It’s a sport that builds strength, stamina
by Paul R. Kopenkoskey
There’s more to competitive cheerleading than performing heart-stopping extended split stunts and the toe touch basket toss. Godwin Height High School team members say the sport literally changes lives.
Just ask eleventh-grader Joy Parker.
“I was failing all my classes before coach gave me a place to relieve stress,” she said.
Joy said she was considering dropping out of school, but the friendships she has forged with her teammates has enabled her to tunnel through her troubles.
“I didn’t think I could graduate,” Joy said. “Cheering saved my life. This team is my life, my family. It has given me hope.”
Tenth-grader April Martinez joined the team in November because she’s outgoing and cheerful, which convinced her that competitive cheerleading would be a good fit. Her hunch didn’t disappoint.
But competitive cheerleading also has been an eye-opener. Before she joined, April assumed cheerleading would be a cakewalk. Far from it. But it’s that inherent challenge competitive cheerleading requires that ensures April shows up for each practice and competition.
It Takes Strength, Stamina
“You have to have strength and stamina,” April said. “It’s a lot of work, commitment and time. If you try your best, you can do it. Coach has taught us if you can dream it, you can do it.”
“Coach” is Amanda Cook, one of the 25-member varsity cheerleading team (grades 9-12) and 30 sideline cheerleaders seen at football games. Godwin’s team competes against Lee, Kelloggsville, Hopkins, Calvin Christian and NorthPointe Christian.
It’s competitive cheerleading that gets the heart pumping, Cook said.
“A lot of the girls don’t consider themselves athletes and after one season, they really see themselves as athletes,” she said. “We really do lift weights and run laps. I’ve had seven girls play soccer for first time this year because they were too afraid to join until they joined the cheerleader team.”