January 2021

T E X A R K A N A M O N T H LY

and we all cheer in different ways.” When I asked little sister Jessa Tice what she would say to someone interested in cheerleading, she said that she would tell them, “Don’t be fearful. You can work hard and you can do it.” That might be one of the coolest things about cheerleading. Even though it is a lot of work and highly competitive, like Jessa, these athletes tend to be natural encouragers. Another key aspect of cheering involves jumps and tumbling. If you’ve never tried a toe-touch, one of the most quintessential cheer jumps, I encourage you to give it a shot. (Stretch really well first, though, I would hate for you to pull a muscle!) Cheerleaders dedicate a lot of

tuck. Jacey has perfected her aeriel and can incorporate it into other complicated tumbling passes. Dance and yelling (cheering) are also integral parts of cheerleading. Dance requires core strength, stamina, and flexibility. Both of the coaches I spoke to said that a large portion of practice is dedicated to simply running the routine over and over to increase stamina. They will run the routine and focus on a singular aspect, such as motions, and once that is “clean,” run the routine and focus on something different, like stunting, until the athletes are able to run the entire routine with no flaws. The parts of perfecting a routine are

time to jump and tumbling practices. This time includes stretching, strength training, and typically private coaching in order to understand and perfect technique. Tumbling passes frequently seen include everything from a back handspring to a full. A full is a tumbling pass where you make a full rotation of the body in the air while also flipping over backward. Hard to explain, even harder to do, but amazing to watch! When asked, both of the Tice girls said that tumbling was their favorite skill to work on. Jessa at just nine recently learned how to do a round-off back handspring back

knowing the skills, understanding how to count music, and being able to maintain your timing within the group. As for the actual cheering aspect, try yelling throughout your entire next workout and let me know how that goes. Finally, one of the most important aspects of cheer is trust. I feel certain there is a level of trust needed for almost all team sports, but I do not know that it can exceed the level of trust required in cheer. If you’re going to allow people to pick you up and throw you in the air, you have to trust they are going to catch you when you come back down. As a base, you must trust the flyer knows the timing of the routine and will come down in the correct position for catching and no matter what, the other bases will do their best to help you catch even when the dismount does not go as planned. A cohesive team means abounding trust, and as a result a high- level of bonding occurs. In my time as a cheerleader and even as I’ve watched the girls I have coached grow, I see so many of their friendships continuing, like many of my own friendships formed from my time as a cheerleader. When interviewing Cheyenne, she said, “My former teammates are most definitely an integral part of my life. I have built lifelong friendships with the girls I cheered with. Morning workouts, game days, events, practices—we lived and breathed cheer, and we did it by each other’s sides for many years! I have actually been friends with two of my cheer friends, Hailey Harris and Kaitlyn Kinder for 15 years. We have been through it all: competitive cheer, middle school, and high school cheer and stayed friends throughout college and we’re still going strong. They will even be my bridesmaids! I have 13 bridesmaids, eight of which were my teammates either in middle school, high school, or college, and it all started with cheer!” What do you think? Is cheerleading a sport? If you’re holding onto the idea that it can’t be a sport if it isn’t in the Olympics, consider the fact that ne​ ither is f​ootball, mixed martial arts, or cricket. Softball and baseball were only added in 2020. The next time you find yourself at an event where cheerleaders are performing, give them an extra minute of your attention. Appreciate the time, dedication, and skill it takes. ​Yell along with them when they lead a chant. These athletes put themselves in harm’s way for your entertainment; take the time to admire their dedication, skill, and athleticism.

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S P O R T S & E N T E R TA I N M E N T

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