There’s a wide world of sports beyond the Friday night lights.
We all know that cheer and football go together like peas and carrots, marshmallows and hot chocolate, ham and cheese, salt and…well, you see where we’re going. But what about those athletes fighting it out on the field, the court, the mat or the rink for your school’s honor? While you might not associate cheerleading with a swimming pool or soccer field, there’s a whole lot to love about dusting off your poms to support teams that don’t normally get as much attention.
What Do You Love About Cheering for Your School’s Unsung Heroes?
“Cheering for our hockey team is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with cheerleading!”––Catie Schafer, Bismarck HS, Bismarck, ND
“Cheering for lacrosse is so fun because the crowd and players really love having us there. The crowd isn’t used to seeing cheerleaders, so it’s fun for them! My team and I make a tunnel for the players to run through when they go onto the field, and it gets them excited and ready for the game! Another great thing is that all my life I’ve known the rules of football and basketball, and now I get the chance to learn about other sports.”––Alie Sturchio, Hofstra Univsersity, Long Island, NY
“My squad gets to celebrate and cheer on all of our Titan athletes, who love the extra support!”––Madeline Cowan, Temescal Canyon HS, Lake Elsinore, CA
“I love learning the ins and outs of each sport. When you are up so close to the action, you develop certain adoration for our teams—it’s inevitable when you’re by their side for the good and the bad.” –Bridget Slade, University of Miami, Miami, FL
“I like how creative you have to be in making up new cheers for the less-than traditional sports. Cheering for a swim meet isn’t only fun—paying attention to timing is everything, like making sure to cheer when their ears are out of the water.”––Jessica Lynn, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL
Wondering How to Get Involved? Just Ask!
There’s no need for bashfulness here—these athletes and coaches want your support! “It’s crucial to reach out to other sports teams,” says Bridget. “Your yells and cheers will only enrich their confidence and performance.” To get involved, Bridget suggests having your coach reach out to the athletic director or the head coach of the team your squad is dying to cheer for.
As well, Madeline says that it’s important to at least cast a line: let members of these teams know that your squad wants to support them at a few important games and see how they respond. “Coaches are thrilled to have extra support,” says Madeline. “They’ll give you feedback as to which games you should attend.” Coach Jessica Maynard from Lewis Palmer HS in Monument, CO, says it’s enough to pack up your poms for one big game. “I ask all the coaches which game is against their biggest rival and we make it a big deal by inviting the whole school to attend with us, like to swimming and wrestling.”
Sometimes, an opportunity to cheer for something totally unique might fall into your lap like it did for Costa Mesa HS of Costa Mesa, CA, and then it’s your squad’s duty to accept the challenge. “The [skateboarding] league contacted us to ask if we’d cheer for their first event to help get attention and show that skateboarding is a sport too—we did, and had an amazing time,” says Coach Kori Johnson. Don’t worry if you can’t write a Wikipedia entry on rowing or explain the history of the polo mallet—it’s important to stay open-minded and just say yes. “It may be intimidating to cheer for a sport that you don’t understand,” says Alie. “But it can really be a lot of fun and a great learning experience.”
Why It’s Awesome
Who spreads spirit better than the cheer squad? When your squad comes to support these other sports, it’ll get everyone else excited too. “Having cheerleaders at the games gets more students to come, and most of the fun at games is having the crowd cheer along with us,” says Alie. “So, we stand directly in front of the student section at basketball games, and the students get really into it—they’re constantly starting defense chants and cheering along with us.”
Not only will your squad boost spirit by supporting all of these teams, it’ll also increase it’s recognition. “Being at these games makes athletes think, ‘Oh, they actually do care about us; they’re taking it seriously,’” says Coach Maynard. “I don’t think the kids or school in general recognize how much of a sport cheer is and how much time we put into it. But when we go to all these games and more people see the teams, they’re taken more seriously as a sport. Overall, the school respects them more.” When the cheer team shows up, athletes realize that they have someone behind their back. “It proves that we are willing to sacrifice some of our time to make sure they have someone rooting them on,” says Madeline. The players perform better knowing they have all of that moral support in the form of screaming fans and jumping cheerleaders. “Hearing not only us but an entire crowd of people cheering them gets the team excited and focused on performing their best,” says Alie.
And everyone appreciates the encouragement. “We’ve experienced some incredible feedback and gratitude from our women’s basketball team,” says Bridget. “After attending all their home games and traveling to national tournaments by their side, they’ve responded with many thanks at the end of their season. They even wrote us thank-you cards.”
Make Your Playbook
Just because you aren’t in a football stadium doesn’t mean your cheer potential is limited! “It’s fun to change up your performances and routine for each sport, tailoring it specifically to connect to their fan base and pertain to their rules,” says Bridget. “By personalizing cheers for each team, it makes it that much more exciting for them to have your support.”
The Hofstra cheerleaders know how to get their school’s basketball fans pumped during those short time-outs, explains Alie. “The announcer comes out along with the squad and we get the crowd to follow a chant where we have one side of the gym yell “WE ARE!” and the other side yells back “HOFSTRA!” They go back and forth, battling to see who can be the loudest. During this, my squad and I perform stunts, while holding signs, to get the entire crowd involved.”
Even if you aren’t cheering in a typical sports arena at all, there are still creative ways to make it work, like the Costa Mesa cheerleaders did for their skateboarding team. “We performed a hip-hop routine in the skate park ‘bowl’ and cheered them on by evolving one of our cheers to make it fit skateboarding—‘S-K-A-T-E! Skate, Mustangs, skate!’ ” says Coach Johnson.
Your Cheer-All Checklist
• If you’re whole team can’t make it to every sport, or if, like Miami and Hofstra, your squad is too big, break up and rotate sending half of your squad to certain games. Or, have new members and freshman represent your squad, like the Hofstra cheerleaders, who send freshmen and newbies to cheer for volleyball and wrestling matches.
• You can show spirit in ways other than cheering at games. The Lewis-Palmer cheer squad sets up a breakfast for athletic teams that practice over the summer, like soccer and baseball. You’re always out there on the field for them, so this is a different way you can show support.
• Pump up your fans with pep rallies! “We hold these before every football and basketball game,” says Bridget. “They’re held on ‘The Rock’ in the center of campus during lunch period, so the area’s bustling with students rocking our colors, green and orange!” The Miami squad also performs fight songs, and cheers as other student organizations perform for the huge crowd.
Not Having a Football Team Still Means Big-Time Spirit!
Hofstra University might not have a football team, but these cheerleaders still rock their school spirit big time! “The football team was terminated at our school. As a result, more students started attending the basketball and lacrosse games,” says Alie. “At first, losing the football team deflated school spirit because homecoming was always a big event. Instead, the school decided to have homecoming during basketball, which actually turned out to be a lot of fun! Although school spirit’s back to where it was, our squad was affected, but in a positive way. Now, the first few weeks of school we don’t have to rush to prepare for football. We can take our time getting our newbies caught up, and focus on our competition routine rather than sideline cheers.”