cheerleading

My niece, Siara Harman is one of many girls who were cheerleaders in high school and college. She even won a State Championship and a Grand National Championship with the Kelly Walsh Cheer Squad in 2011. Since it’s beginnings, cheerleading has come a long way. In fact, I doubt if today’s cheerleaders would recognize their earlier counterparts, if they saw them back then. Siara was a skilled cheerleader, and very athletic, and we are all proud of her cheerleading years.

The roots of American cheerleading are closely tied to American football’s roots. The first intercollegiate football game was played on November 6, 1869, between Princeton University and Rutgers University in New Jersey. By the 1880s, Princeton had formed an pep club. Organized cheering started as an all-male activity, as many sports do. As early as 1877, Princeton University had a Princeton Cheer. Basically, it was a fight song that was documented in the February 22, 1877; March 12, 1880; and November 4, 1881, issues of The Daily Princetonian. This cheer was yelled from the stands by students attending games, as well as by the athletes themselves. The cheer, “Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Tiger! S-s-s-t! Boom! A-h-h-h!” remains in use with slight modifications today, where it is now referred to as the Locomotive. Princeton class of 1882 graduate Thomas Peebles moved to Minnesota in 1884. He took with him the idea of organized crowds cheering at football games to the University of Minnesota. The term “Cheer Leader” had been used as early as 1897, with Princeton’s football officials having named three students as Cheer Leaders: Thomas, Easton, and Guerin from Princeton’s classes of 1897, 1898, and 1899, respectively, on October 26, 1897. These students would cheer for the team also at football practices, and special cheering sections were designated in the stands for the games themselves for both the home and visiting teams. On November 2, 1898, the University of Minnesota was on a losing streak. A medical student named Johnny Campbell assembled a group to energize the team and the crowd. Johnny picked up a megaphone and rallied the team to victory with the first organized cheer: “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-U-Mah! Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Minn-e-so-tah!” With that action, Campbell became the first cheerleader in America. Soon after, the University of Minnesota organized a “yell leader” squad of six male students, who still use Campbell’s original cheer today. In 1903, the first cheerleading fraternity, Gamma Sigma, was founded.

In 1923, at the University of Minnesota, women were finally permitted to participate in cheerleading. However, it took time for other schools to follow. In the late 1920s, many school manuals and newspapers that were published still referred to cheerleaders as chap, fellow, and man. Women cheerleaders were overlooked until the 1940s, when collegiate men were drafted for World War II, creating the opportunity for more women to make their way onto sporting event sidelines. As noted by Kieran Scott in Ultimate Cheerleading: “Girls really took over for the first time.” A report written on behalf of cheerleading in 1955 explained that in larger schools, “occasionally boys, as well as, girls are included,” and in smaller schools, “boys can usually find their place in the athletic program, and cheerleading is likely to remain solely a feminine occupation.” During the 1950s, cheerleading in America also increased in popularity. By the 1960s, some began to consider cheerleading too feminine an extracurricular activity for boys, and by the 1970s, girls primarily cheered at public school games. However, this did not stop its growth. Cheerleading could be found at almost every school level across the country, even youth leagues. In 1975, it was estimated by a man named Randy Neil that over 500,000 students actively participated in American cheerleading from grade school to the collegiate level. He also approximated that 95% of cheerleaders within America were female. Since 1973, cheerleaders have started to attend female basketball and other all-female sports as well. As of 2005, overall statistics show around 97% of all modern cheerleading participants are female, although at the collegiate level, cheerleading is co-ed with about 50% of participants being male.

MomI saw a post on Facebook the other day that got me thinking about my two moms. The saying went like this: “Always love your mother, because you’ll never get another.” I started thinking about how often we take our mothers for granted. As children, we depend on our mothers for everything.  No matter what the need is, we expect them to be able to meet that need. We think that there is no end to their capabilities.  While it’s great for us to think that our mom can do anything,  it is somewhat  unrealistic, and eventually we start to realize that she is just human, and maybe even annoying at times. Of course, it’s probably just that we have hit those annoying adolescent and teenage years…you know, that time in our lives when we are certain that our mother just doesn’t know anything…well, actually it’s our parents who don’t know anything, but in this case, we are discussing Mom, so she doesn’t know anything. We will feel that way for the next few years, and then suddenly, about the time we hit our twenties, she becomes so much smarter…especially when we become parents, and need her advise on how to treat a sick baby, or some such thing.

Being a mother really is a thankless job, and one that takes a very special person. A mother has to be selfless in so many ways, because it takes so much of her life to do the job she does. She might want to be at the spa, at home reading a good book, or out on the town with the love of her life, but instead, she is out there in the audience watching as your music recital, ball game, or class play are taking place. And who was it that got you to all the necessary practices…you got it, your mom. She set aside all the things she might have been doing, so you could achieve your dreams, or even just see if you really wanted to be a professional ball player, singer, or actor. And when you decided that you liked track, cheerleading, or the debate team, she switched gears, taking it all in stride, knowing that next year, this dream too would morph into something totally different, and she would be cheering you on in that new venture too. It’s a funny thing how your hopes and dreams changed so much through the years, but your mom’s devotion. loyalty, and interest stayed with you, no matter what. It was the one constant in your life.

As your mother gets older, her position in your life changes, as she steps back to let you soar, but you always know that she will be there to help you with anything you need her for. She becomes your go to person, when the kids need to be picked up and you are at work, or you want to go out for the evening with your husband, and need a babysitter. Who do you call? Well, we know, it’s not Ghostbusters, but it often is your mom. Without really meaning to, you tend to take for granted that she will always be there to help you when you need her, and yet, before you know it, you suddenly realize that she is getting older. You begin to see her as a little more fragile, less able to be that go to person, and suddenly it’s more like you are becoming the Bob's momnew go to person. It’s about this time that you begin to realize that while you have always appreciated all she has done for you over the years, you probably didn’t show her just how much you appreciated her often enough. You realize just how short life is, and it does make you want to let her know just how much you appreciate her, just how proud you are of her, and just how much you love her, before it is too late. To my mom and my mother-in-law, I want to say that you have been the two most important women in my life for so many years. I wouldn’t be where I am, were it not for you. You have and always will be the greatest mother and mother-in-law on earth, and I love you both very much. Happy Mother’s Day!!

My grand niece, Siara is going to college in Great Falls, Montana. She is a cheerleader with at the University of Great Falls. It is her first experience at being one her own, and more importantly, the first time away from her family. Most high school kids don’t understand how hard that is. They are so excited about being grown up and on their own…being their own boss, but that is not all that it is cracked up to be. As Siara can tell you, there are moments that life is great in college, followed by moments when you just really miss your family…especially your mom, if you are as close as Siara is to her mom, my niece Chantel. Those are the moments when you have to put a smile on your face and keep going, when what you really want to do is sit down and have a good cry.

Of course, not every moment is that sad. There have been some wonderful experiences already. While 6:00am is not exactly the time anyone in their right mind wants to be up and at cheerleading practice, that is exactly where Siara is every day that she has practice. You see, Siara is a dedicated athlete, and anyone who doesn’t think cheerleading is a sport, simply has not seen the bruises she has had or watched her cheer through sore muscles, because that is her job. And Siara is a National Champion. Her high school cheer team took 1st place is The American Grand National Championship Cheerleading competition, so she knows all about the hard work and dedication it takes to be a great cheerleader.

Not every moment of Siara’s college life is such hard work either. She has made so many new friends, and that may be the very thing that has made life there bearable. Being away from home still hurts deeply sometimes, and will continue to do so, but having friends around you who miss their familes too, and understand what you are going through goes a long way toward healing a hurting heart. This is a group of friends sharing the good times, and being brave together in the bad times. No, it isn’t all crying and being brave. These new college students, of which my grand niece is one, are learning about moving forward, while remembering the past…growing up while still keeping a little bit of the child they were…learning while still enjoying campus life…and yes, being brave when they feel like crying because of homesickness. As I told Siara when she first started college and was feeling like she wanted to come home…it will be hard sometimes, but you will never be sorry you took the journey…and I don’t think she has been…sorry that is. Keep on being brave Siara, the future is yours.

Sometimes in life, an opportunity presents itself, and if you work hard…harder that you ever thought possible, something totally awesome can come your way. That is exactly what happened to the Casper, Wyoming, Kelly Walsh High School Cheerleaders this week in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Kelly Walsh Cheerleaders, of which my niece Siara is a member, have been in other competitions, but this one is special…it is The American Grand. It’s the big one…Nationals!!!

The Kelly Walsh Cheerleaders had already won the State Championships this year, so we all knew that they were special, but Nationals is where you separate the best from the rest!! Nerves are raw, the tension is high, your stomach is doing as many flips as the cheer squad, and yet…you know that you have to do your part…you have to pull your weight…you have to stick every landing, and make every move perfect, because only the best will do in this competition. And you are competing against the best squads in the United States.

Our family has been very proud of Siara’s participation in cheerleading. She has a great personality and sense of style, along with a smile that could light up a cloudy day. She has worked hard, and earned her place in this squad each year. Cheerleading is a part of her now. Siara is a senior this year, and knowing that her high school cheerleading days are almost over, has made her sad at times. Still, there is no better way to end your high school cheerleading career that to go out as both a State Champion and a National Champion!! It doesn’t get better than that!

National Champions…it is a title that has rolled around in the minds of these girls ever since they won the state competition and found out that they were heading to Las Vegas right before Christmas. Could they pull it off? Would their hard work be enough to win this competition? Only time would tell. So, they worked hard and prepared…practicing their routines over and over. Then, less than a week before they were to leave for Vegas, one of the members had to have surgery, and everything changed…from the routines, to the hearts of the girls, who were heartsick for their teammate. Again, the girls stepped up and worked hard to re-vamp their routines.

These girls not only proved that they had the ability to work hard…they proved that they are champions!! Against all odds and adversity, they stuck it out, put big smiles on their faces, and wowwed the judges, to take first place in the Varsity Non-Stunt Division. They are and forever will be National Champions!! I am very proud of my niece, Siara and the Kelly Walsh Cheerleaders!! Congratulations to you all!!

Siara and Lacey have been friends almost since birth. They always seemed like two of a kind. Where you found one you found the other. It isn’t often that cousins get along as well as these two girls do. Family gatherings would find them tucked in a quiet little corner sharing little secrets that only they were allowed to know. They would chatter on for hours, never running out of things to say.

Lacey is almost a year older than Siara, but that never mattered to them either. So often, when kids are a year or more apart, there is constant vying for superiority…especially between cousins, but not so with Lacey and Siara. That always amazed me. Most of the other cousins fought at least off and on, but not those two little girls. They giggled and talked, played and…well, just about anything but fight.

Every weekend that they could they would spend the night with each other. Taking turns between their own houses, and their grandparents houses. It didn’t really matter, because the only indication that the girls were in the house was the occasional giggling that could be heard from their vicinity. They would talk half the night, and then be next to impossible to wake up. It got to the point where you didn’t expect to see one without the other. I wonder if their mom’s thought they had adopted another daughter, and they might as well have.

As the years went by, nothing changed between the two cousins. They were together at school, and at play. Their interests were largely the same. Probably the only real differences were the fact that Lacey was a little more shy and quiet, and Siara developed a love of cheer leading. And that is a bit of a difference, I guess. From the quiet to the yelling!! Still the differences didn’t matter to them. Lacey graduated from high school last year, and Siara will graduate this year. I think that no matter where life takes them, there will always be a closeness between them…for they are more than cousins, they are friends.

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