games. Aside from the athletes, coaches, and fans that are the epitome of the athleticism that takes place on our very own Bonnell field, there is one group that often goes unrecognized, and extremely underappreciated: the cheerleaders. Attending Friday nights under the lights in support of the football team, every home soccer game for both the girls and boys varsity teams, girls and boys basketball teams and the wrestling matches in the winter, the cheerleaders are there for it all. For every goal, touchdown, pin, and free throw, the cheerleaders are there to support every step of Chief players make.
The ample amount of dedication, effort, and time the cheerleading team spends in comparison to regular sports teams is far underappreciated, and it’s almost shameful to the cheerleading program that they don’t receive the notice and appreciation that they deserve. Without looking close enough, one would only see the cheerleaders in action when they are standing on the sidelines and during their halftime performances. However, if you take a look closer you will recognize the responsibilities that lie beneath what only spectators see of the cheerleaders, and it must be remembered that the cheerleading team is a regular sports team that deserves the same, if not more recognition, as other sports.
The cheerleaders start their fall preseason the same time as every other fall sport, sacrificing the last three weeks of their summers to practice. Senior soccer captain Jaden Pezzolla stated: “The cheerleaders would spend just as much or more time than us at practice each day during preseason.” According to senior leader Jess Biscotti, these summer preseason hours “were three hours 7:30-10:30, Monday through Friday.” These hours are more strenuous and longer than the girls’ soccer preseason.
In addition to the strenuous preseason, the cheerleaders hold several responsibilities throughout the school year. Senior leader Jess Biscotti informs, “We have games 4-5 days of the week, ranging from girls’ soccer, boys’ soccer, and football games.” As an athlete myself, I understand how long games can sometimes run, and how stressful it can be to come home after a long game to loads of homework and other responsibilities. On the other hand, the cheerleaders have games almost every day of the week, which is an insane commitment, and proves their dedication to the sport, and their spirit for the school.
The common stereotype that “cheer isn’t a sport” is a phrase that is unfair to everyone involved in the cheerleading program. Coach and JCHS class of 2000 cheerleading alumni, Mrs. Bergmann says, “We have to get physicals, we have to get cleared by the
nurse, so it’s annoying when people say it’s not a sport when the kids need physicals and impact concussion tests.” Senior football player, Kyle Ross defends the cheerleaders by saying, “I appreciate all the hard work the cheerleaders do for us and the extra mile they take to make sure to give us food and that we are psyched for our game even though they don’t have to.”
Biscotti also went into further details on the responsibilities of the cheerleaders. She says, “We each have a football player that is our assigned locker buddy throughout the year. We decorate their lockers every week with new sayings that correlate to the team we are playing that week.” For example, “Hustle the Hillbillies” was a saying when the team played Verona. Jess continued to say, “We also put food in our buddy’s locker on game days. We paint signs that the players run through when they announce the starting line up. We also paint signs for the wrestling team, basketball teams, and soccer teams for events like senior night.”
Mrs. Bergmann added, “We do a lot of fundraising. We have an annual car wash, and we do a lot of bake sales to raise money for the welcome baskets we make for the other teams who come for home games.”
Jess continued, “We do a lot of charity work as well. We recently attended a homecoming dance at Crane’s Mill with the football team, and we have our annual SEC Cheer for the Cure competition during the month of October for breast cancer awareness. We’re doing Light the Night, which is the leukemia walk in Verona and we cheer the walkers on.”
Mrs. Bergman noted, “An alumni cheerleader who is now in her 20s had lymphoma, so we were asked to do Light the Night in honor of her. She thankfully is fine now. We are doing it this year again because of Mrs. Renzetti,” a science teacher who was just recently diagnosed with leukemia for the second time. To add to the long list of responsibilities, Mrs.Bergmann added, “We also decorate the seniors houses the night before senior night.”
As an alumni herself, Coach Mrs. Bergman went on to implement changes within the program from the time she graduated to now. She says, “We don’t have captains anymore, instead we do senior leaders. Decorations are a little less. We used to blow balloons up for soccer and put them through the fence because it was easier on the old field, but now we can’t string them through with the new fencing. We don’t wear sweaters anymore. Our uniforms are a little more fashionable. Mrs. Keil and Mrs. Callaghan were my coaches. They are still involved with the program, Mrs. Keil does JV and Mrs. Callaghan helps with the winter season. We do a lot of the same cheers. We used to attend an overnight camp in the summer, and scholarships used to be awarded to a senior with the highest GPA whereas now all seniors receive scholarships.”
Coach Mrs. Callaghan says, “I have coached cheer every year since I have taught here, and it’s a fun and rewarding commitment. I love all of the girls and the program.”
Rain or shine, 20 degree or 90 degree weather, the cheerleaders are there to support the teams of our school through it all. On top of the practice and strenuous game schedule, they participate in community service, volunteer work, and work to fill the school with spirit in multiple different ranges. They spend so much time, effort, and dedication to the
sport they are a part of in addition to so much more that comes with it, which is beyond admirable and deserving recognition. Therefore, cheerleaders should be more appreciated within the school for all of their hardwork and dedication to our teams and school spirit. To the cheerleaders, coaches, and everyone involved in the program, this writer and athlete thanks you and appreciates you.