The sidelines at River Falls High School stood bare for fifteen years. It wasn’t until a new teacher at the high school introduced herself to the class and mentioned she had been a cheerleader. This prompted a student to ask why River Falls didn’t have a cheerleading team. From there, efforts to bring cheerleading back to RFHS began. The school had struggled in the past to keep cheerleading alive, having the program defunded in 2000 and later a failed, short-lived attempt at rebuilding the program.
In the fall of 2014, twelve girls cheered at all home football games and that following spring tryouts were held. Since then, the River Falls cheerleading program has grown tremendously – expanding beyond the high school to now include youth programs and a middle school team. River Falls Cheerleading, as a whole, has over one hundred participating athletes each year. This growth can be attributed to the efforts coaches have made to have the team visible in a positive way throughout the community. RFHS cheerleaders are required to complete ten hours of community service each season. In addition to community service hours, team members are required to submit an essay at the end of the year answering three questions: What did you do? What did you learn from it? How did the community benefit from it? These questions reflect on the culture being built in this program.
Cheerleading in River Falls does not receive funding from the school district, so the athletes work hard to fundraise to cover most of the costs. The school district has very limited gym space and the cheer team does not get first priority, so the current fundraising goal is to raise enough money to purchase their own cheer mats to give them more flexibility with practice venues and times.
The 2017-2018 season was RFHS Cheerleading’s first year competing. The team competed in the cheer dance and cheer stunt categories and had a lot of success, bringing home numerous first place titles despite it being the team’s first competitive season.
The cheer program recently got together to celebrate five years as a high school program and the success and growth of the program, as a whole. Athletes from all levels had a great time bonding and showing off their skills. River Falls has high hopes that the cheerleading program will continue to grow in numbers and have many more opportunities to serve their community.