BY ALLISON BARNARD
Every day when the clock strikes 2:40, the banging of feet against metal bleachers rings out across the empty CCHS football stadium. As our beloved Cowboy football season comes to an end, it’s just the beginning for Cooper’s competitive cheerleading team. Daily after-school practices kick off as the devoted sixteen girls run up and down the school’s seemingly endless sets of bleachers. From there, the girls stretch their bodies as they warm up for the rigorous practice. Building up the endurance to meet their season head on by training daily, these girls dedicate both their time and hearts into having the most successful season possible.
To some it may appear that competitive cheerleading is a trivial activity, but the physical demands of fitness and endurance show that it’s more than worthy of being called a sport. At various local schools, football players have even joined their competitive cheerleading teams in order to stay in top physical condition during the off season.
“As exhausting and physically demanding as practice may be, the work is always worth it when we perform at competition,” junior Courtney Russo said.
Polar opposite from the perception that cheerleaders simply chant with pompons, competitive cheerleading teams spend hours perfecting their techniques for executing demanding athletic feats. A simple skill called tumbling is a perfect example. While fans “ooh and ahh” over dazzling flips, competitive cheerleaders must practice running and vaulting themselves into the air, with perfect precision to execute a controlled twisting flip ten feet off of the ground. Another important portion of high school cheerleading has two petite, yet surprisingly strong girls bench press a teammate over their heads, requiring insane amounts of strength from the bases and impeccable balance from the top girl. One of the most exhilarating aspects of competition cheer, both for the teammates and the audience, are the graceful basket tosses that launch a top girl fifteen feet into the air. This enables her to perform several kicks and spins as she gracefully soars above.
If the impressive flips and stunts don’t amaze you enough, the fact that competitive cheerleaders execute these skills with smiles painted across their faces is something to be looked up to. Although a competitive cheerleading routine only lasts about two minutes and thirty seconds, the constant cardio and weightlifting is enough to challenge any athlete. Add in the requirements for having to simultaneously yell a school-spirited chant while performing these feats and you have a pretty challenging sport.
There’s no doubt that defying the laws of gravity by launching girls into the air could be a potentially dangerous sport, but competitive cheerleaders face their feats fearlessly. Putting their health on the line for the sport they love, the personal reward outweighs any possible risks. Unfortunately, injuries are just another aspect of competitive cheerleading, but taking care to avoid any mistakes helps avoid any serious trauma. The girls key to success is following proper stunting and tumbling techniques. With focused minds working together and a flyer putting her total trust into the hands of her teammates, little room is left for error.
“When the girls are on the floor, I hate the loss of control. Physically, my hands shake and my stomach churns. It’s a long two minutes and thirty seconds,” Coach Jenny Jernigan said.
All of the hard work and dedication pays off when the girls arrive at competition. At the weekly showdown against six local schools, every team arrives with an appetite for victory. Each school’s team has special skills that impress the crowd, but our Cowboy Cheerleaders never fail leave the audience in awe. What sets Cooper City apart from the rest is the passion that the girls perform with, confidently taking the floor and demonstrating their talent with proud smiles spread across their faces.
“There’s no better feeling than hitting a perfect routine at competition. It feels like all of our hard work has finally paid off,” senior Jordan Burgs said.
Overworked and under-appreciated, the CCHS cheer team has won countless titles over the years. Often placing first at local competitions and winning regionals for the past three years, these girls have proven to competitors that they’re a force to be reckoned with, even if the rest of CCHS has not yet realized it. These girls will put their physical and technical capabilities to the test as the season pushes on and they push for a state title.