Cheerleaders fight against common stereotype

Kayla Yi, Photographer

From the Friday night lights to the middle of the basketball court, cheerleaders are synonymous with school spirit. As they sit on the sidelines, awaiting to perform their routine,  cheerleaders don’t seem to fit the typical  mold of an athlete.Instead of clearing hurtles or racing across the gym floor, the cheerleaders are often seen tumbling on blue mats in the commons, toting big bows and bright neon T-shirts.Compared to swimming, basketball or track, cheer seems to fade into the background as simply another activity. While wrestlers and debaters are recognized for their achievements and wins, there is no announcement congratulating the achievements of the cheer team.Although the cheerleaders aren’t praised for making a last-second touchdown, their talent does not go unnoticed.“I have students that come up to me and say ‘Wow, your girls are great’,” varsity coach Kelli Lair said. “Kids see the amount of work these girls put in.”Even with admiration from their peers, there are still those who do not see cheerleaders as true athletes.

What many people do not see is the hours and hours of practice and the dedication that cheerleaders put in. On and off of the football field and basketball court, cheerleading is categorized as an athletic activity. Although it is overseen by athletics director, Gary Howard, cheerleading is not categorized as a sport.

During cheer season, the girls load onto buses and compete against other schools. These competitions, called festivals, include not only the Blue Valley school district but the Olathe schools as well.  With the safety of mats, the cheerleaders are able to form pyramids and complicated stunts that would otherwise not be possible on the track at football games.

“[Competitions] are a time for the team to showcase their skills. But instead of cheering for another team, they’re here for themselves,” Lair said.For students who are still skeptical about whether cheer is anything beyond a series of high kicks and a waving of pompoms, Lair encourages them to sit in on a practice.At the end of the day however, it does not matter who goes home with the trophy or who is the greatest athlete. Like any other team sport, the girls on the Blue Valley Southwest cheer team are a close knit and supportive family.

“Cheer made me feel more comfortable going into high school,” freshman Alisha Nguyen said. “Most of the girls feel like sisters.”

To those who live and breathe cheer, there is no difference between the quarterback on the field and the cheerleader on the sidelines. Both do what they love, working together with their peers to achieve something that they cannot alone.